by Bob Quasius
Since 2006, the article “The Dark Side of Illegal Immigration: Nearly One Million Sex Crimes Committed by Illegal Immigrants in the United States“ by Deborah Schurman-Kauflin, Ph.D. of the Violent Crimes Institute has been cited endlessly to justify harsh measures against illegal immigration. The article is sensational in its claims but falls far short on credible facts.
It is not a myth that a small minority off unauthorized immigrants are sex criminals or other serious offenders, but Dr. Schurman-Kauflin’s analysis is badly flawed and her estimates of sex criminals among the unauthorized immigrant population are wildly exaggerated.
Anyone with a good knowledge of statistics will tell you that samples from a target group must be selected randomly. In order to believe this study, one must believe that incarcerated prisoners are statistically representative of a much larger group. From the study:
Based on population numbers of 12,000,000 illegal immigrants and the fact that young males make up more of this population than the general U.S. population, sex offenders in the illegal immigrant group make up a higher percentage. When examining ICE reports and public records, it is consistent to find sex offenders comprising 2% of illegals apprehended. Based on this 2% figure, which is conservative, there are approximately 240,000 illegal immigrant sex offenders in the United States.
This translates to 93 sex offenders and 12 serial sexual offenders coming across U.S. borders illegally per day. The 1500 offenders in this study had a total of 5,999 victims. Each sex offender averaged 4 victims. This places the estimate for victimization numbers around 960,000 for the 88 months examined in this study.
According to the DHS 2006 annual report of Immigration Enforcement Actions, 272,389 non-citizens were removed (deported) from the U.S. in 2006, and 1.9% of those removed were indeed sex criminals. The unauthorized immigrant population in 2006 was estimated at 11.6 million. These removals represent 2.35% off the estimated unauthorized population. However, authorized immigrants are also removed if convicted of a felony, as mandated under a 1996 federal law, so removals of unauthorized immigrants are a portion of the total.
The author incorrectly assumes that those arrested by ICE are representative samples of the total unauthorized immigrant population of the U.S., when in fact ICE has long prioritized immigration enforcement, and dangerous criminals, such as sex criminals, are one of ICE’s top priorities.
The “Morton Memo dated March 11, 2011, which replicates long standing policy regarding prioritization of immigration enforcement, prioritizes as follows:
Priority l. Aliens who pose a danger to national security or a risk to public safety
Priority 2. Recent illegal entrants
Priority 3. Aliens who are fugitives or otherwise obstruct immigration controls
With total removals each year a just 2% or so of the total unauthorized population, the need to prioritize dangerous criminals for apprehension and removal is obvious. Resources expended chasing non-criminal unauthorized immigrants means less resources available to pursue violent criminals.
Due to this prioritization and the fact that criminals are much more likely to come to the attention of law enforcement, due to their crimes and victims, its simply not logical to believe prison inmates are representative samples of the community at large.
Now let’s apply Dr. Schurman-Kauflin’s methodology to the U.S. prison population. From the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) report “Prisoners in 2009“, 7.9% of sentenced prisoners in federal prisons on September 30, 2009 were in for violent crimes, and 52.4% of sentenced prisoners in state prisons at year end 2008 were in for violent crimes. From the 2002 BJS report “Profile of Jail Inmates” 25.4% of inmates in jails in 2002 were convicted or held for violent crimes. Applying these percentages to mid-2006 inmate populations, there were 819,202 inmates incarcerated or jailed for violent crimes in the U.S., or 41.4% off the U.S. prison and jail population.
Applying Dr. Schurman-Kauflin’s same methodology to the current U.S. population of 314 million, we would conclude that 130 million (41.4%) of our total population are violent criminals, which would seem an outlandish number. Is our prison population representative of Americans in general? Clearly not, but that is what Dr. Schurman-Kauflin’s would have us believe in her claim there are 240,000 unauthorized immigrant sex offenders in the U.S.!
