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Big Lizards: The 100 Man Lurch

By mmguestblogger  •  January 10, 2007 05:53 AM

This post is by Dafydd of Big Lizards, not by our dearest Michelle. No, seriously… I really mean it. I don’t look anything like her, and I’m married to a lady, not a dude. And I think I’m taller than she.


I must take unusual exception to the conclusion of one of my blogmates here. See-Dubya posted about 100 illegal-alien criminals whose careers were followed through two years; of the 100, 73 were later re-arrested — an average of just under 6 times each, 429 arrests on 878 charges.

As he notes, this is a rather high recidivism rate… but his conclusion is, alas, a non-sequitur:

73% had an average of six arrests each? Since 2004? That’s stunning. That really does strike me as too high and I would treat that figure with a little caution. (Given that there were 262,105 cases in 2004, the sample size of 100 case files is too small to draw base any conclusions on that info with any great certainty.) But even if it’s exaggerating the problem, it still is hard to square with the image of most illegal aliens just being here to work, laying low, and keeping out of trouble.

The problem here is that the group of 100 arrested illegals studied is not necessarily a representative sample of all illegal aliens; in fact, it’s almost assuredly not representative.

Here is what the Washington Post says about the case (cited by See-Dubya):

The Justice audit, however, only looked at immigrants who were arrested and released by local and state authorities before they could be turned over to Homeland Security to be detained or deported.

This fact tells us several things:

  • These immigrants were not arrested by Border Patrol agents, which means they were not apprehended trying to cross the border;
  • They were arrested by state and local law-enforcement officials… who typically do not arrest illegals merely for the crime of being illegally present in the United States (they would have no probable cause even to search without something else);
  • Many state and local authorities, especially those in border states, deliberately avoid “finding out” that a person is an illegal alien, because it makes much more work for them (with federal involvement) — and because most of those state governments nakedly oppose such enforcement, either because they sympathize with the aliens (California), or because they see it as a federal problem that should not be allowed to drain state resources.

My conclusion is that these are criminals who came to the cops’ attention because they committed some other crime, or were suspected of having done, but who were eventually arrested only for illegal residency because they couldn’t nail them on anything else.

For example, suppose someone comes to the attention of authorities by being accused of residential burglary, auto theft, or assault, but there simply isn’t enough evidence to arrest him. However, during the investigation, the police discover he’s illegal. They may well arrest him hoping to get him deported — getting rid of undesirables the best way they can — but are subsequently thwarted by the anti-deportation policies of their local departments.

If that’s true — and even without proof, it’s a strong possibility that cannot be ignored — then we’re not talking about the ordinary, run of the mill “illegal alien;” we’re talking about actual criminals (in the sense of commiting crimes that actually have victims, from drunk driving to destruction of property to murder) who also happen to be here illegally. Let’s call this group “criminal-criminals,” just to identify them.

It’s not very daring to postulate that illegal aliens who are also criminal-criminals would have a much higher arrest rate than illegal aliens who commit no crime other than that itself (and perhaps crimes directly ancillary to that, such as lying about residency status or obtaining fake documentation).

Therefore, the judicial history of these hundred (likely) criminal-criminals tells us exactly nothing about how many non-criminal-criminal illegal aliens are “just… here to work, laying low, and keeping out of trouble.” We cannot conclude anything at all about the latter group by studying the former… no more than we can draw any conclusions about the propensity of law-abiding citizens to commit crimes by studying convicts.

Comment on this post here (and see a cooler web page design, anyway).

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Categories: Border Patrol, Feature Story, Homeland Security, Immigration