There is some debate over whether immigration enforcement has an effect on crime. Sites like Reason.com argue that immigrants are not any more likely to be criminals than citizens are. Others point out that advocates like the writers at Reason pull a fast one by conflating legal and illegal immigrants.
The US Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security have released a report with some hard numbers.
Summary of Findings
A total of 58,766 known or suspected aliens were in in DOJ custody at the end of FY 2017, including 39,455 persons in BOP custody and 19,311 in USMS custody.
Of this total, 37,557 people had been confirmed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to be aliens (i.e., non-citizens and non-nationals), while 21,209 foreign-born people were still under investigation by ICE to determine alienage.
Among the 37,557 confirmed aliens, 35,334 people (94 percent) were unlawfully present. These numbers include a 92 percent unlawful rate among 24,476 confirmed aliens in BOP custody and a 97 percent unlawful rate among 13,081 confirmed aliens in USMS custody.
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. This limitation is noteworthy because state and local facilities account for approximately 90 percent of the total U.S. incarcerated population. DHS and DOJ are working to develop a reliable methodology for estimating the status of state and local incarcerated populations in future reports.
Let’s run some back-of-the-envelope calculations, why don’t we?
So, 58,766 in custody are known or suspected to be aliens. Some 64% of these have been confirmed to be aliens. Of this number, 94% are here illegally. This is thought to represent 10% of the foreign-born population. If the percentages of foreign-born, aliens, and illegal aliens are similar in state and local prisons (not sure why they wouldn’t be), then it would seem to follow that around 13% of prisoners in the country are illegal aliens.
One of the memes floating around claims that 1% of the population of the US is in prison, which would work out to roughly 3.3 million people. That would mean some 430,000 prisoners in the US are illegal aliens. If we divide that into the 20 million estimated illegal aliens, that’s a bit over 2%. This would mean an illegal immigrant is twice as likely to be in prison as a lawful resident.
People are welcome to bring in bigger envelopes if they like.