Presidential candidate Donald Trump continues to promote the idea that immigrants play an outsized role in crime. While up-to-date data on immigrants and crime is difficult to come by, and what is available is imperfect, a range of studies show little evidence that immigrants commit more crimes than U.S. citizens.
Here’s what’s known:
Immigration and crime have had an inverse relationship over the years. Since the 1990s, immigration has risen but crime rates have dropped. The number of immigrants in the country illegally has more than tripled, from 3.5 million to 11.2 million. Meanwhile, violent crime – including aggravated assault, robbery, rape and murder – has dropped 48 percent.
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The majority of the 11 million people here illegally live in six states. Of those, California alone has about 2.4 million, 1 in 5 of the state’s residents. Texas ranked second, with 1.7 million, or 15 percent of its population. The other four states with large populations are Florida, New York, New Jersey and Illinois. Each hosts fewer than 1 million.
Immigrants are less likely to be incarcerated in California than U.S.-born adults are. Studies show U.S.-born men are incarcerated in California at a rate over two-and-a-half times greater than that of foreign-born men. Immigrants were incarcerated at a rate of 161 per 100,000 people and U.S.-born individuals were incarcerated at a rate of 259 per 100,000.
Immigration offenses, not violent crimes, account for most federal immigrant convictions, at 31 percent. Drug and traffic violations account for 30 percent. Assault composed 10.2 percent. Sex offenses made up 1.6 percent.
It costs the United States billions to incarcerate immigrants. Government studies estimate it costs $1.6 billion annually to incarcerate 351,000 convicted and incarcerated immigrants in federal prisons and state facilities affiliated with the Department of Justice’s State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, which reimburses states and local governments for the cost of incarcerating immigrants here illegally.
Sources: American Immigration Council, Pew Hispanic Center, Public Policy Institute of California, Center for Investigative Reporting, Congressional Research Service, Department of Homeland Security, Government Accountability Office.