Crisis of Border Lies: Crime is Not Up Because of Illegal Crossings

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Among the most unfounded lies is the one about crime being up because of illegal border crossings. This isn’t based on any factual data. In fact, one of the reasons why the number of people trying to cross is up is because entire families are making the journey due to destabilization in various South American countries.

Criminal Activity of Undocumented Immigrants

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) conducted an extensive study of arrest records in Texas spanning 6 years. They compared criminal reports of U.S. born citizens, Legal immigrants, and undocumented immigrants.

They categorized the crimes by violent crimes, property crimes, drug violations, and traffic violations. In every single category, the per-capita crime rate was the lowest for undocumented immigrants. Plus, unlike the born citizens and legal immigrants, the crime rate year over year among undocumented immigrants is relatively flat.

In every category, people who are in the U.S. illegally (undocumented), commit the least number of crimes per capita.

Crime Rates by Immigration Status

Crime at the Border is Historically Low

Just this month, Axios analyzed the FBI crime data for 2021 and discovered that border towns are actually safer than most cities throughout the country. Plus, the city leads in those communities credit the help they receive from federal agencies as a reason for their towns being safer than the national average.

Here’s what was reported by Axios:

State of play: An Axios analysis of eight U.S. border communities that reported crimes to the FBI in 2021 found they have lower violent crime and homicide rates than the national average.

  • The FBI released its annual crime data earlier this month.

By the numbers: On average, the eight cities — Brownsville, McAllen, Laredo, Eagle Pass and El Paso in Texas, Sunland Park in New Mexico, Yuma in Arizona, and San Diego — had a violent crime rate of 333.6 per 100,000 residents, compared to 388.57 for the national average.

  • The same cities also had a homicide rate of 4.5 per 100,000 residents in 2021, compared to 6.8 in the nation. (The homicide rate in the same cities was 4.2 in 2020).

Of note: Yuma was the only community near the border in 2021 that had violent crime and murder rates higher than the national average.

Some border cities like McAllen, Texas, a city of 144,000, had a particularly low violent crime rate of 180.2 per 100,000 people. The community is across from Reynosa, Mexico, one of the most dangerous places in the Americas due to cartel violence.

  • Eagle Pass, a city of 29,500, had a violent crime rate of 179.6 per 100,000 people.
  • Jackson, Michigan, a city of 32,250, had a violent crime rate of 1,094.5, an Axios analysis found.

Between the lines: Experts, police and elected officials don’t know why rates stay so low compared to cities of the same size and similar demographics, but many point to research showing low crime in immigrant communities.

  • They also point to the high presence of law enforcement in the region, from Border Patrol to federal drug enforcement agents.
  • Brownsville police spokesperson Martin Sandoval said collaboration between federal and local law enforcement has helped his city keep the homicide rate below the national average.

Final conclusion… people in the U.S. illegally are not causing crime rates to rise.


More from the Crisis of Border Lies Series

The Crisis of Border Lies series from FactPAC looks at the claims being made by Republicans about the Southern Border. 



PNAS: Comparing crime rates between undocumented immigrants, legal immigrants, and native-born US citizens in Texas

Axios: Border cities again see low violent crime rates

Updated on Oct 21, 2022

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