Prosecuting migrants is not a substitute for civil deportation, but instead postpones that process and adds additional human and financial costs associated with their criminalization. Because these prosecutions have primarily been concentrated in five federal court jurisdictions located along the U.S.-Mexico border, they have remained the least publicized element of the immigration enforcement machinery. Still, they represent the most severe exercise of federal power in furtherance of immigration enforcement.
The incarceration costs for improper entry and re-entry were $7 billion between 2005 and 2015, according to research conducted jointly by Justice Strategies and Grassroots Leadership. These costs are increasing, yet, there is no credible evidence that migrants are deterred from crossing or re-crossing the border.