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Illegal Immigrants and Its Effects on Crime


Due to its status as the world’s richest country and the land of opportunities, the United States has attracted millions of immigrants over the decades. The immigrants are mostly people who seek to benefit financially from the numerous economic opportunities available in the country. In addition to the legal immigrant, the US has been facing a major illegal immigrant issue. Thousands of illegal immigrants have been making their way into the US each year, especially from neighboring Mexico. It is estimated that there are more than 400,000 illegal immigrants living in the country.

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A number of adverse effects have been attributed to these undocumented immigrants. The problems include a rise in crime, additional strain to the United State’s welfare system, loss of jobs to US citizens, and drug trafficking. This has caused illegal immigration to be a key policy issue for successive US administrations. One of the effects of illegal immigrants that have received significant attention is a crime. Dinas and Van Spanje assert that of all the problems associated with illegal immigrants, their alleged cause of the rise in crime rates has been the most debated (659).

Americans construe a relationship between the increase in illegal immigrants and the rise in crime in their society. To reinforce or dispel this supposition, a number of studies have been carried out on the topic. To some researchers, the allegation that crime rise is related to illegal immigrant increase is speculative. However, others have been able to show that crime rates are high in states where illegal immigration is rampant.


This provides strong evidence that there could be a correlation between the two. This paper argues that there exists a relationship between rising crime rates and illegal immigration in the US.

Increase in Illegal Immigrant Population

The US has witnessed a phenomenal increase in the number of illegal immigrants over the last few decades. Miller estimates that out of the 39 million-immigrant population in the US, 11 million are there illegally (1). The more than 10 million illegal immigrants in the country are made up of the individuals who entered the country illegally and those that prolonged their stay in the country after their initial period of legal stay expired (Miller 3). This number is projected to be even higher since a large number of children born by illegal immigrants are undocumented.

The high illegal immigration number has been caused in part by the imposition of strict immigration policies by the US government. As a favorite immigration destination, the US faces millions of potential immigrants each year. The government imposes strict regulations to ensure that the country is not flooded with foreigners. Some of the people who miss the opportunity to enter and stay in the country legally opt to do so without government authorization. Dinas and Van Spanje observe that out of the 250,000 to 300,000 foreigners who enter the country annually, about 45% are undocumented. This suggests that the number of illegal immigrants will continue to rise.

The government has been unable to control the flow of illegal immigrants in the country. In spite of the commitment by the government to restrict movement into the US, people have still managed to enter the US. Most of the illegal entries come from the vast border between the US and Mexico. In addition to this, some individuals refuse to leave the country even after their visas expire. Currently, the US immigration and customs enforcement (ICE) states that it is pursuing more than 400,000 illegal people because they are “Absconders” (Legomsky 41). Some of these absconders have been deported by they find illegal ways to return to the country.

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Relationship between Illegal Immigrants and Crime

Illegal Immigrants have led to an increase in Crime

The high number of illegal immigration has led to an increase in cases of crime in the United. States (Legomsky 1). Data collected between 2000 and 2010 reinforces this claim. In 2002, police department reports indicated that more than 33% of criminals were non-American citizens (Miller 1). Out of this population, 55% were in the country illegally, which means that more than half of the crimes committed by immigrants are associated with illegal immigration (Legomsky 34).

This means that more than 17.5% of all crimes brought before the federal courts were committed by illegal immigrants who make only 3.7% of the national population. Legomsky notes that of the 400,000 immigrants classified as “absconders” by the ICE, 25% have engaged in criminal activities (41). This negative impact has been most evident in large cities where many immigrants reside. There has been a marked increase in the number of organized crime groups.

McDonald’s documents that many gangs and drug cartels in American cities are associated with illegal immigrants (McDonald 64). The above gangs have been blamed for increased drug trafficking and extortion (Dinas and Spanje 658). The rise in drug violence can be attributed to the influx of illegal immigrants from Mexico. US authorities recognize that most of the illegal drugs sold in the country are smuggled in through the Mexican borders. The illegal Mexican immigrants play a crucial role in the drug trafficking business.

Legomsky reports that foreign cartels, especially from Mexico, train young people in their countries and send them illegally to the US to act as drug dealers (46). Reports from the DEA indicate that the Mexican drug traffickers are able to conceal their business within these immigrant groups. Studies show that most drug cartels are able to thrive in the US due to this involvement of illegal immigrants. The high number of illegal immigrants participating in drug dealing can be deduced from the arrest records in some cities. In Los Angeles and New York, illegal immigrants account for the highest portion of reported crimes, arrests, and incarcerations related to drugs and drug-related crimes (Legomsky 46).

In addition to drug crimes, statistics indicate that the increase in other crimes, including robberies and murders, is the result of the rise in immigrant numbers. California has witnessed a spike in criminal activities directly linked to the immigrant population. Estimates indicate that in this state, more than 1,100 warrants have been issued for illegal immigrant suspects (Legomsky 45). This is not an isolated incident since many cases of robberies, murder, and attempted murders have been observed in two other cities that have high immigrant numbers, New York and Los Angeles (Legomsky 47).

Authorities believe that illegal immigrants carry out crimes with the assistance of legal immigrants. The collision between the two immigrant groups makes it difficult for investigators to apprehend the criminals. Records from the federal and state prisons in the US support the view that immigrants have led to a rise in crime. According to prison records, the number of illegal aliens in the state and federal prison facilities between 1980 and 2005 grew from 9,000 to more than 71,000 (Legomsky 34).

Currently, criminal aliens account for more than 34% of the incarcerated people in the federal prisons and more than 27% in the state and local jails (Legomsky 34). Illegal immigrants find it difficult to get formal employment. Their income comes from manual jobs since they prefer to avoid formal jobs that can cause them to be noticed and subsequently deported. Dinas and Van Spanje suggest that they involve themselves in criminal activities in order to sustain themselves (664).

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An analysis of the statistics collected by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) between 1995 and 2000 shows that illegal immigration is related to crime (Legomsky 43). Over this period, the INS released more than 35,000 aliens instead of deporting them for various reasons (Legomsky 59). Police records showed that out of the 35,000 released immigrants, 10,000 went on to engage in some form of crime. This shows that the relationship between crime and illegal immigration is significant (Legomsky 44).

Analysis of Studies on the Topic

With an increase in the number of illegal immigrants entering the USA every year, the FBI has reported that there is a corresponding annual increase in the rate of crime (Miller 1). A number of studies have been undertaken on the topic. Miller documents that the modest annual increases in crime rates have been attributed to the presence of illegal immigrants in the country (1). These associations have been backed by empirical studies on crime and immigration. Dinas and Van Spanje reveal that between 1999 and 2006, over 230,000 illegal aliens entered the US (664). Over the same duration, there was an increase in the number of robberies, murders, drug crimes, and sexual crimes. However, the remarkable increase was in the number of sexual offenses.

The illegal immigrants were blamed for committing over 950,000 sexual offenses. Miller reveals that sexual offenses ranged from serious cases such as rapes to less serious offenses involving a sexual violation of other people’s rights (Miller 1). The contribution of illegal immigrants to crimes involving sexual abuse takes place in several forms. In some cases, it involves the sexual abuse of women trying to enter the US. This vulnerable group is asked to provide sexual favors in return for being smuggled into the country.

Once in the country, the primary concern of immigrants is accommodation. There is evidence that some of the legal and illegal immigrant males who have established themselves in the US due to a long period of residence demand sexual favors from the newcomers in return for accommodation (Dinas and Van Spanje 664). Another instance of sexual abuse occurs as female immigrants attempt to find manual jobs in the US. The women are exploited by citizens and non-citizens in the US who demand for sexual favors in return for employment opportunities. Since the illegal immigrants are less likely to be aware of the anti-abuse laws and procedures in the US, they are not likely to report these violations.

The sexual abuses are not restricted to the adult immigrants. Dinas and Van Spanje report that the illegal immigrant’s children are abused as well (667). However, the probability of the children reporting cases of sexual abuse to the American authorities is relatively low since encounters with law enforcement officers might result in deportation. In some migrant communities such as the Latino, discussing sexual affairs openly is a taboo. As such, even the abused children and young females are not likely to expose the crimes, which makes it impossible to note. In cases where the parents of the abused children are aware of the violation, they often avoid alerting the authorities due to the fear of deportation. These factors have contributed to the high levels of sexual offenses within the illegal immigrant communities.

Similar reports

The presence of Illegal immigrants leads to an increase in crime types of crimes that are targeted at this population. Disturbing crime patterns have emerged in the US with the immigrant population being overrepresented homicide cases. States with high populations of immigrants such as Texas, North Carolina, New York, and California, homicide rates have been increasing since 2000. In Texas, more than 60% of the murder cases involve immigrants, regardless of their immigration status (Loucky 47). In this case, the immigrants were either the perpetrators of the murders or the victims.

A report by Loucky shows that over 95% of homicides committed in the Los Angeles region were targeted at illegal immigrants (67). Illegal immigrants are targeted by their fellow immigrants as well as American citizens. Loucky confirms that there have been a rising number of homicides committed by American citizens against foreigners over the past decade (47). Illegal immigrants have also contributed to the rise in homicides due to their involvement in crimes such as drug trafficking and gun running. Due to the constant tuff wars between drug traffickers, this criminal activity is associated with homicides. The involvement of the illegal immigrant population in drug crimes therefore increases the probability that they will be victims or perpetrators of murder.

