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Tipsheet

Illegal Immigrant vs. Native-Born Crime Data May Be Fun To Look At, But What's Actually Important?

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As the 2020 election cycle nears, it is going to be very easy for both conservatives and liberals alike to cherry-pick stats to make their arguments seem better than they actually are. Immigration, one of the top two political issues in the country, will perhaps be the most debated and nuanced of issues. But new data from the Cato Institute as well as the Department of Justice shows that when it comes to who commits more crime in the United States, the numbers paint a murky picture. If one looked at state data, it would be clear that native-born citizens are more likely to commit a crime. If looking at federal, then non-citizens are by far and large the worst offenders. But, does it really matter who commits more crime once they're in the country if they had to break the law to get in the U.S. in the first place?

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The libertarian-leaning Cato Institute just released a study examining the crime rates amongst natural-born American citizens, illegal immigrants, and legal immigrants. Cato looked at Texas 2017 prison data. The primary reason for this is that Texas is the "only state that records criminal convictions and arrests by immigration status."

Cato found that during 2017, "399,155 native-born Americans, 16,275 illegal immigrants, and 18,235 legal immigrants were convicted of crimes" in Texas. This means that "illegal immigrants were 47 percent less likely to be convicted of a crime than native-born Americans and legal immigrants were about 65 percent less likely to be convicted of a crime than native-born Americans." 

This is because there were 23,450,456 native-born Americans, 1,810,892 illegal immigrants, and 3,043,248 legal immigrants in the state at the time. So "1,702 natives were convicted for every 100,000 natives, 899 illegal immigrants for every 100,000 illegal immigrants, and 599 legal immigrants for every 100,000 legal immigrants." 

This means at the state level, native-born citizens were more likely to commit a crime than both legal and illegal immigrants. Those who entered the country lawfully were less likely to commit a crime than their illegal counterparts. 

But, if one were to look at available federal data, then it would appear illegal immigrants are more likely to commit crimes.  A recently released report from the Department of Justice shows that there was 95 percent of the increase in federal arrests from1998-2018 due to immigration. As One America News' Ryan Girdusky pointed out. "In 1998, non-citizens made up 36.9 percent of federal arrests In 2018, non-citizens made up 63.9 percent of federal arrests." 

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This doesn't include convictions, like Cato does, but it does shed more light into the situation. And as Ryan points out, this isn't because more illegal immigrants are coming across the border, either. 

So if one looked at Cato's report, you'd walk away thinking that native-born Americans were more responsible for violating the law. If looking at federal data, then clearly illegal immigrants are to blame. 

But, as mentioned, this might be interesting to look at in terms which subsection of the population actually makes up America's overcrowded jail system, but does it bolster leftist and libertarian arguments that open borders are a good thing?

Well, let's turn it over to former President Bill Clinton. In 1995, ahead of a deportation raid of illegal immigrants with final court-ordered removals, the commander-in-chief told the nation, "whether they’re innocent or guilty of the crimes they were charged with in court, they’re still here illegally, and they should be sent out of the country." 

"We are a nation of immigrants, but we are also a nation of laws,” Clinton added in 1995. "And it is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws we have seen in recent years." 

Editor's Note: An earlier version of the article said, "702 natives were convicted for every 100,000 natives..." This was a mistake. The actual figure is "1,702 natives were convicted for every 100,000 natives."

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