How many homicides are committed annually in the United States by illegal aliens, people who are unlawfully present?
How many rapes are committed annually by people who are unlawfully present?
How many assaults, burglaries, and car thefts are committed annually by people who are unlawfully present?
Nobody knows because few, if any, state governments track the immigration or citizenship status of inmates in state and local detention facilities.
Which means that an unknown number of illegal immigrants are committing an unknown number of crimes on American soil.
And thus voters, lawmakers, and law enforcement agencies like the FBI and ICE, have no actual idea how many crimes are committed by people who shouldn’t be here in the first place.
The dearth of data is particularly notable given that the issue of illegal immigration has been center stage since the rise of Donald Trump. He infamously said in his June 2015 kickoff speech that Mexico is not “sending their best” to the United States.
“They’re sending people that have lots of problems,” Trump said. “They’re bringing crime.”
But not one member of Trump’s White House or executive branch can say how many people or how much crime.
Even the best studies available of people known as “criminal aliens” are, at best, educated guesstimates derived from various databases across federal, state, and local records. A criminal alien is defined as an immigrant, whether legal or illegal, incarcerated in a federal, state, or local prison or jail.
That’s particularly striking given how much data about how many less important things the government meticulously tracks. Endangered gnatcatchers, exercising mudskipper fish, the gambling habits of monkeys. The government has data on all those things.
The number of homicides committed by Mexican nationals illegally in the United States in 2016? Not so much.
“You can find out from the federal government how many Finnish prisoners in Minnesota jails have herring for lunch, but you can’t find out how many illegal aliens are in jail,” quipped Peter Kirsanow, an attorney and a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR).
Years ago, Kirsanow said, he asked the USCCR to investigate the impact of illegal immigration on black unemployment and wage levels. He said he found “that a lot of the conventional wisdom was flat-out false.”
“There would be figures that were thrown out with respect to the effect of illegal immigration on employment levels, wage levels and even crime rates,” he said. “Having seen that that kind of calculation or that kind of statement as applied to the employment sector was inaccurate, I was curious as to whether or not it was accurate as it related to matters of crime.”
It was not.
Kirsanow ran into the same problem that anyone trying to find criminal alien data runs into: it’s not there.
“It’s just a gaping hole in our databases,” Kirsanow said. “We get data from all kinds of sources about all manners of things, but this one big ticket item is not tracked.”
Even the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a Congressional agency, struggled to find reliable data in their study from 2011 — their most recent — on criminal alien statistics.
But what they did find is not encouraging.
Deriving data from a Department of Homeland Security program called the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), the GAO found that, in fiscal year 2009 (July 1, 2008 through June 30, 2009), there were at least 296,000 unlawfully present inmates in state and local detention in the United States — and almost certainly many more.
SCAAP provides federal taxpayer funds to states and localities for incarcerating “undocumented criminal aliens” who have at least one felony or two misdemeanor violations of state or local law. It’s a sort of national reimbursement program for the costs that state and county governments (even ones with “sanctuary” laws) incur due to illegal immigration.
The GAO study of SCAAP’s data revealed that in FY 2009, 70% of SCAAP criminal aliens were born in Mexico.
In the five states that GAO studied closely — California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Arizona — there were at least 5,400 illegal aliens imprisoned for homicide-related offenses.
In California — which led the nation with 27,000 SCAAP incarcerations — 60% of incarcerations were for drugs, assault, sex offenses, and homicide, in that order.
In New York, which had 5,000 SCAAP incarcerations, 27% were for homicide, 23% for drugs, 12% for robbery, and 11% for sex offenses.
In Texas, which had 10,000 SCAAP incarcerations, 20% were for drugs, 18% for sex offenses, and 12% for assault.
Although the GAO study allows Americans, as Kirsanow said, to “get a sense” of criminal alien data, the data is from nearly a decade ago, and because it’s indirect, it’s imprecise — derived from something else, in this case federal reimbursements.
Ron Martinelli, a forensic criminologist and retired San Jose detective, believes that reducing the amount of crime committed by illegal aliens first requires knowing how many illegal aliens are committing how many crimes.
“We need to know who’s committing crimes. We need to have the analytics,” Martinelli said. “We let no one know. We don’t let our citizens know, we don’t let our politicians know what law enforcement knows, and that is: we have a certain segment of this population that is illegal that is committing violent crimes.”
Gathering the data, knowing precisely how big that segment of the population is, would not be particularly difficult, according to Kirsanow.
“It’s not complex,” Kirsanow said. “One way of doing it is everybody who is incarcerated, there’s a box that’s checked for them. Do they have a passport? What is their visa status? Do they have any kind of documentation that certifies whether they are lawfully present in the United States? That’s not a heavy lift.”
Could the federal government mandate this for state and local detention centers?
Yes, Kirsanow said, either legislatively or by executive carrot and stick: the Department of Justice could add a reporting requirement as a condition of receiving certain funds. The FBI could then include the data in its annual “Crime in the United States” report, which includes a wealth of statistics on “violent and property crime offenses” throughout the nation.
In fact, on January 25, Trump signed Executive Order 13768: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States. Among other things, it directs the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice “to collect relevant data and provide quarterly reports on … the immigration status of all convicted aliens incarcerated in state prisons and local detention centers throughout the United States.”
The most recent report, from the end of 2017, includes data on the 58,766 inmates in federal custody who are “known or suspected” aliens. Of that group, 35,334 people are known to be unlawfully present.
The government continues to investigate the “alienage” of the remaining 21,209 inmates, but the vast majority are likely also unlawfully present. This is a reasonable assumption given that 92% of confirmed aliens in Federal Bureau of Prisons custody are known illegals and 97% of confirmed aliens in U.S. Marshals Service custody are known illegals.
The report doesn’t even mention what is perhaps the most striking point about unlawfully present criminal aliens in federal custody: they comprise at least one-fifth of the federal inmate population, and in all likelihood closer to one-third.
The report notes that “state and local facilities do not routinely provide DHS or DOJ with comprehensive information about their inmates and detainees” — a glaring gap given that “state and local facilities account for approximately 90% of the total U.S. incarcerated population.”
With over 2 million state and county prison and jail inmates (according to 2015 data), there are almost certainly more illegal immigrants in detention centers than the 296,000 figure identified by the 2009 SCAAP data. Perhaps hundreds of thousands more.
The report notes that the “DHS and DOJ are working to develop a reliable methodology for estimating the status of state and local incarcerated populations.”
A Department of Justice spokesman told The Daily Wire that the next quarterly report “will have additional information pursuant to that section,” and that the Department of Justice “continues to work with state and local agencies” to determine the immigration status of unlawfully present inmates.
But absent a reporting requirement placed upon states and localities, it’s unlikely that the Trump administration or the American people will know much more than they do now about the nature of illegal immigrant crime in the United States.
This all begs the question: why? Why is there no direct data of criminality among illegal immigrants? It would not be difficult to collect and there is clear national interest in knowing, say, how many homicides are committed every year by people who, by law, should not be in the United States.
The most likely, if not cynical, answer, is obvious: lawmakers who do not oppose illegal immigration “do not want American citizens to know the nature and the amount and the significance of crimes that are being committed by illegal aliens,” Martinelli said.
Or as Kirsanow put it, “There were political imperatives at work that made it better to not know what the crime rates were.”