Are migrants more likely than natives to commit crimes? I leave that question to my colleagues Steven Camarota and Jessica Vaughan.
But do some nations provide us a higher proportion of criminal aliens to their foreign-born population in the U.S., generally, than other countries? Absolutely. Which nations send us the most criminals on a percentage basis and which send us the least?
We have received recent data from the Oregon prison system on the nations of origin of its prison population. They indicate that Mexico, among major migrant-producing nations, sends that state the largest proportion of criminals compared to the nation's population in the U.S. as whole, and China and India send the least. The definition used by Oregon authorities is of those with ICE detainers in the state’s prisons.
Oregon’s Foreign-Born Population
Sources: Column 2: ”State Immigration Data Profiles: Oregon”,
Migration Policy Institute; Column 3: David Olen Cross,
“Oregon Department of Corrections: Criminal Alien Report for the
Americas December 2021”, January 8, 2022; numbers for India and
China were secured from Cross.
In other words, in Oregon at least, someone from Mexico is 66 times as likely to wind up in prison as someone from India. Putting it another way, of the 697 prisoners from a country other than the U.S., 78 percent of them were from Mexico.
It should be noted that there are at least three variables at work here. First, there is the economic class of the incoming migrants, with Mexico producing a high percentage of working-class migrants, and the other two nations a predominance of middle-class ones. Second, there are or may be differing criminal proclivities, nation by nation; and third, there is the variable of biases that may or may not exist in the law enforcement system.
I suspect the first variable is more important than the other two combined.
Another possible factor is that some of the criminals, notably from Central America, may have fibbed about the real country of origin, thinking if they claimed to be Mexicans, they would be released at the border rather than shipped to their true homes much further south.
Before reacting further to the remarkably high percentage of Mexicans in this one-off report, we at CIS will be seeking comparable data from other prison systems in other states.
In the meantime, this is a reminder that those crossing our southern border are not all just folks looking for better lives – there are others who are simply criminals.
The author is grateful to David Olen Cross for providing the data.