The SCAAP report shows that in 2009, there were 295,959 criminal aliens incarcerated in state and local prisons at any given time that year. From this number, he subtracts those in the country legally and assumes that the balance gives one the total number of illegal immigrants incarcerated that year. He compares that number with the population of illegals in various states to estimate their crime rates. Then he compares that rate with the crime rate of citizens to come up with a massively inflated “incarceration rate” of these aliens.
But here’s the problem with his analysis:
Kirsanow assumed, as some others before him with only a passing familiarity with these databases, that the 295,959 figure refers to the number of individuals incarcerated. In fact, it is the total number of incarcerations. In other words, if a criminal alien was incarcerated for 10 short sentences, released after each one, and then re‐incarcerated, then that single alien would account for 10 incarcerations under the SCAAP figure for that year. But Kirsnaow counts that as 10 individuals.
However, when it comes to estimating the incarceration rate of natives, Kirsanow compares the number of individuals incarcerated with their total population. This nonsensical apples‐to‐oranges comparison yields an exceedingly unfavorable “incarceration rate” for undocumented immigrants.
Kirsanow failed to appreciate that the purpose of the GAO report was to estimate the reimbursement that Uncle Sam owes state and local governments for incarcerating criminal illegal immigrants. Thus, the agency was only interested in the total number of incarcerations over the course of a year. It didn’t care to separate out the number of offenses from the number of offenders. That is why the GAO report is nearly worthless for any scholarly attempt to estimate illegal immigrant crime rates.
A quick look at American Community Survey (ACS) data further confirms just how out‐of‐line Kirsanow’s estimate is. (The ACS is an annual mini‐census that, among other things, gathers information about prisoners in adult correctional facilities. It doesn’t report on the broad legal status of immigrants but does indicate whether they are American citizens and their country of birth, making it possible to separate immigrants from Americans.)
For 2008, the ACS reported that there were 156,329 non‐citizens incarcerated in all three—federal, state, and local—adult correctional facilities. This is only half of the 296,959 incarcerations that SCAAP reports in just state and local prisons making it logically impossible for the 296,959 figure to be referring to the total number of criminal aliens incarcerated.
Kirsanow is merely an individual whose analysis can be discounted. But there is no discounting the Alien Incarceration Report jointly released by the Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Homeland Security (DHS) last December. It too misrepresented data when it estimated that “one‐in‐five of all persons in the [federal] Bureau of Prisons custody were foreign born, and that 94 percent of confirmed aliens in custody were unlawfully present.” That seems shockingly high as illegal immigrants are, at most, about 4 percent of the population. But if this report were right, they would be 19 percent of all prisoners.
But the report had no solid basis for its conclusion because it did not have all the prison data. If you scroll down beyond the report’s press release and Summary of Findings, it admits as much. It notes: