The Link Between Illegal Immigration and Crime

ice_arrest_eldoradoThe forthcoming issue of Reason Magazine (October issue) has an article on “Criminal Immigrants?” in which it cites FAIR as a source of misinformation on elevated crime rates by immigrants. It notes a study suggesting the opposite, i.e., lower crime rates by immigrants.

The charge against FAIR is wrong. FAIR’s research on crime rates and immigration focused on crime rates among the illegal alien population, not legal immigrants. See “Illegal Aliens and Crime Incidence.” That study used U.S. Government data collected in the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program and found the crime incidence among illegal and other deportable aliens to be fifty percent higher than for native and naturalized U.S. citizens.

The findings of the study reported in Reason are not surprising. Legal immigrants are screened to prevent the arrival of aliens with prior criminal convictions and, as noted in the article, as long as they are ‘green card’ holders they are subject to deportation if they are convicted of any serious crime or series of minor crimes. The latter provision of the law is intended to assure that they do not remain in the country to become a repeat offender. Both provisions of the immigration law act to increase the likelihood that legal immigrants have a lower incidence of criminal activity than the general population.

Because illegal aliens who sneak into the country are not screened for prior criminal activity and are willfully breaking the immigration law, they represent an entirely different profile of likely criminal activity than legal immigrants.

This, however, raises the issue of how an amnesty affects this issue. In either an amnesty, like the general amnesty for illegal aliens in 1986, or the executive amnesty like DACA (or the expansion of that action currently contemplated by the Obama administration), in theory the applicants are screened to weed out criminals. However, it appears that there is no effort to check foreign crime databases – as there is for legal immigrants – and illegal aliens in the United States regularly procure in fake identity documents which increases the possibility that prior criminal activity may be missed unless it is based on fingerprint records.

Giving legal status to illegal aliens is wrong-headed for many reasons – especially because it erodes respect for the law and encourages more illegal entry. But amnesty also means we are granting legal status to people whose backgrounds cannot be readily checked.  In doing so, we run the risk of legalizing people who have engaged in criminal activity or who may likely do so in the future. It is a factor that that should not be minimized.


About Author


Jack, who joined FAIR’s National Board of Advisors in 2017, is a retired U.S. diplomat with consular experience. He has testified before the U.S. Congress, U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform and has authored studies of immigration issues. His national and international print, TV, and talk radio experience is extensive (including in Spanish).


  1. avatar

    I am wondering if the criminal things done by the number one illegal immigrant, Barrack Insane Obama, are included in these numbers.

  2. avatar

    Can we assume the areas where the recent surge of illegals and teen gang members will see an increase in crime rates? I would worry they would form new gangs or just continue illegal activities that got them by in their home country . They all should be deported.

  3. avatar

    This article comes at an apt time. I just saw pictures of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico after the storm that just hit. The hoards were out to shoplift from the damaged businesses. One enterprising thief had brought his wheelbarrow and it was loaded. Here or there, they are equal opportunity criminals.

  4. avatar

    An Assumption by the Open Border Crowd

    Is being an IA is not being a crimina in Americal, that’s like saying a bank robber is not really a bank robber, if the organised crime business gets some of the loot.

        • avatar

          Stick to the feedback…..concentrate………your comparison is poor…………………so what does that mean?… your gray matter…………..then I will answer you

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            answer it is not….I have a question for you……………….have you ever smoked pot or driven under the influence…..if you have…..then r u a criminal or not….answer the question…………

  5. avatar

    Jack anybody can say anything…..the point is to prove it with facts……..I mean what are the result based on and the reference and correlation to the immigrant demographics in terms of total population….330M and the illegals as well…barbarically scientifically…..then those are the facts………………whatever they r

    • avatar

      Read the study that was linked to the blog. The methodology is explained. The data on incarcerated aliens comes from a federal database and the comparable numbers for the native-born come from the Census Bureau.

      • avatar

        The law is the law, you break the law coming over the border you need to be sent out ASAP ! They don’t have rights even though the ACLU is for them for some reason, probably told by the administration I’m sure. The democrats need voters, because we the people are sick of their lies and spending money we don’t have, giving anyone food stamps, health care etc.. and we the people are broke. They let out thousands of illegal criminals from jail and the crime against the american citizens has grown from the behavior of this administration, they are all behind fences, but we the people can’ t have our borders fenced. Stop illegal immigration now and if you think that there isn’t crazy jihadists here, your crazy, thank this administration for that.