Unusually High Criminality among Arizona’s “DREAMers”

“Unfortunately, if the goal of DACA is to give citizenship to a particularly law-abiding group of undocumented immigrants, it is accomplishing the opposite of what was intended.”  — John R. Lott

John R. Lott

Economists tend to be very good at number-crunching and statistics. John Lott, who holds a PhD in economics from UCLA, has worked for various renowned academic institutions, the United States Sentencing Commission, and the conservative American Enterprise Institute think tank. In 2013 he founded the non-profit Crime Prevention Research Center, and he is best known for his books, studies, and op-eds on crime and gun rights. Earlier this month, he published a new paper titled “Undocumented Immigrants, U.S. Citizens, and Convicted Criminals in Arizona”.

The abstract for the study begins by explaining the source of the data:

“Using newly released detailed data on all prisoners who entered the Arizona state prison from January 1985 through June 2017, we are able to separate non-U.S. citizens by whether they are illegal or legal residents. Unlike other studies, these data do not rely on self-reporting of criminal backgrounds.”

The abstract continues by comparing undocumented immigrants in general with “other Arizonans.”:

“Undocumented immigrants are at least 142% more likely to be convicted of a crime than other Arizonans. They also tend to commit more serious crimes and serve 10.5% longer sentences, more likely to be classified as dangerous, and 45% more likely to be gang members than U.S. citizens. Yet, there are several reasons that these numbers are likely to underestimate the share of crime committed by undocumented immigrants. There are dramatic differences between in [sic] the criminal histories of convicts who are U.S. citizens and undocumented immigrants.” [Italics are mine.]

Will Racke expands on this a bit in his article for The Daily Caller News Foundation:

“Lott’s [use of] criminal convictions as a proxy for criminality… may actually understate the propensity for criminal behavior among illegal immigrants, because their victims, often undocumented immigrants themselves, are less likely to report crime.

‘Our reliance on conviction data means that there is a greater confidence in the accuracy of whether these individuals have committed crime,’ the report stated. ‘But it also means that we are underestimating the number of crimes and social costs of criminal activity by undocumented immigrants.'”

The next significant piece from the study abstract talks specifically about those that fit the definition of “DREAMers”:

“Young convicts are especially likely to be undocumented immigrants. While undocumented immigrants from 15 to 35 years of age make up slightly over two percent of the Arizona population, they make up about eight percent of the prison population. Even after adjusting for the fact that young people commit crime at higher rates, young undocumented immigrants commit crime at twice the rate of young U.S. citizens. These undocumented immigrants also tend to commit more serious crimes.”

Racke points out that the aforementioned “142% more likely to be convicted of a crime” goes up to 250% for the “18-35 age cohort.” (I don’t know why Racke consistently uses “18” as the lower end of the age range, when Lott seems to use “15”. But, then I barely skimmed the full report, so I may have missed something.)

Finally, here are a few more significant findings from the report’s summary:

“Undocumented immigrants are 163% more likely to be convicted of 1st degree murder than are U.S. citizens, 168% more likely to be convicted of 2nd degree murder, and 189.6% more likely to be convicted of manslaughter. Those three categories and negligent homicide add up to 987 convictions. Undocumented immigrants are also much more likely to commit sexual offenses against minors, sexual assault, DUI, and armed robbery….

If undocumented immigrants committed crime nationally as they do in Arizona, in 2016 they would have been responsible for over 1,000 more murders, 5,200 rapes, 8,900 robberies, 25,300 aggravated assaults, and 26,900 burglaries.”

Obviously, no one is saying that all illegal immigrants are violent criminals — not even a majority. But, statistically speaking, the propensity for such criminal acts is significantly higher among them. That isn’t racist or otherwise unfairly discriminatory. It just is. Cold, hard numbers and simple extrapolation.

Now, does it really seem wise to issue a blanket amnesty to DREAMers when we have this sort of data staring us in the face? I don’t think so.

P.S.  See my “Dream On…” and “A Few Ideas Re DACA Replacement” posts for more info and thoughts on the DACA/DREAMer issue.

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