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Comparing crime rates between undocumented immigrants, legal immigrants, and native-born US citizens in Texas

Jason P. Robey, Jingying He, Michael T. Light

We make use of uniquely comprehensive arrest data from the Texas Department of Public Safety to compare the criminality of undocumented immigrants to legal immigrants and native-born US citizens between 2012 and 2018. We find that undocumented immigrants have substantially lower crime rates than native-born citizens and legal immigrants across a range of felony offenses. Relative to undocumented immigrants, US-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 US-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.

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