More than three of every 10 prisoners held in federal jails are “known or suspected” illegal immigrants, a number that has shocked the administration into pushing harder for immigration reform.

New Justice Department numbers reported that 58,766 held by the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. Marshals Service are “known or suspected” illegals. Of that, the government has confirmed that 37,557 are in the U.S. illegally. The rest fall into the “suspected” category.

Overall, there are 185,507 federal prisoners.

In releasing the data, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that the administration has been targeting illegals at the border and inside the country because they are disproportionately involved in crime, especially drug crime.

“Nearly 95 percent of confirmed aliens in our federal prisons are here illegally. We know based on sentencing data that non-citizens commit a substantially disproportionate number of drug-related offenses, which contributes to our national drug abuse crisis,” said Sessions.

“The simple fact is that any offense committed by a criminal alien is ultimately preventable. 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,” he added.

The numbers are likely much worse because most prisoners are held in state and local jails, and those statistics are not included. Said Justice, “This report does not include data on the foreign-born or alien populations in state prisons and local jails because 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.”

Justice provided other details about the “known” illegal population in federal jails:

  • 20,240 (51 percent) were unauthorized aliens who are subject to a final order of removal.
  • 14,979 (38 percent) remain under ICE investigation.
  • 2,374 (6 percent) were unlawfully present and now in removal proceedings.
  • 1,852 (less than 5 percent) were lawfully present aliens but are now in removal proceedings.
  • 10 were aliens who have been granted relief or protection from removal.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at