Tag: criminal aliens

Criminal Aliens Are a Small and Falling Percentage of Border Patrol Apprehensions

Customs and Border Protection just announced that Border Patrol has apprehended 364,941 people from the beginning of fiscal year 2019 through to the end of March 2019. Border Patrol apprehensions this FY rose by 34 percent in the month of March. Although the number of apprehensions is rising, the proportion of all apprehensions who are criminal aliens is dropping, in a trend that I wrote about earlier this month. Furthermore, the absolute number of criminal aliens arrested by the end of FY 2019 will be below the number arrested in any year since CBP began publishing data.  

Border Patrol identifies criminal aliens as those who have been convicted of crimes here or abroad if the conviction is for conduct which is also criminal in the United States. From the beginning of FY 2015 through the end of March 2019, the absolute number and percent of criminal aliens arrested by Border Patrol have fallen in every year. In 2015, about 5.7 percent of all Border Patrol apprehensions were criminal aliens. For the beginning of FY 2019 through the end of March, only about 0.7 percent of people apprehended by Border Patrol were criminal aliens. If the number of criminal aliens apprehensions continues apace for FY 2019, the absolute number will be about 75 percent below the number apprehended in FY 2015.    

From February 2019 to March 2019, the total annual number of Border Patrol apprehensions climbed by 34 percent while the total number of criminal alien annual apprehensions rose by only 24 percent. In other words, the number of non-criminal apprehensions is rising much faster than the number of criminal aliens apprehended. As the flow grows, it is becoming less criminal. Only 0.5 percent of those apprehended in March were criminal aliens compared to 0.7 percent from October 2018 through February 2019.

From 2015 to FY 2019, the percentage of those apprehended by Border Patrol who were non-criminals rose from 94.3 percent to 99.3 percent while the percentage who were criminals fell from 5.7 percent to 0.7 percent (Figure 1). In absolute numbers, criminal aliens have also declined from 19,117 apprehensions in 2015 to 2,513 through half of FY 2019. If the trend of criminal alien apprehensions continues for the rest of FY 2019, there will be just over 5,000 by the end of this FY – well below the 6,698 recorded in 2018.

 

Figure 1

Non-Criminal and Criminal Aliens

 

Source: Customs and Border Protection.      

The most consistent argument wielded in support of closing the border or harsher border security is that those being apprehended are dangerous criminals. Based on data supplied by Border Patrol, the absolute number of criminal aliens and their proportion of all apprehensions along the border are lower in FY 2019 than in previous years. While the government has an important role in keep criminal aliens out of the United States, the current situation along the border shows that Border Patrol has a better handle on crime than at any time in the recent past.  

Criminal Illegal Immigration Falls 75 Percent

The number of Border Patrol apprehensions is climbing rapidly this year. Border Patrol has apprehended 273,089 people along the Southwest border since the beginning of fiscal year 2019 through to the end of February 2019. If those numbers continue to climb, Border Patrol apprehensions this fiscal year could exceed the annual number in any year since the start of the Great Recession. Even though Border Patrol has apprehended more people in recent years, the number of criminal aliens arrested by Border Patrol has dropped since at least FY 19. 

According to Border Patrol, criminal aliens are those who have been convicted of crimes here or abroad if the conviction is for conduct which is also criminal in the United States. From the beginning of fiscal year 2015 through the end of February 2019, the absolute number and percent of criminal aliens arrested by Border Patrol have fallen in every year (Figure 1). In 2015, about 5.7 of all Border Patrol apprehensions were criminal aliens. For FY 19 through the end of February, only 0.7 percent of people apprehended by Border Patrol were criminal aliens. If the number of criminal aliens apprehended continues to decline apace for FY 19, the absolute number will be 75 percent below 2015.     

Figure 1

Many politicians and political commentators complain that people showing up on the border and entering illegally or asking for asylum are criminals. The falling number of previously convicted criminals showing up is evidence to the contrary. Relative to earlier surges in apprehensions along the border, the larger number of women, children, and asylum seekers means that today’s surge is preferable to previous surges.   

When people were worried about the migrant caravan last year, I wrote a blog arguing that it probably didn’t contain many criminals and likely looked a lot like the rest of the illegal immigrant population. The Border Patrol figures on criminal alien arrests tend to agree with me. Like previous surges of illegal immigration, this one presents problems, but they are better problems than those faced in the past.  

There Is No Evidence of an Illegal Immigrant Crime Wave: Why the “Elusive Crime Wave Data Shows Frightening Toll of Illegal Immigrant Criminals” Is Flawed

The House of Representatives recently passed the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act (H.R. 3003) and Kate’s Law (H.R. 3004) to tighten immigration enforcement in response to the fear that illegal immigrants are especially likely to commit violent or property crimes.  Both laws stem from the tragic 2015 murder of Kate Steinle by an illegal immigrant named Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez after he had been deported multiple times. 

Debates on the House floor over both bills veered into the social science of immigrant criminality.  The majority of research finds that immigrants are less likely to be incarcerated than natives and that increases in their population in local areas are correlated with lower crime rates – even for illegal immigrants.

Despite that wealth of empirical evidence, a two-year-old Fox News piece entitled “Elusive Crime Wave Data Shows Frightening Toll of Illegal Immigrant Criminals” by investigative reporter Malia Zimmerman was offered as evidence of illegal immigrant criminality.  Ms. Zimmerman’s piece makes many factual errors that have misinformed the public debate over Kate’s Law and the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act.  Below, I quote from Ms. Zimmerman’s piece and then respond by describing her errors and what the actual facts are.