Criminal Immigrants: A Deeper Look into the Numbers

The Trump administration frequently refers to the U.S.-Mexico border as a “crisis” zone that can only be fixed by building a border wall. The cause for the crisis, President Trump says, is illegal immigrants coming to this country to commit all kinds of crimes and other dangerous activities.


Stephen Miller, who’s been described by some as the West Wing’s most strident immigration hawk, has been particularly influential in shaping the Trump administration’s approach in handling the issue of immigration.


In a recent Fox News Sunday interview, Miller made astounding accusation that thousands of Americans are killed year after year by undocumented immigrants.


Exactly who are these people, though – the victims and the immigrants? Where is Miller getting his numbers? Is he right – even a little bit?


In this post, we’re going to take a deep dive into the numbers to determine how accurate Miller’s statement is.


10.7 Million Illegal Immigrants


The Pew Research Center estimates there are about 10.7 million unauthorized immigrants currently live in the U.S. This sounds like a large number, but it actually amounts to less than 4% of the national population.  The vast majority of these immigrants live and work safely among American general population.


105,140 Immigrants Arrested in 2018


Immigrations and Customs Enforcement(ICE) states its arrests in the 2018 fiscal year included 105,140 immigrants who were convicted criminals. ICE says that its primary targets are criminal aliens they intend to remove from the country.


Again, it sounds like a big number, but anecdotal evidence raises a lot of questions about exactly what crimes many of these individuals committed. Immigration reform advocates accuse ICE of inflating the numbers about immigration crimes by incorporating minor charges in its tally.


83,573 Foreign Prisoners in State and Federal Prisons


The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) periodically reports about the current prison population in the US. In its most recent reports, the agency says 83,573 inmates being held in both state and federal prisons are non-citizens of the U.S. This is barely 6% of the entire prison population.


To be fair, BJS cautions that the total number of non-citizen inmates could be higher.




Because some states fail to provide the relevant information and others may have undercounted the number of its foreign inmates.


BJS has also cautioned in the past that jurisdictions might differ in their definition of non-citizens. Some jurisdictions will, for instance, base their interpretation on where a person was born irrespective of that person’s citizenship status.


1 In 5 Federal Inmates Is Foreign-Born


Rough estimates show that for every five inmates in federal prison, one of them is foreign-born. Moreover, the vast majority of these foreign prisoners entered the United States illegally.


However, while speaking to the New York Times in 2017, Tom Jawetz of the Center for American Progress strongly condemned these statistics.  He said that most immigrants serving time in federal prisons were convicted of crimes that only an immigrant can be charged with such as illegal entry or illegal entry after removal.


Illegal IMmigration Houston

In other words, their crime was illegal immigration.


719 Criminal Convictions Per 100,000 Immigrants


This figure represents the criminal conviction rates for immigrants in the state of Texas specifically. The data provided by the Cato Institute took into account figures from 2015.

This particular study compared the crime rates among native-born and immigrant populations. The conviction rates per 100,000 individuals in each population were 1,797 for native-born Americans, 899 for undocumented immigrants and 611 for legal immigrants.


Or, to state those numbers a different way, U.S. citizens commit crimes at twice the rate of illegal immigrants, and there’s an even greater disparity when legal immigrants are added into the picture.


Immigrants Are 142% More Likely to Be Convicted


Economist John Lott conducted a study in Arizona that found the likelihood of an undocumented immigrant being convicted of a crime is142% higher than for an average Arizonan.


This is information that has often been alluded to by the Justice Department, as well as politicians and other organizations that favor immigration restrictions and harsh punishment for immigrants.




After all, it doesn’t mean that illegal immigrants commit more crimes, or even that their crimes are more serious. What it really says is that when an illegal immigrant is accused of a crime, the criminal justice system is likely to assume they did it and punish them accordingly.


What About Illegal Immigration’s Role in Drug Deaths?


A statement released by Hogan Gidley, the White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary, justified Miller’s statement by citing Americans killed by illegal narcotics were brought into the U.S. by illegal immigrants under orders of the drug cartels they work for.


However, a 2018 report shows that while Mexico produces up to 90% of the heroin being sold in the US, virtually all of it gets into the country through legal points of entry. It, therefore, is less than honest to add drug deaths to the number of deaths caused by illegal immigrants.


Are Illegal Immigrants Really Killing Thousands Each Year?

Are Illegal Immigrants Really Killing Thousands Each Year?

Clearly, the statistical evidence available doesn’t support Miller’s count of thousands of deaths being caused by non-citizens annually. It is still unknown as to how this far right-wing conservative spokesman came by his calculations. They are simply more of the Trump administration’s “alternative facts.”


If his calculations were true, and indeed thousands of Americans were actually being killed by immigrants every year, one would naturally expect that the crime statistic numbers presented here would be much higher?


The real fact is that Stephen Miller’s sentiments are nothing more than racist fear-mongering crudely calibrated to manipulate the Trump Republican base into supporting the administration’s anti-immigration policies.