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Crime committed by undocumented aliens is a real issue


Is there a correlation between immigration and crime? Many studies have concluded that immigration does not increase crime.

According to an article in Scientific American, immigration-crime research over the past 20 years has corroborated the conclusions of a number of presidential commissions that immigration does not increase crime. In fact, the literature indicates that immigrants commit fewer crimes, on average, than native-born Americans.

But very few of these studies have focused on “illegal” immigration, as opposed to  immigration generally, which includes legal as well as illegal. 

Some of the reports on this research appear to be trying to discredit people who have expressed concern about immigrant crime, and it may be easier to do this if the research focuses on immigration generally without drawing attention to crimes committed by aliens who aren’t supposed to be here in the first place.

Some organizations, however, such as the CATO Institute, have focused on the connection between illegal immigration and crime — and have not been able to get the necessary information.

CATO has just released a working paper on a study of the connection between illegal immigration and crime, but it is based on information from only one state. CATO was only able to get the information it needed from Texas, which apparently was the only state that records and keeps information about the immigration status of people entering the criminal justice system.

Information is available on undocumented aliens who have been incarcerated or taken into custody by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and the US Marshals Service (USMS), because President Trump asked for it at the beginning of his administration.

On Jan. 25, 2017, Trump signed Executive Order 13768 on “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.”

Section 16 of this order directs the DHS Secretary and the Attorney General to provide quarterly reports to congress on the immigration status of (a) aliens incarcerated under BOP supervision; (b) aliens incarcerated as federal pretrial detainees under the USMS supervision; and (c) convicted aliens incarcerated in state prisons and at local detention centers throughout the United States.

The most recent Alien Incarceration Report was issued on Oct. 16, 2020. It indicates that 94 percent of confirmed aliens incarcerated by the BOP and at USMS facilities are unlawfully present in the United States. 

Additionally, 70 percent of the 27,494 known or suspected aliens in BOP custody had been convicted of non-immigration-related crimes, as had 39 percent of the 23, 580 known or suspected aliens in USMS custody.

But that information isn’t even close to being comprehensive. Approximately 90 percent of the aliens incarcerated are held at state and local facilities.

This is a problem for two reasons. 

First, it isn’t possible to determine how much harm — if any — illegal immigration is doing without knowing how many of the aliens who are coming here illegally are committing crimes in the United States and how serious their crimes are.

Second, if Joe Biden is elected, he is going to need information about the criminal activities of undocumented aliens to be able to implement his immigration enforcement policies.

What does this have to do with Biden?

In his “Plan For Securing Our Values as a Nation of Immigrants,” Biden says that he intends to follow the approach that the Obama-Biden administration took, which was to prioritize enforcement resources on removing deportable aliens who are threats to national security and public safety.

In fact, Biden intends to go even further than Obama did.

At the March 15, 2020, Democratic primary debate, Biden said, “in the first 100 days of my administration, no one, no one will be deported at all. From that point on, the only deportations that will take place are for commissions of felonies in the United States of America.”

The lack of information about the crimes being committed by undocumented aliens indicated by CATO wouldn’t prevent a Biden administration from finding enough criminal aliens to keep ICE and the immigration courts busy, but it would make it impossible to focus enforcement efforts on the aliens who are committing the most serious crimes. 

Nolan Rappaport was detailed to the House Judiciary Committee as an executive branch immigration law expert for three years. He subsequently served as an immigration counsel for the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims for four years. Prior to working on the Judiciary Committee, he wrote decisions for the Board of Immigration Appeals for 20 years. Follow him on Twitter @NolanR1 or at

Tags Crime Crime statistics Donald Trump Executive Order 13768 Illegal immigration Immigration and crime Joe Biden

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