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Criminal Aliens Are a Small and Falling Percentage of Border Patrol Apprehensions

Summary:
Customs and Border Protection just announced that Border Patrol has apprehended 364,941 people from the beginning of fiscal year 2019 through to the end of March 2019. Border Patrol apprehensions this FY rose by 34 percent in the month of March. Although the number of apprehensions is rising, the proportion of all apprehensions who are criminal aliens is dropping, in a trend that I wrote about earlier this month. Furthermore, the absolute number of criminal aliens arrested by the end of FY 2019 will be below the number arrested in any year since CBP began publishing data.   Border Patrol identifies criminal aliens as those who have been convicted of crimes here or abroad if the conviction is for conduct which is also criminal in the United States. From the beginning of FY 2015 through

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Customs and Border Protection just announced that Border Patrol has apprehended 364,941 people from the beginning of fiscal year 2019 through to the end of March 2019. Border Patrol apprehensions this FY rose by 34 percent in the month of March. Although the number of apprehensions is rising, the proportion of all apprehensions who are criminal aliens is dropping, in a trend that I wrote about earlier this month. Furthermore, the absolute number of criminal aliens arrested by the end of FY 2019 will be below the number arrested in any year since CBP began publishing data.  

Border Patrol identifies criminal aliens as those who have been convicted of crimes here or abroad if the conviction is for conduct which is also criminal in the United States. From the beginning of FY 2015 through the end of March 2019, the absolute number and percent of criminal aliens arrested by Border Patrol have fallen in every year. In 2015, about 5.7 percent of all Border Patrol apprehensions were criminal aliens. For the beginning of FY 2019 through the end of March, only about 0.7 percent of people apprehended by Border Patrol were criminal aliens. If the number of criminal aliens apprehensions continues apace for FY 2019, the absolute number will be about 75 percent below the number apprehended in FY 2015.    

From February 2019 to March 2019, the total annual number of Border Patrol apprehensions climbed by 34 percent while the total number of criminal alien annual apprehensions rose by only 24 percent. In other words, the number of non-criminal apprehensions is rising much faster than the number of criminal aliens apprehended. As the flow grows, it is becoming less criminal. Only 0.5 percent of those apprehended in March were criminal aliens compared to 0.7 percent from October 2018 through February 2019.

From 2015 to FY 2019, the percentage of those apprehended by Border Patrol who were non-criminals rose from 94.3 percent to 99.3 percent while the percentage who were criminals fell from 5.7 percent to 0.7 percent (Figure 1). In absolute numbers, criminal aliens have also declined from 19,117 apprehensions in 2015 to 2,513 through half of FY 2019. If the trend of criminal alien apprehensions continues for the rest of FY 2019, there will be just over 5,000 by the end of this FY – well below the 6,698 recorded in 2018.

Figure 1

Non-Criminal and Criminal Aliens

Criminal Aliens Are a Small and Falling Percentage of Border Patrol Apprehensions 

Source: Customs and Border Protection.      

The most consistent argument wielded in support of closing the border or harsher border security is that those being apprehended are dangerous criminals. Based on data supplied by Border Patrol, the absolute number of criminal aliens and their proportion of all apprehensions along the border are lower in FY 2019 than in previous years. While the government has an important role in keep criminal aliens out of the United States, the current situation along the border shows that Border Patrol has a better handle on crime than at any time in the recent past.  

Alex Nowrasteh
He is an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity. His popular publications have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Washington Post, the Houston Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Post, and elsewhere. His academic publications have appeared in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, the Fletcher Security Review, and Public Choice.

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