In addition to homicide, there is an overrepresentation of illegal immigrants in criminal gangs. Cartels have shown a pattern of targeting this group for recruitment. One report shows that 60% of gangs in California were comprised of illegal Hispanic immigrants. Loucky states that the presence of people trying to enter the US on the Mexican side has attracted drug gangs who recruit the potential immigrants into their business (47). It is believed that the largest percent of the drug trade in the US are the Mexicans and other Hispanics, contributing to more than 80% of the drug trade, yet they comprise only about 5% of the total population (Legomsky 37).

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The gangs coerce them to serve as drug mules across the border or as dealers on the American side. In some instances, refusal to cooperate with the cartels results in the death of the individual. Thus, the formation of drug and extortion gangs in the US is highly linked to the presence of illegal immigrants. According to Dinas, Elias, and Van Spanje (664), most of the drug gangs are composed of illegal immigrants because most of these aliens are not educated or skilled to take formal jobs. As such, the presence of illegal immigrants has resulted in an increase in homicides and gang crimes in the US.

Illegal immigrants have contributed to the growth of human trafficking. Human trafficking is regarded as a crime against humanity and it has emerged as one of the most dreadful problems facing the world. In this crime, people are used as commodities whereby they are sold or forced to work to profit other people. Illegal immigrants fuel human trafficking since they present a demand for the services of the traffickers.

The immigrants are charged exorbitant fees to be smuggled into the US. In most cases, the immigrant pays these fees as he/she works in the US. The main players in human trafficking are international organized crime groups. Using their connections in the US, the crime syndicates smuggle people into the US and force them to work. Dinas and Van Spanje document that most of the young females entering the US are victims of human trafficking (667). When they get to the US, some of the women are forced to work as prostitutes in order to earn a living and make payments to the traffickers.

Human trafficking contributes to the increase in crime levels in a number of ways. To begin with, there are criminal activities that exist to facilitate the trafficking. These include extortion, money laundering, and migrant trafficking. Human traffickers are also known to engage in violence and even homicide as they try to instill fear on the smuggled individuals. One of the reasons why the US seeks to stop illegal immigration is so that it can tackle the problem of international human trafficking.

Illegal immigrants have fueled the increase in fraud and other financial crimes. There has been an overrepresentation of immigrants from the Asian continent in these classes of crimes. According to Zhao (32), Asian illegal fund transfer systems in America are complicated but increasingly common crimes in the country. They involve fraud that target banks and other financial institutions (McDonald 26). In addition to this, the Asian immigrants are notorious for tax evasion in the US and the international business arena. The increase in these forms of crimes in the US is the direct result of the rise in illegal Asian immigrant numbers.


This paper set out to demonstrate that there is a relationship between the rise in crime and the increase in illegal immigration to the US. It began by highlighting the immigration problem being faced by the US in the recent years. The paper then showed that illegal immigration has a positive relationship with several forms of crime. It has shown that there is a disproportionate representation of illegal immigrants in drug crimes, human trafficking, and sexual crimes.

The paper has demonstrated that the lack of good employment opportunities for the immigrants contributes to their involvement in crime. Most of them are involved in low-income jobs, a situation that compels them to engage in crime as a way to make extra money. Other are forced to involve themselves in illegal activities such as drug trafficking and gun crimes in order to earn a living.

In addition, their presence makes them an easy target for foreign and local drug, sexual and homicide crimes. The paper has made use of records from the police department and the National Immigration Services to analyze the relationship between crime and illegal immigrant numbers. Considering the well-defined relationship between illegal immigrants and crime rates, the government should engage in even more stringent measures to mitigate and eventually prevent these people from getting into the country.

Works Cited

Dinas, Elias, and Joost Van Spanje. “Crime Story: The role of crime and immigration in the anti-immigration vote.” Electoral Studies 30.4 (2011): 658-671. Print.

Legomsky, Stephen. The New Path of Immigration Law: Asymmetric Incorporation of Criminal. 2007. Web.

Loucky, James. Immigration in America today an encyclopedia. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2006. Print.

McDonald, William. Immigration, crime and justice. Bingley, UK: JAI Press, 2009. Print.

Miller, Teresa. Blurring the Boundaries between Immigration and Crime Control after September 11th. 2005. Web.

Zhao, Linda Shuo. “Underground banks in NYC, their main clientele and operators: The perspective of Chinese illegal immigrants.” International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice 41.1 (2013): 36-57. Print.

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