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What We Know About Illegal Immigrants …

(And What We Don’t)

We don’t know *exactly* how many illegal immigrants live in the U.S. or their impact on crime, but here’s a look at three popular studies often cited by the media and politicians alike.

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How Many Illegal Immigrants Are There?
12 Million

  • Source: Homeland Security (2018)
  • How: Using census data, DHS subtracted the legal foreign-born population from total foreign-born population

DHS says population grew to 12M in 2015 – up from 11.6M in 2010 & 10.5M in 2005.

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How Many Illegal Immigrants Are There?
22 Million

  • Source: Researchers affiliated with Yale University (2018)
  • How: Using various federal data sources, subtracted how many leave (ex: deportations) from how many enter (ex: visa overstays)

Researchers found there were as few as 16M & as many as 29M.

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Do Illegal Immigrants Commit More Crimes?

  • Source: Cato Institute (2017)
  • How: Examined citizenship data collected by gov’t, jails & prisons

Using the U.S. prison population, Cato found illegal immigrants are 44% LESS likely to be incarcerated vs. citizens based on incarceration rates of illegal immigrants (0.85%) & citizens (1.53%).

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Why Data Is Limited

  • Population Estimates: a precise count of the illegal immigrant population does not exist.
  • What Defines “Criminal”: data often treats crimes & criminals equally and doesn’t take into account certain crimes are more serious than others (ex: shoplifting vs. rape). Data doesn’t break down violent crimes between citizens vs. non-citizen.
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We don't know *exactly* how many illegal immigrants live in the U.S. and this casts a long shadow on all illegal immigration data. Also, an important reminder: the number of visa overstays (those who stay in America passed when they have permission) is higher than those apprehended at the U.S. Southern Border.

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