Bait and Switch: Misleading Report on Illegal Alien Incarceration

The arm of the Immigration lawyers association (AILA) that issues research useful to the defenders of illegal aliens – the Immigration Policy Center (IPC) – released a report by academics designed to combat the image that illegal aliens are a crime threat. The report  asserts that “Immigrants are Less Likely to be Criminals Than the Native-Born.” But, that is of course a bait and switch tactic.

The report opens by noting the growth of the foreign-born population and the illegal alien population from 1990 to 2013 as well as the drop in the rate of serious crimes over the same period. The two statistics are entirely unrelated, and listing them together is obviously an effort to mislead by suggesting that the increased foreign population influenced a drop in the crime rate.

Public concern is currently focused on the criminal actions of illegal aliens, not legal immigrants. For obvious reasons the crime rate among legal immigrants is low: they are excluded from immigrating if they have prior crimes, they are deportable if they commit crimes here, and the selection process is designed to weed out those who are likely to live in poverty. The same, however, is obviously not true for those who enter the country illegally, and are thus unscreened.

The report’s authors do refer to one foreign-born group that would appear to be illegal aliens – Mexican, Salvadoran, and Guatemalan men – and states that their rate of imprisonment is lower than that for native-born men. But, this too is misleading because, although there are many of those foreign-born men who are illegal aliens, there are even more who are legal residents and whose demographic characteristics are very different from those who are illegally in the country.

FAIR’s study of the crime threat from illegal aliens is here. That study, using federal data, found that the rate for illegal alien males in the prisoner population was 50 percent higher than the rate for imprisoned American males.

It is important to distinguish between legal immigrants and illegal aliens. The two populations are very different. One should be welcomed and the other excluded. Studies that conflate the characteristics of the two – like the new IPC report – are not just misleading; they do a disservice to legal immigrants.

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).


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    This is the result of the media spin of the last few years. Illegal became undocumented and undocumented then became immigrant. It’s why what Trump said continues to be distorted. He clearly said illegals and yet the press
    constantly casts it as his “attack on immigrants”. And I am far from a Jeb Bush fan but he recently made headlines for saying that Americans should work longer hours. Sort of a let them eat cake statement, right? But if you took the time to actually read his comments he said they should “have the chance to work longer hours”. Something those limited to 30 hours at many businesses would agree with. Clearly another sensationalism by our media.

    As for the crime drop since 1990, look up the term “mandatory minimum sentences”. Of course, some states have overdone with their their “three strikes” laws, but there is no dispute that the last three decades have seen those laws take multiple repeat offenders off the street. Not to mention the fact that people who have broken our immigration and identity fraud laws are hardly candidates for the title of solid citizen. What makes anyone think they will respect any other laws. There is also the fact that many illegals have had multiple identities and it’s hard to figure out how they are.

    But the media has it’s labels. Immigration restriction parties in Europe, which have had major success in some countries, are cast as “far right’. In other words, not wanting to be taken over by third world poor is the same as the concentration camps of WW2. A thug who tries to attack a cop is said to be “unarmed” even though serious injury and death can be the result of an attack from an “unarmed” person.