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Comparing Crime Rates Between Undocumented Immigrants, Legal Immigrants, and Native-born US Citizens in Texas

NCJ Number
PNAS Volume: 117 Issue: 51 Dated: December 2020 Pages: 32340-32347
Michael T. Light; Jingying He; Jason P. Robey
Date Published
December 2020
8 pages

This study used uniquely comprehensive arrest data from the Texas Department of Public Safety to compare the criminality of undocumented immigrants to legal immigrants and native-born U.S. citizens between 2012 and 2018.


The study found that undocumented immigrants had substantially lower crime rates than native-born citizens and legal immigrants across a range of felony offenses. Relative to undocumented immigrants, U.S.-born citizens are over 2 times more likely to be arrested for violent crimes, 2.5 times more likely to be arrested for drug crimes, and over 4 times more likely to be arrested for property crimes. In addition, the proportion of arrests involving undocumented immigrants in Texas was relatively stable or decreasing over this period. The differences between U.S.-born citizens and undocumented immigrants are robust to using alternative estimates of the broader undocumented population, alternate classifications of those counted as “undocumented” at arrest and substituting misdemeanors or convictions as measures of crime. (publisher abstract modified)