Will I go to prison for re-entering the country illegally?

If immigration officials completed and executed deportation proceedings against you and you return, you might face a prison sentence if caught. This can feel like a terrifying prospect, especially if you have minors living in America that you are struggling to regain custody of or have loose ends to tie up.

According to a report published by the United States Sentencing Commission, more than 96% of migrants who re-enter America illegally spend some time behind prison bars. On average, 10 months was the time behind bars in 2018. This showed a decrease from 17 months in 2014.

Illegal re-entry on the rise

Despite the obvious risks of re-entry, it continues to rise. In 2018, it saw an 8.6% increase compared to 2014. The report does not discuss whether that continued into 2019 and 2020, considering the new zero-tolerance approach to immigration offenses.

Effects of previous illegal entry

Courts often consider prior immigration offenses when making a decision on sentencing. Surprisingly, 63.7% faced no sentencing changes to account for previous offenses, though it does not state whether previous offenses existed. The remaining offenders received “sentencing enhancements” for various reasons, such as drug trafficking, violent convictions and previous deportations.

Most common areas

Most illegal re-entries occur in five specific districts. These span from Texas to California:

  • Southern District of California – 659 cases
  • District of Arizona – 2,196 cases
  • Southern District of Texas – 2,968 cases
  • District of New Mexico – 3,168 cases
  • Western District of Texas – 4,867 cases

As the statistics show, only a small percentage of re-entries do not result in prison sentences. However, it is not impossible to accomplish.