Homeland Security and Justice Department officials laid out the details of the "Alien Incarceration Report" to reporters Thursday.
Nearly 38,000 people from foreign countries are currently in federal custody, and of those, 94 percent are in the country illegally. Agency officials said they are still looking into where an additional 21,000 people originated from but suspected they were not born in the U.S.
Randy Capps is with the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington DC-based think tank. He said the results of the numbers shouldn’t have been a surprise to the U.S. government.
"The reality is that the most common charges in the federal criminal system are for illegal entry and illegal re-entry."
But administration officials used the numbers to reiterate a call for a border wall along the Mexican border and the end of a family-based immigration system, sometimes known as chain migration.
The Justice Department released a statement following the report quoting Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“The simple fact is that any offense committed by a criminal alien is ultimately preventable," it read.
"One victim is too many. It's time for Congress to enact the president's immigration reform agenda so that we start welcoming the best and brightest while turning away drug dealers, gang members and other criminals."
Officials also criticized local and state governments that did not release information on their own incarcerations of immigrants, noting that "state and local facilities do not routinely provide DHS or DOJ with comprehensive information about their inmates and detainees—which account for approximately 90 percent of the total U.S. incarcerated population."