But what about the high percentage of young males among the unauthorized immigrant population mentioned in her study? It turns out the unauthorized immigrants are not that representative of their home nations due to the self-selection process.
In the scholarly research paper “The Myth of Immigrant Criminality and the Paradox of Assimilation: Incarceration Rates among Native and Foreign-Born Men“, the authors, Rubén G. Rumbaut, PhD and Walter A. Ewing, PhD note that young male unauthorized immigrants are actually less likely to engage in criminal activity than citizens:
Because many immigrants to the United States, especially Mexicans and Central Americans, are young men who arrive with very low levels of formal education, popular stereotypes tend to associate them with higher rates of crime and incarceration. The fact that many of these immigrants enter the country through unauthorized channels or overstay their visas often is framed as an assault against the “rule of law,” thereby reinforcing the impression that immigration and criminality are linked. This association has ﬂourished in a post-9/11 climate of fear and ignorance where terrorism and undocumented immigration often are mentioned in the same breath.
But anecdotal impression cannot substitute for scientiﬁc evidence. In fact, data from the census and other sources show that for every ethnic group without exception, incarceration rates among young men are lowest for immigrants, even those who are the least educated. This holds true especially for the Mexicans, Salvadorans, and Guatemalans who make up the bulk of the undocumented population. What is more, these patterns have been observed consistently over the last three decennial censuses, a period that spans the current era of mass immigration, and recall similar national-level ﬁndings reported by three major government commissions during the ﬁrst three decades of the 20th century. The problem of crime in the United States is not “caused” or even aggravated by immigrants, regardless of their legal status. But the misperception that the opposite is true persists among policymakers, the media, and the general public, thereby undermining the development of reasoned public responses to both crime and immigration
Dr. Schurman-Kauflin, based her interviews with prisoners and mostly anecdotal media sources, claimed the highest numbers of sex offenders came from Mexico and El Salvador. However Dr. Rumbaut and Dr. Ewing, citing credible sources, note common assumptions about youth, education level, etc. do not fit the data for immigrants:
- Among men age 18-39 (who comprise the vast majority of the prison population), the 3.5 percent incarceration rate of the native-born in 2000 was 5 times higher than the 0.7 percent incarceration rate of the foreign-born.
- The foreign-born incarceration rate in 2000 was nearly two-and-a-half times less than the 1.7 percent rate for native born non-Hispanic white men and almost 17 times less than the 11.6 percent rate for native-born black men.
- Native-born Hispanic men were nearly 7 times more likely to be in prison than foreign-born Hispanic men in 2000, while the incarceration rate of native-born nonHispanic white men was almost 3 times higher than that of foreign-born white men.
- Foreign-born Mexicans had an incarceration rate of only 0.7 percent in 2000—more than 8 times lower than the 5.9 percent rate of native-born males of Mexican descent. Foreign-born Salvadoran and Guatemalan men had an incarceration rate of 0.5 percent, compared to 3.0 percent of native-born males of Salvadoran and Guatemalan descent.
One explanation can be found in “Why Are Immigrants’ Incarceration Rates So Low? Evidence On Selective Immigration, Deterrence, and Deportation“, by Kristin F. Butcher and Anne Morrison Piehl of the National Bureau of Economic Research conclude:
There is evidence that the process of migration selects individuals who have lower criminal propensity or are more responsive to deterrent effects than the average native. Similar to the foreign born, the native born who live outside their state of birth also reduced their relative institutionalization rates over time.
In other words, the same higher level of ambition that leads people to immigrate or move to another state also makes them less likely to commit crimes.
It’s time to stop the ‘unjust enrichment’ and fear mongering of unauthorized immigrants, blaming them for problems that the vast majority of them do not cause. Certainly, unauthorized immigrants who engage in crime, particularly violent crime, need to be punished and leave the U.S., but those who come here to work, be with family, and stay out of trouble should be treated with more respect and much less hostility. I don’t condone illegal immigration, neither do I demonize those who come here illegally to support themselves and their families.