Illegal immigration and crime

by on April 14, 2009 at 3:45 am in Law | Permalink

This is from only one county, but I found these numbers (check out the table) instructive:

About 2 percent of the people charged with major violent crimes in
Prince William County last year were illegal immigrants, but they were
arrested for a larger portion of secondary offenses, according to newly
released statistics and a Washington Post analysis that offer the first
comprehensive look at criminal activity since the county implemented
its controversial anti-illegal immigration measures.

The crime of prostitution has the highest percentage of illegal immigrants as arrestees, namely 21.4 percent.  If you are wondering, the new county procedure is to check the immigration status of everyone taken into custody. A few points:

1. Immigration has worked much better in northern Virginia than in many other parts of the country, most of all southern California.  The number will not be this low in many other locales.

2. I don't have a number for the percentage of illegal immigrants in Prince William County, but I believe there are many, albeit a falling number.

3. I am not convinced by the argument that illegal immigrants will try "especially hard" not to get caught, because they are illegal immigrants and do not wish to be deported.  This argument has been used to suggest that two percent is an underestimate.

4. When all is said and done, two percent is a fairly low number.

bjk April 14, 2009 at 5:24 am

“two percent is a fairly low number” for the only county in the DC area that enforces immigration laws. Not representative . . .

Hei Lun Chan April 14, 2009 at 7:01 am

This study undercounts actual crimes committed by illegal aliens since if the victim is himself an illegal he’s not going to report the crime to the police.

MikeP April 14, 2009 at 7:35 am

Another point of interest in the proportion of illegal immigrants charged is the difference between actual crimes and victimless crimes.

Possibilities include:

1. The victim reporting effect noted by Hei Lun Chan.

2. Illegal immigrants are already selected as people willing to commit victimless crimes — e.g., immigrating illegally.

3. Since the only people running around accusing people of victimless crimes are the authorities themselves, the police are — intentionally or not — selectively capturing illegal immigrants’ committing those crimes.

build the fence April 14, 2009 at 9:29 am

This is a sensitive topic, as it should be. The numbers are kind of lifeless, aren’t they?

Maybe this should be reframed; If you had a baby sitter that groped your child, wouldn’t you — having done nothing about it — later be more OUTRAGED at your child’s rape?

Illegal aliens commit several crimes as they cross the border; then there are identity theft crimes, tax crimes, and on and on.

I’ll end with a story about a human being — sadly the NYTimes did not feel it important enough to report that her killer was an ILLEGAL alien! {These stories are legion.}

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/07/nyregion/07actress.html?_r=1&scp=5&sq=actress%20murdered&st=cse

“When Adrienne Shelly, an actress, was found dead in her Greenwich Village office last week, … Her body, with a sheet tied around her neck, was hanging from the shower curtain rod in the office bathroom.”

May she rest in peace.

Andrew April 14, 2009 at 9:43 am

“Advocates of the policy say the low numbers of illegal immigrants arrested show that it is working as a deterrent. Opponents say the statistics show that the rhetoric about the safety threat posed by illegal immigrants was overblown.”

“By one measure, critics said, the policy has failed: The county’s crime rate rose last year for the first time since 2004. That increase was driven largely by a surge in property crime, including burglaries and larcenies. But the number of major violent crimes plummeted almost 22 percent from the year before — more proof, advocates say, that the policy has worked.”

Not saying I agree with the advocates on either side, but to use the statistics from a new program designed and intended to affect the statistics may be perilous.

mulp April 14, 2009 at 10:09 am

Maybe this just proves what the high tech execs say when they call for more immigration: immigrants are smarter than Americans, or at least more skilled.

Andrew April 14, 2009 at 10:56 am

This wasn’t a study, for one thing. It was a government policy change that is all of a year old, enacted during the greatest economic crisis of the last half century of all times. It is data whose main attribute is that it is available. So, we take what we can get.

Using the several layers removed proxy if charges or incarcerations is not great. First, a victim must report. Then the cops have to find the guy. Various legal and court proceedings, etc. Are we really just judging how well our legal system finds people in hiding? I don’t know.

Additionally, it may very well be the correct conclusion, but to conclude that illegal immigrants are a bit better about violent crimes than our current melting pot doesn’t impress me all that much. Awaiting Steve’s comments here.

It’s hard to think objectively about this debate, and even harder to think properly.

