Immigrants Are Not Criminals

The current administration had made much about dangerous criminal immigrants ‘coming in fast’, however the data on immigration simply do not support the idea that immigrants are mostly criminal or that ICE has ramped up deportations of criminal immigrants.

Speaking at roundtable event on sanctuary cities and immigration laws last year, President Trump commented:

“We have a lot of people coming into our country, or trying to come in — and we’re stopping a lot of them — but we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals. And we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before. And because of the weak laws, they come in fast, we get them, we release them, we get them again, we bring them out. It’s crazy.”

 May 16, 2018

This perception of immigrants as criminals or thugs is persistent, however could not be further from the truth.  Time and again, data shows:

  • The majority of immigrants are not criminals
  • The vast majority of immigrants deported are not criminals

Since at least 2006, Syracuse’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) has been tracking immigration matters in our nations federal court system.  Over the past decade, the number of immigrants who have been deported for criminal reasons had fallen dramatically in both percentage and real terms.  Since 2009, filings citing criminal activity has fallen from 40,907 and 16.0%, to 9,919 and 2.8%, respectively:

Table 1. Immigration Court Filings Seeking Removal Citing Criminal Activity

Fiscal Year Number Percent
FY 1999 41,404 25.2%
FY 2004 31,503 15.4%
FY 2009 40,907 16.0%
FY 2014 22,605 8.4%
FY 2019 *9,919 2.8%

* projected for full year (7,458 through June)

In our local jurisdiction of Charlotte, just 6 (that’s right 6) individuals of over 2038 filings from October 2018-June 2019 have sought removal based off criminal activity.  That is less than 1% of all filings, and moreover is in line with other courts such as Miami, Phoenix, Houston, and El Paso nearer the southern border.

While our immigration laws leave much to be desired, any discussion about how to appropriately change them should be based in the facts.  These numbers tell a very different story, and one we all would be better off to hear.

Sources:

1) https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4729859/president-trumps-ms-13-animal-comment

2) https://trac.syr.edu/immigration/reports/566/

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