Is the criminal immigrant an illusion?

The threat of the criminal immigrant seems to rear its head everywhere these days–from politicians to obstensibly pro-immigrant advocates. There’s no shortage of people interested in deporting immigrants who commit crimes. But, as David Wilson wrote David Wilson wrote in FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting), the rhetoric might be exaggerating the reality. According to Wilson, “While noncitizens now make up more than 8 percent of the U.S. population, the available evidence indicates that they account for no more than 6 or 7 percent of the people incarcerated for crimes in the United States, less than 170,000 of the 2.3 million inmates currently in our federal, state and local penal systems–not including some 30,000 immigrants in administrative detention on any given day awaiting deportation.”

Whatever the actual statistics, the on-the-ground reality is that many of these “criminals” are lawful permanent residents with decades-old convictions, frequently for minor crimes such as drug possession. They served their time, then went on to live perfectly law-abiding lives. Now they have to contend with an immigration agency intent on deporting anyone it can get its hands on.