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Debate between crime and immigration, statistics show no increase compared to U.S. citizens

Posted at 8:20 PM, Feb 29, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-29 23:20:34-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — ​The debate over immigration often comes with heated conversations about crime and whether or not people coming across contribute to the country's crime rate.

ABC 10News looked at multiple studies that show this is often false.

This conversation was recently reignited after a Georgia nursing student was murdered while out for a run last week. According to ICE, the suspect entered the country illegally in Texas in 2022.

However, the numbers show that these crimes are not the norm for migrants or asylum seekers entering the country. A 2023 Stanford study showed immigrants were imprisoned at a lower rate than U.S.-born citizens. In 2020, a Princeton study found undocumented immigrants in Texas usually have fewer arrests than legal residents.

Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor, spoke with ABC 10News about the topic. Rahmani worked cases in San Diego and says most of his cases involved the smugglers and not the undocumented immigrants.

"Go after these individuals to make sure they were bringing anything into the United States, whether it was drugs, people, or some other contraband," says Rahmani.

While less common, Rahmani said he did have cases involving migrants who had a criminal history or entered the country illegally multiple times.

Despite the statistics, arrests of people crossing the border illegally with violent criminal histories do happen. According to Border Patrol Chief Jason Owens, 11 people along the southwest border were arrested over 72 hours this week, with criminal records ranging from child molestation to murder or aggravated assault.

Immigration attorney and USD professor Tammy Lin says those individuals are in the minority, explaining, in her experience, that a majority of the migrants who arrive to seek asylum do follow the rules.

"They want to have their cases heard in court so they can have long-term stability and legal status while here," Lin said.

Lin explains what ABC 10News reporters have seen during street releases: some men released wearing ankle monitors, a part of a program ICE calls Alternatives to Detention, which they say is a way of ensuring compliance with release and case management.

This debate is expected to only heat up as election day in November approaches.