Supporters of open borders point to studies that show immigrants have a much lower crime rate than native-born Americans, but a new analysis of government data found that more than 44 percent of the people convicted of federal crimes in the United States are not American citizens.
The study by the Center for Immigration Studies, CIS, examined U.S. Sentencing Commission data between 2011 and 2016.
It found that if immigration crimes are excluded, 21 percent of convicts were not U.S. citizens, which is 2.5 times the non-citizen share of the population.
“These new numbers show that, at least at the federal level, non-citizens are more likely to commit crimes than citizens,” said Steven Camarota, the CIS director of research and author of the analysis.
Camarota acknowledged that federal convictions aren’t necessarily representative of all criminal convictions in the United States.
“Most law enforcement occurs at the state and local level and it is not reasonable to simply extrapolate about immigrant criminality generally from the federal data,” he noted.
But he argued that federal law enforcement “is still enormous, with 312,000 people (67,000 non-citizens) sentenced in the federal courts between 2011 and 2016, excluding immigration violations.
“And in the federal system, where we do have good data, non-citizens account for a disproportionate share of those who are sentenced for many different types of non-immigration crimes,” he said.
Camarota also argued that conviction data for non-immigration crimes tends to understate the level of criminal activity among non-citizens. He explained that many illegal immigrants who commit serious non-immigration crimes are prosecuted only for immigration violations, because it’s an easier case to make.
President Trump signed an executive order one year ago creating an office to assist victims of crimes committed by illegal immigrants, saying illegal immigrants “present a significant threat to national security and public safety.”
Democrats point to studies concluding immigrants are less likely to commit crimes, charging Trump is using fear tactics for political gain.
“There’s always the horrible, fallacious view that you have to go after immigrants and then you point out a few immigrants that have committed horrible crimes,” said Rep. Juan Vargas, D-Calif.
In March, the Hill reported a study by the Sentencing Project, a criminal justice research and advocacy group, found that “foreign-born residents of the United States commit crime less often than native-born citizens.”
The study, however, did not focus on non-citizens, as did the CIS analysis, instead encompassing the broader category of “foreign-born residents,” which would include American citizens.
Similarly, a separate study by the libertarian Cato Institute, comparing incarceration rates by migratory status, ethnicity and gender, found “all immigrants are less likely to be incarcerated than natives relative to their shares of the population.”
CIS found that areas where non-citizens account for a much larger share of convictions than their 8.4 percent share of the adult population include:
- 42.4 percent of kidnapping convictions;
- 31.5 percent of drug convictions;
- 22.9 percent of money laundering convictions;
- 13.4 percent of administration of justice offenses (e.g. witness tampering, obstruction, and contempt);
- 17.8 percent of economic crimes (e.g. larceny, embezzlement, and fraud);
- 13 percent of other convictions (e.g. bribery, civil rights, environmental, and prison offenses); and
- 12.8 percent of auto thefts.