Do immigrants commit more crimes than U.S. citizens, or less?

It’s been a hot debate for years in the United States: Do immigrants commit more crimes than U.S. citizens, or less?

Liberal media and left-leaning institutes have propelled the idea that non-citizens (legal or illegal) are more law-abiding than native-born Americans.

Right-leaning media, however, have emphasized violent crimes, gang activities, and drug smuggling as the center topic for border security discussions.

Welcome to a divided country, where everything is partisan.

But this shouldn’t be controversial at all.

Anything related to public safety must be completely data-driven, instead of agenda-filled political power grabs. Crime rate affects every single one of us, no matter what legal status the criminal possesses.

Since every arrest is logged by the government, the simplest solution is to just release the data – problem solved.

For this reason , I welcome the first report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) that comprehensively describes the citizenship of suspects arrested and prosecuted for federal offenses.

You can read the summary here, or the full report here, and draw your own conclusion.

Below are some highlights:

Non-Citizens vs U.S. Citizens:

  • In 2018, 64% of all federal arrests were of non-U.S. citizens.
  • In 1998, only 37% of all federal arrests were of non-U.S. citizens.
  • From 1998 to 2018, federal arrests of non-U.S. citizens more than tripled (rising 234%).
  • For the same period, federal arrests of U.S. citizens rose 10%.

Citizenship:
Although most arrests of non-citizens are related to violations of immigration laws, crime rate in other categories is higher than their share of population as well, according to BJS: While non-U.S. citizens make up 7% of the U.S. population (per the U.S. Census Bureau for 2017), they accounted for 15% of all federal arrests and 15% of prosecutions in U.S. district court for non-immigration crimes in 2018.

Non-U.S. citizens accounted for 24% of all federal drug arrests and 25% of all federal property arrests, including 28% of all federal fraud arrests.

Citizenship by Country:
The country of citizenship of persons arrested by federal law enforcement changed notably over time. From 1998 to 2018, Mexican citizens’ share of federal arrests rose from 28% to 40%. Citizens of Central American countries’ share of federal arrests rose from 1% to 20% during the same period, while U.S. citizens’ share of federal arrests fell from 63% to 36%.

So, in summary, the BJS data suggest that crime rate among non-citizens is higher than U.S. citizens.

Frankly, as an immigrant myself, I’m a bit embarrassed by this seemingly unflattering image. But data is data, fact is fact. You can’t fix a problem if you don’t know it, or don’t want to admit it.

The last thing I want for my chosen country is an ever climbing crime rate. Now with the data out in the open, maybe some smart and honest politicians will figure out a way to address it.

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