WSJ's Illegal Immigration Naivete Continues, with a Small Concession

A subscription-only editorial in the Wall Street Journal on Monday propagated a carefully-worded whopper, but at least made a small change to the paper's insufferable 23-year "There Shall Be Open Borders" mantra (bolds are mine):

A recent paper by the Immigration Policy Center, an advocacy group, notes that "Numerous studies by independent researchers and government commissions over the past 100 years repeatedly and consistently have found that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes or be behind bars than the native born." Today, immigrants on balance are five times less likely to be in prison than someone born here.

None of this is to argue that illegal immigration doesn't have costs, especially in border communities and states with large public benefits. In the post-9/11 environment, knowing who's in the country is more important than ever. That's an argument for better regulating cross-border labor flows, not ending them.

The Immigration Policy Center's use of 100 years averages things out quite a bit, doesn't it?

Looking at more recent data might be a little more helpful -- like the two May 2005 items that follow, documented here last year.

First, Government Accountability Office (GAO) report number GAO-05-337R ('Information on Criminal Aliens Incarcerated in Federal and State Prisons and Local Jails,' issued May 9, 2005) informed us that:

At the federal level, the number of criminal aliens incarcerated increased from about 42,000 at the end of calendar year 2001 to about 49,000 at the end of calendar year 2004--a 15 percent increase. The percentage of all federal prisoners who are criminal aliens has remained the same over the last 3 years--about 27 percent."

If the current estimate of 12 million illegals in the US is accurate, that would mean that illegals are over nine times MORE likely to be in federal prison:

  • 49,000 divided by 12 million is 0.41%.
  • 133,000 citizen prisoners [the other 73%] divided by the US population of about 300 million is .044%.
  • .41% divided by .044% is 9.21. That's more likely to be behind bars -- not less, as the Immigration Policy Center claims.

A second GAO report, number GAO-05-64R ('Information on Certain Illegal Aliens Arrested in the United States,' also released on May 9, 2005), studied the criminal records of over 55,000 incarcerated illegal immigrants, and found the following (bold is mine):

..... they were arrested at least a total of 459,614 times, averaging about 8 arrests per illegal alien. Nearly all had more than 1 arrest. Thirty-eight percent (about 21,000) had between 2 and 5 arrests, 32 percent (about 18,000) had between 6 and 10 arrests, and 26 percent (about 15,000) had 11 or more arrests. Most of the arrests occurred after 1990. They were arrested for a total of about 700,000 criminal offenses, averaging about 13 offenses per illegal alien. One arrest incident may include multiple offenses, a fact that explains why there are nearly one and half times more offenses than arrests. Almost all of these illegal aliens were arrested for more than 1 offense. Slightly more than half of the 55,322 illegal aliens had between 2 and 10 offenses. About 45 percent of all offenses were drug or immigration offenses. About 15 percent were property-related offenses such as burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and property damage. About 12 percent were for violent offenses such as murder, robbery, assault, and sex-related crimes. The balance was for such other offenses as traffic violations, including driving under the influence; fraud--including forgery and counterfeiting; weapons violations; and obstruction of justice.

Here's a question for the WSJ -- How much criminal activity does it take before you'll be convinced that there indeed is a culture of criminality and violence in the illegal-immigrant population, and that it permeates a disproportionate percentage of its population?

As to the "concession," I may have missed it previously, but it's the first time I've seen the Journal acknowledge that its July 3, 1984 "There Shall Be Open Borders" editorial (reproduced at link for fair use and discussion purposes) was even slightly imperfect. Now I guess it's "There Shall Be Regulated Labor-Flow Borders."

It's a start.

Cross-posted at

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