USA: Criminal Illegal Immigration Rates Fall Along the Border

Of note:

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) just announced that they have encountered 1,431,179 people out of 1,960,519 total enforcement actions in FY2021 along the borders of the United States. When it comes to immigration enforcement, the two components of CBP are the Office of Field Operations and the Border Patrol. Relative to the 478,648 individuals encountered by CBP in FY2020, the number of individuals encountered is up by a factor of three in FY2021. Although the number of individuals encounters by CBP rose enormously in FY2021, the rate of criminals among them dropped to new lows.

CBP defines criminal noncitizens (they used to be called criminal aliens) as individuals who are not U.S. citizens and who have been convicted of crimes here or abroad if the conviction is for conduct which is also a crime in the United States. The CBP data also include noncitizens and U.S. citizens who are arrested as a result of being wanted by other law enforcement agencies. So as to not exclude any criminal illegal immigrants through unintentional omission, this blog post counts all apprehensions of criminals by CBP as noncitizen illegal immigrants. This results in an overcount of illegal immigrant criminals, but it’s better to make errors that overcount illegal immigrant criminality rather than errors that undercount it. In 2016, about 6.4 percent of all illegal immigrant individuals encountered by CBP were criminals. In FY2021, only about 1.9 percent of illegal immigrants apprehended by CBP were criminals (Figure 1).

The absolute number of criminal illegal immigrants encountered by CBP also fell from FY2016 to FY2021, but not in every year. In FY2016, CBP encountered 38,758 criminals out of approximately 607,761 individuals encountered. In FY 2021, CBP encountered 28,213 criminals out of 1,431,179 total illegal immigrants encountered. During that time, the number of illegal immigrants encountered by CBP increased by 236 percent and the number of criminals encountered fell by over 27 percent. In some of the intervening years, the absolute number of criminal illegal immigrants rose, but it generally trended downward.

It’s remarkable that such a vast increase in the number of illegal immigrants apprehended in FY2021 included a lower percentage of criminals than earlier years. Perhaps the supply of criminal illegal immigrants seeking to enter the United States is relatively inelastic and massive changes in the number of individuals seeking to enter unlawfully or ask for asylum are non‐​criminals. In other words, reforms in U.S. immigrant policy that could attract more illegal immigrants or changes in foreign conditions that prompt mass migration do not seem to much affect the flow of criminals.

Many Americans want to keep the border closed, increase harsh border security methods, or restrict asylum because they fear that those encountered are criminals. Based on data supplied by CBP, the criminal illegal immigrant proportion of all encounters along the border are lower in FY2021 than in previous years despite the large increase in the number of encounters. Illegal immigration is a serious problem that imposes high costs on Americans and migrants, but it does not pose a serious criminal threat.

Source: Criminal Illegal Immigration Rates Fall Along the Border

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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