Lott’s study is based on data from the state of Arizona. His team examined data on all prisoners who entered the Arizona state prison from January 1985 through June 2017.
Of particular interest, given the current debate over DACA, is this finding:
While undocumented immigrants from 15 to 35 years of age make up slightly over 2 percent of the Arizona population, they make up almost 8 percent of the prison population. Even after adjusting for the fact that young people commit crime at higher rates, young undocumented immigrants commit crime at twice the rate of young U.S. citizens. These undocumented immigrants also tend to commit more serious crimes.
Thus, Lott observes:
Unfortunately, if the goal of DACA is to give citizenship to a particularly law-abiding group of undocumented immigrants, it is accomplishing the opposite of what was intended. DACA age eligible undocumented immigrants are 250% more likely to be convicted of crimes than their share of the population. Those too old for DACA status are convicted at a relatively low rate (45.7% more than their share of the Arizona population.
What about the illegal immigrant population as a whole? Lott found they are more likely than non-illegals to be convicted of serious violent crimes: 163 percent more likely for first-degree murder; 168 percent more likely for second-degree murder; and 189.6 percent more likely for manslaughter.
In addition, illegal immigrants in Arizona are more likely than non-illegals to commit sexual offenses against minors, sexual assault, drunk driving, kidnapping, and armed robbery, according to Lott’s study.
DACA advocates note that dreamers with criminal records will not receive amnesty. But many crimes do not result in arrest and conviction, and it may very well be that a disproportionate share of crimes committed by illegal immigrants within their communities go unreported, partly because the victims sometimes are here illegally. Thus, it matters for the current DACA debate if the Dreamer-age population is particularly prone to criminality.
Moreover, Horowitz points out that Obama’s DACA program tried to avoid scrutinizing juvenile records. Of the current DACA-fix bills, only Rep. Goodlatte’s would open up juvenile records.
This state of affairs renders worrisome another of Lott’s findings. Illegal immigrant criminals tend to go to jail at an earlier age than non-immigrant criminals, and therefore are released at a younger age (despite having committed more serious crimes).
Lott’s general findings are consistent with data released by the Department of Justice showing that of those convicted of non-immigration federal crimes between 2011 and 2016, 21.4 percent were not U.S. citizens. By comparison, non-citizens are 8.4 percent of the adult population.
Milton Friedman once said of John Lott, he “has few equals as a perceptive analyst of controversial public policy issues.” Congress should take Lott’s study into account as it considers what to do about the DACA population.