By Pat Kessler

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The tragic death of an Indianapolis Colts football player has reignited the debate over illegal immigration.

President Trump just cited it as more evidence of the need for a border wall along the southern U.S. border.

But how much crime do those living in the U.S. without legal permission commit?

Police say Guatamalan citizen Manuel Orrega Savala was drunk — three times the legal limit — when his pickup truck struck and killed Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson and an Uber driver.

Compounding the tragedy, state police say the man was in the country illegally and had already been deported twice, according to a report by CBS4 in Indianapolis.

The suspect’s immigration status inflamed the political debate.

On Twitter, President Trump assailing Democrats “to get tough on the Border, and with illegal immigration, FAST.” — linking immigration and crime nine times in his State of The Union Speech.

The Trump re-election campaign even posted an ad about Democrats and illegal immigration:

“Democrats who stand in our way will be complicit in every murder by illegal immigrants,” the ad says.

But that political narrative doesn’t match the reality: Immigrants — including those living in the U.S. illegally — commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans.

The president’s own Justice Department reports foreign-born people are 13 percent of the U.S. population, but only 5.6 percent of convicts.

And the so-called “Dreamers” — brought to the U.S. illegally as children — have the lowest crime rates of all: Just one quarter of 1 percent have ever been convicted of any crime, and immigrant juveniles are less likely to to be repeat offenders.

The president’s border wall is the lightning rod in the immigration debate, with 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal permission. The vast majority of them are Mexican, but many are not Hispanic at all:

  • Mexico — 6.2 million
  • Guatemala — 723,000
  • El Salvador — 465,000
  • Honduras — 337,000
  • China — 268,000
  • India — 267,000
  • Korea — 168,000

Of those 11 million, 42 percent didn’t sneak across the border — they overstayed their visas.

Here are some of the sources we used for this Reality Check:

Center For Immigration Studies

President Links Violent Crime To Illegal Immigration — CNBC

DACA Extension Senate Judiciary Committee

President Trump State of the Union Address 2018

US Justice Department: Prisoners in 2016

Center For Migration Studies

Latest Illegal Immigration Statistics — New York Times

Immigration —

Trump SOTU Focus on Immigrants — USA Today

Predictors of Immingrant Youth Offenders

Comments (5)
  1. I watched your “Illegal Immigrants commit less crime” story and followed your research links. It is obvious you know little about statistics. Everything you have reported is based on the old ruse of hiding the poor statistics of Illegal Immigrants in the stellar statistics of Legal Immigrants. Maybe you should look at the recent study conducted by John Lott that shows Illegal Immigrants commit crime at a far higher rate than U.S. Citizens. I know that Cato is attacking it, but their attack is procedurally silly. They claim Legal Immigrants can be considered “deportable” even though this is an invalid classification without a special legal proceeding to back it up.

    If you choose to ignore those statistics lets go back to before the US Government stopped releasing useful data in 2006. Let us look at 2005 data. The Office of Immigration Statistics, Dept. of Homeland Security estimated there were 10.5 million Illegal Immigrants in the USA in Jan. 2005. The U.S. Dept. of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics stated the number of prisoners under the jurisdiction of the Federal or State Adult Correctional Authorities was 2,245,189 on June 30, 2006, which was a 2.8% increase from Midyear 2005. So in mid 2005 the number of inmates was about 2,184,000.

    Per the New York Times “In 2005, at least 270,000 illegal immigrants spent time in local jails and state prisons, according to the Justice Department.” In 2004 the U.S. Census Bureau reported 288,280,000 people lived in the U.S., 254,037,000 native born and 34,243,000 foreign born. With 10.5 million Illegal Immigrants responsible for 270,000 inmates, the Illegal Immigrant incarceration rate was 1 in 39 people. And “Catch and Release” was in effect so these were criminal incarcerations.

    Excluding Illegal Immigrant inmates leaves no more than 1,914,000 Native Born inmates. If all were citizens, the incarceration rate for citizens would be no greater than 1 in 133 people. Illegal Immigrants are thus at least 3.4 times more likely to commit crimes that are citizens.

  2. They commit a crime just sneaking into the US

  3. Mr. Kessler and his sources make a big deal of the fact that many Illegal Immigrants are not criminals because they overstay a visa. So let us look at that idea in more detail and see how this really works.

    Crossing the US Border illegally is a criminal offense. Per Section 1325 – Immigration and Nationality Act “Any alien who (1) enters or attempts to enter the United States at any time or place other than as designated by immigration officers, or (2) eludes examination or inspection by immigration officers, or (3) attempts to enter or obtains entry to the United States by a willfully false or misleading representation or the willful concealment of a material fact, shall, for the first commission of any such offense, be fined under Title 18 or imprisoned not more than 6 months, or both, and, for a subsequent commission of any such offense, be fined under Title 18, or imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both.”

    Title 18 is the US Criminal Code. Calling the act of entered the USA by illegally crossing our border a “Civil” offense confuses a type of penalty with a body of law. Furthermore, obtaining a job using a Social Security Number that was either not legally issued or stolen is also a violation of the US Criminal Code. It is incorrect to call anyone “Non-Criminal” who has entered the USA Illegally or is working in the USA illegally using a fraudulent Social Security Number.

    Simply overstaying a Visa is a violation of the US Civil Code and thus can be factually called a “Civil Matter”. But then there is that “using a false SSN” criminal act. Also, applying for some benefits in the USA that you are not entitled to receive is considered fraud. For an Illegal Immigrant to remain in this country and not break criminal law, the individual would have to overstay a visa and then do little else while living in the USA. The idea that people living illegally in the USA are innocently not committing crimes while here may be a cute talking point, but it is an incorrect rationalization at best.

  4. Pat Kessler has always been a Fake News lying liberal Democrat propaganda machine. He throws out generalizations with absolutely no proof to back up his articles. Kessler knows most Democrat controlled states have stopped releasing statistics on illegals and their crimes. Here is where I will cite my source for actual federal (doesn’t include state!) illegal alien crime statistics by a professional statistician named Ron Martinelli

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