Andrew April 14, 2009 at 11:11 am

Actually, I stand corrected. It’s 10 months old.

Surely policing effectiveness hasn’t changed one bit in the last 10 months.

As for:
http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/images/File/specialreport/Imm%20Criminality%20(IPC).pdf

Nice data, but still not very good.

“According to estimates by demographer Jeffrey Passel of
the Pew Hispanic Center, by 2005 two-thirds (66 percent) of
the unauthorized population had been in the country for 10
years or less, and the largest share, 40 percent or 4.4 million
people, had been in the country fi ve years or less.”

That puts a big influx about the time when crime rates slowed their descent. Conclusive? No.

John Dewey April 14, 2009 at 12:16 pm

andrew: “to conclude that illegal immigrants are a bit better about violent crimes than our current melting pot doesn’t impress me all that much. “

Well, there is a psychological basis for suggesting that. If you Google “‘criminal behavior’ ‘immediate gratification’”, you’ll see that the two are believed to be related. If you understand what illegal immigrants have undergone in order to simply work in this country – if you’ve talked with them about their border-crossing and early U.S. experiences – you’ll know they have a delayed gratification orientation.

Peter April 14, 2009 at 1:01 pm

I’ll end with a story about a human being — sadly the NYTimes did not feel it important enough to report that her killer was an ILLEGAL alien! {These stories are legion.}
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/07/nyregion/07actress.html?_r=1&scp=5&sq=actress%20murdered&st=cse
“When Adrienne Shelly, an actress, was found dead in her Greenwich Village office last week, … Her body, with a sheet tied around her neck, was hanging from the shower curtain rod in the office bathroom.”

The Times’ failure to mention the murderer’s immigration status was nothing compared to what Law & Order SVU did when it showed an episode based on the case. In this version, the killer was not the (nonwhite) construction worker, but the (white, of course) construction company owner.

charlie April 14, 2009 at 1:42 pm

When you look at the crimes being committed, the crimes being committed by mexicans are basically harmless:

1. Prostitution/Vice
2. sex offenses other than rape
3. sale of cocaine
4. public drunkenness
5. DUI
6. no drivers license

DUI is the most serious; and it the lowest – only 6% of people charged for DUI were illegals.

Basically, the mexicans were having a good time and as usual the blacks were the ones killing people. While people were just molesting each other and driving drunk. Not very useful data….

MikeP April 14, 2009 at 3:14 pm

I believe that allowing illegal aliens to be enter the US, knowingly tolerating their presence in the US, and promoting amnesty for their acts constitute treason.

Then you should be perfectly safe from this latest Homeland Security bugaboo. Clearly you believe that government can and should, without cause, violate the rights of people based on nothing but a condition of their birth. Hard to call that anti-government.

Andrew April 14, 2009 at 4:43 pm

John Dewey,

Sounds good, but I’ve never heard the bureaucratic nightmare described as a feature. So, assuming it is, the only thing I predict is that no matter what the gov’t does the situation will get worse.

Mick April 14, 2009 at 7:30 pm

Finally Tyler Cowen found a piece of data that, just maybe, shows that illegals are not as bad as most people think.

On that basis Dr Cowen concluded that an unlimited legal and illegal immigration is good for the USA.
And if you think otherwise you are a racist.

scottynx April 14, 2009 at 10:59 pm

Steve is right. Research from hispanic UC Irvine sociologists shows the same thing:

Debunking the Myth of Immigrant Criminality: Imprisonment Among First- and Second-Generation Young Men, By Rubén G. Rumbaut, Roberto G. Gonzales et al.

“Second Generation

Incarceration rates increase significantly for all US-born coethnics without exception. That is most notable for Mexicans, whose incarceration rate increases more than eightfold to 5.9 percent among the US born; for Vietnamese (from 0.46 to 5.6 percent among the US born); and for the Laotians and Cambodians (from 0.92 percent to 7.26 percent, the highest of any group except for native blacks). Almost all of the US born among those of Latin American and Asian origin can be assumed to consist of second-generation persons, with the exception of Mexicans and Puerto Ricans, whose numbers may include a sizable number (around 25 percent) of third-generation individuals………..

