Illegal Immigrants Commit 142 Percent More Crime Than Legal Immigrants and Citizens: Report

February 1, 2018 Last Updated: June 24, 2018

New data from the Arizona state prison system shows that illegal immigrants are at least 142 percent more likely to be convicted of a crime than other Arizonans, according to a study by John Lott, founder and president of the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC).

Lott also found that illegal immigrants tend to commit more serious crimes, serve 10.5 percent longer sentences, are more likely to be classified as dangerous, and are 45 percent more likely to be gang members than U.S. citizens. They are also much more likely to commit sexual offenses against minors, sexual assault, DUI, and armed robbery.

“If illegal immigrants committed crime nationally as they do in Arizona, in 2016 they would have been responsible for over 1,000 more murders, 5,200 rapes, 8,900 robberies, 25,300 aggravated assaults, and 26,900 burglaries,” Lott said in his summary.

The data represent all prisoners who entered the Arizona Department of Corrections for the last 32 years.

Lott said the data used in his report includes detailed information on all prisoners who entered the Arizona state prison from January 1985 through June 2017. The data provided allowed the CPRC to separate non-U.S. citizens into illegal or legal groups, which is the first time such a distinction has been available in data.

By lumping together documented and undocumented immigrants, previous research has missed out on the huge differences between these two groups, the report said.

“As we will see, documented and undocumented immigrants have vastly different incarceration rates in Arizona,” Lott said. “Undocumented immigrants have the highest rates, whereas documented immigrants actually have lower rates than do U.S. citizens.”

The most likely victims of illegal immigrants are other illegal immigrants, which means the numbers are likely an artificially low estimate of the amount of crime committed—because the crimes they commit against each other are far less likely to be reported due to their illegal status.

Lott found one very distinctive anomaly in the data related to recidivism. Almost 25 percent of U.S. citizens who are convicted in Arizona cycle in and out of jail at least five times, according to the data. However, just under 3 percent of illegal aliens have the same prison history.

“The most plausible reading of the evidence suggests that they are leaving Arizona, presumably to return to their home country [through deportation], overwhelmingly Mexico,” Lott said.

DACA Population

Lott investigated the Arizona prison data to gauge how many DACA-aged criminals were in the system. DACA refers to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that former President Barack Obama launched by executive order in 2012.

To be eligible for DACA, illegal immigrants have to be born after June 15, 1981, and to have entered the United States before their 16th birthday and be residing here since June 15, 2007.

Lott used the data that matched the DACA-eligible age by the end of June 2017, which was between ages 15 and 36.

He found that DACA-age-eligible illegal immigrants “are 250 percent more likely to be convicted of crimes than their share of the population.”

“If undocumented immigrants are even less likely than average to be caught, because their victims are reticent to report crimes, this discussion underestimates the problem with DACA age eligible undocumented immigrants,” Lott said.

About the Data

The data represent all of the prisoners who entered the Arizona Department of Corrections from January 1985 through June 2017.

During that period, there were 464,641 prisoners who entered the system and 462,978 for whom Lott obtained citizenship status information.

Between the 464,447 most serious offenses and the 151,108 second-most serious offenses, we have information on 615,555 crimes.

“It is the entire universe of cases, not a sample,” Lott said. For this reason, this data does not have the statistical problems that previous attempts to study this issue have come across, he said.  

State prisons and local jails account for approximately 90 percent of the total U.S. incarcerated population.

Federal Prison Population

In the federal prison system, 94 percent of foreign-born prisoners are in the United States illegally, according to a new report by the departments of Homeland Security and Justice.

Illegal alien prisoners could make up as much as 19 percent of the total number of prisoners in the federal system. The estimated population of illegal aliens in the United States is 3 to 4 percent.

A total of 58,766 known or suspected aliens were in federal custody at the end of fiscal 2017, including 39,455 persons in Bureau of Prisons custody and 19,311 in U.S. Marshals Service custody, the report said.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said non-citizens commit a substantially disproportionate number of drug-related offenses, in particular, fueling the national drug crisis.

“Our citizens are being victimized by illegal aliens who commit crimes. The simple fact is that any offense committed by a criminal alien is ultimately preventable. One victim is too many,” Sessions said in a statement on Dec. 21.

“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.”