Illegal Alien incarceration rate measured in flawed FAIR report

By Alex Alonso

April 7, 2007

illegal-alien-amnestyOn April 6, 2007, talk radio host, Larry Elder was talking about the argument that Bill O’Reilly and Geraldo Rivera had about an illegal alien drunk driver that killed two other persons in the commonwealth of Virginia during O’Reilly’s FOX cable show, The O’Reilly Factor. Elder stated that Rivera was factually in correct on the following statement:

“illegal immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than citizens”

Elder challenged this statement by first misquoting Rivera by stating that he said there are less “occurrences” of illegal citizens committing crimes, but Geraldo’s point emphasized “rate” and he never said “occurrences” which is a big difference. Occurrences measure actual numbers, and rate is a measurement of percent or proportion. If Rivera did say there were less occurrences of illegal immigrant arrests or those being incarcerated, then Elder would be absolutely correct. But Rivera was not wrong in his statement because he used the term “rate.” Elder went on to cite a study to further disparage Rivera’s statement that actually supported it.

A study by Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) entitled “Illegal Aliens and Crime Incidence: Illegal Immigrants Represent a Disproportionately High Share of the Prison Population states:

Adult illegal aliens represented 3.1 percent of the total adult population of the country in 2003. By comparison, the illegal alien prison population represented a bit more than 4.54 percent of the overall prison population.

First off, the second half of the statement is not correct and their own study reveals that, but let’s assume that these figures are correct. According to that quote, illegal immigrants are incarcerated at a rate that is 1.4 percent higher than their population, which means that the incarceration rate among illegal aliens are extremely low as Rivera suggested to O’Reilly. For example, compare that to Black Americans who represent about 6.7 percent of the California population and 31.4 percent of the prison population. Additionally Blacks represent about 12 percent of the US population but an alarming 49 percent of the total U.S. prison population (Blumstein, 1993; Tonroy, 1995; U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1996).

Further more, this low incarceration rate for illegal immigrants is based on an estimate of 7 million adult illegal immigrants in the US in 2000. If this figure is an underestimate, as many suggest, then the illegal immigrant incarceration rate would drop from the 4.54 percent percentage cited in the report.

The conclusion that illegal immigrants are incarcerated at a higher rate than their population, according to the FAIR study, compares the illegal immigrant adult population to not the illegal immigrant prison population but to the number of days that illegal aliens spent in prison compared the total number of days that all inmates spent in prison. This is flawed, because those total days that illegal aliens spent in prison include repeat offenders. I have never read a scientific study in a peer reviewed journal that would compare a population (7 million illegal aliens) to days spent (27 million) and conclude anything of merit from that comparison, but this is the article that Elder cited and this is why he is factually incorrect about what Rivera said on O’Reilly’s show. Even using these flawed statistics, the illegal immigrant population is incarcerated at a low rate compared to their share of the population, and if the FAIR researchers determined a way to extract the repeat offenders from that figure, that rate would be more accurate (could be higher or lower).
Watch entire interview

Blumstein, Alfred. (1993). Racial Disproportionality of U.S. Prison Population Revisited, University of Colorado Law Review, Vol. 64, No. 3, 1993.

Tonroy, M. (1995). Malign neglect-race, crime, and punishment in America. New York: Oxford University Press.

U.S. Bureau of the Census. (1996). Census information on the State of California. Database C90STF3A.

Posted by on Apr 7 2007. Filed under Lies I Heard. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

8 Comments for “Illegal Alien incarceration rate measured in flawed FAIR report”

  1. Billy Minute

    so are you for illegal immigration?

  2. StillNoScript

    "what's his name? Lou Dobbs"…lol!

    And, as usual, OReilly promises to give OReilly the last word and interrupts. That's the trademark of his show, anymore.

    A thorough blank whipping by Geraldo. What a breath of fresh air.

  3. TJE

    I can't believe you don't understand why incarceration days are used. Its the best way to tell us just how much this is costing us. If person x spends 100 days in jail and person y spends 1 day in jail, both were in jail but one was FAR more costly than the other.

  4. StreetGangs.Com Staff


    I am critical of how the numbers are being used to indicate the rate at which illegal aliens commit crime. I have no doubt that using days spent in prison is a good way to determine the cost of illegal alien incarceration, but that was not my argument.

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