This is how US crime by foreign-born people compares to citizen crime

Immigrants and crime are not connected.
Immigrants and crime are not connected.
Image: AP Photo/Gregory Bull
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

In his Jan. 25 executive order titled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” president Donald Trump announced that the Secretary of Homeland Security will publish, among other things, a weekly list of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.

This might suggest that people in the US illegally commit an unusually large number of crimes. There isn’t a register of crimes committed by this group of people, so it’s hard to show whether or not that’s the case. However, two data points suggest this group commits fewer crimes than people in the country legally. They are pointed out in a 2015 special report from the American Immigration Council.

1. Higher immigration hasn’t boosted overall crime rates

In the past two and a half decades both legal and illegal immigration has gone up significantly, but crime has declined.

The number of undocumented immigrants rose from 3.5 million in 1990 to 11.2 million in 2013. At the same time overall crime rates dropped.  In 1993, according to the Department of Justice (pdf, p.1), violent crime hit nearly 80 people out of every 1,000. In 2013, it was 23 out of 1,000. Similarly, property crime hit nearly 352 households of every 1,000 in 1993, and 131 of every 1,000 in 2013.

2. There are proportionally fewer foreign-born people in jail than US -born citizens

According to the Bureau of Justice Services, of the 1,574,700 prisoners detained in state and federal prisons in 2013, 73,665 were foreign-born (p.20). That makes it 4.6% of the prison population, versus a total immigrant population of 13.3%, both legal and undocumented. Further, according to an American Immigration Council analysis of Census data, 1.6% of all immigrant men aged 18 to 39 were imprisoned, while the US-born rate was twice has high, at 3.3%.