…..Thus, while incarceration rates are found to be extraordinarily low among immigrants, they are also seen to rise rapidly by the second generation. Except for the Chinese and Filipinos, the rates of all US-born Latin American and Asian groups exceed that of the referent group of non-Hispanic white natives.”
http://www.migrationinformation.org/Feature/display.cfm?id=403

Keep in mind that the first amnesty set off a hispanic baby boom (meaning a faster increase in the 2nd gen. talked about above):
http://www.vdare.com/Sailer/rove.htm

It is shortsighted and incorrect to only focus on the 1st gen. when accounting for the impact of immigration.

Delaware Bob April 15, 2009 at 1:00 pm

There is no doubt that this illegal immigration has caused more problem than anyone could have ever imagined.

I can’t say the ILLEGAL ALIENS are completely to blame for the shape of our economy, but they are a BIG part of the problem. The ILLEGAL ALIENS send BILLIONS upon BILLIONS out of this Country every year, money we will NEVER see again. Does this help our economy?

How about the BILLIONS the American taxpayers fork out for the ILLEGAL ALIEN BABIES, the schooling of them, the medical care and the list goes on, and on, and on.

How about the MILLIONS upon MILLIONS paid to jail ILLEGAL ALIENS for the crimes, then the cost to deport them. Does this help our economy?

Then you have these activist groups, the Catholic Church and the ACLU that want AMNESTY for these ILLEGAL ALIENS. It would be absolute suicide for this Country if AMNESTY were granted to the 20 million or so ILLEGAL ALIENS. We have more and more people out of work everyday and they want to add another 20 million to this Country? I say, “NO”!

If AMNESTY were ever granted to these 20 million ILLEGAL ALIENS, you can bet big money that 3 years from now, there would be ANOTHER 3-5 million ILLEGAL ALIENS demonstrating on our soil for AMNESTY.

An end MUST come to this illegal immigration. The perfect tool we have so far is E-Verify. It MUST be used by ALL businesses and Government Social Services. EVERY employee must be checked! If they are illegal, they are to be dismissed!

I believe it is time for all 50 States to pass a State law, like Arizona, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina and a few others. It is time for these ILLEGAL ALIENS to go back to their home Country and get out of this Country. The problems they are causing will not go away until the ILLEGAL ALIENS are out of this Country. I think that is plain to see.

Iy’s time for ZERO TOLERENCE with these ILLEGAL ALIENS. It’s time for them to return to their home country. They don’t belong here.

Mick April 15, 2009 at 2:59 pm


It’s always striking that Tyler is so fervently pro-immigration, that’s he’s willing to put forth arguments that make him look stupid.

Not stupid, just a True Believer in the Religion of Brotherhood of Men.

That’s why there is no rational argument that will change Dr Cowen mind.
Perhaps a brutal murder of his family, G*d forbid, by an illegal, might change his thinking, but I would not count on it.
See this example of True Believers run amok:
http://www2.facinghistory.org/Campus/tj/TJ.nsf/0/489A927172604AFE85256E7800558291

Mick April 15, 2009 at 3:07 pm


anti-immigrant sentiment correlates highly with mercantilist thinking.

Thinking beats ignorant BS you produced.

A typical victim of US education, even the smart ones are stupid.
Incapable of rational thought and devoid of factual knowledge.
They believe that history begins on the day they were born…. and not a moment sooner.

Mick April 15, 2009 at 4:44 pm


The arguments for free migration have nothing to do with how much or how little crime illegal immigrants commit. The pro-free migration case is built on moral and economic arguments.

If we assume for sake of argument that illegals and their progeny commit huge number of violent crimes, as they do, how neglecting this charming aspect of free migration is a moral argument?

It is shame that they refused to teach you logical thinking in the glorified hippy commune you confused with a college.

oops April 15, 2009 at 6:10 pm

right on mike p.- most illegal mexicans come here alone and eventually go home anyway. by and large it is cheap labor so small business owners don’t have to pay skilled wages for unskilled labor. when 4th graders are taught computer skills it is hard to get them to take a job washing dishes or even flipping burgers when they are old enough to work.

every developed western economy in the world brings in unskilled labor from poor countries to take the jobs that don’t require the skills that most 12 year olds in the west have.

MikeP April 16, 2009 at 2:09 pm

But if someone offers you $200/hour for a job you think is way below you, like frying hamburgers, I’m pretty sure you will take it.

Indeed you will. And the aggregate of everyone else in the economy will get poorer by $190 every single hour you work.

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