Only 16% of undocumented immigrants are recidivist, study says

A congressional study released Tuesday found dozens of examples of unauthorized immigrants who were released and later arrested in connection with felonies, including murder. About 16% of unauthorized immigrants arrested were rearrested within three years, according to a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, which was based on data the Judiciary Committee had subpoenaed from the Obama administration, reports Los Angeles Times.

The report studied the cases of 46,734 illegal immigrants. It concluded that those who had been arrested and released were later arrested in connection with 19 murders, three attempted murders and 142 sex crimes, among other infractions.

That recidivism rate, however, is significantly lower than that of the general prison population. About 43% of prisoners released in 2004 nationwide were returned to prison within three years, according to a study by the Pew Center on the States, a nonprofit research institute. In California’s state system, about 65% of released prisoners are back behind bars within three years.

The illegal immigrant rearrest rate is “pretty modest … proportionally as compared with what happens in the criminal justice system in general,” said Doris Meissner, a former head of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service who is now a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank.

Administration officials said they have pushed to expand Secure Communities in order to enhance their ability to detect and deport serious criminals, according to The New York Times. They noted that the report covered arrests from several years before the program was widely in place and before they established priorities that focus deportations on immigrants with criminal records. Under Secure Communities, fingerprints of anyone arrested by the police are checked against federal criminal databases and also against Department of Homeland Security immigration records.

As a result of the priorities, some illegal immigrants who did not have criminal convictions have been released after being flagged through Secure Communities. But of more than 396,000 immigrants deported last year, officials said, about 55 percent were convicted criminals, an 89 percent increase in the number of criminals deported compared with the last year of the Bush administration.



About tanialara

Tania Lara has a vast experience working as a journalist in Mexico and the U.S. reporting in-depth about the economic contributions and realities of Mexican immigrants. This summer, she will be covering border issues and elections for the 21st Century Border Initiative blog. Her stories about complex cross border matters have been published in Spanish-language media outlets including CNN México, Expansión, and ¡Ahora Sí!, as well as the English-language newspaper The Austin American-Statesman.
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