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Unauthorized Immigrants with Criminal Convictions: Who Might Be a Priority for Removal? - MPI

November 16, 2016 (2 min read)

MPI, Nov. 15, 2016- "There has been much interest—and confusion—in recent days regarding the number of unauthorized immigrants who could be deported because of criminal records when the Trump administration takes charge.

During an interview Sunday on CBS’ 60 Minutes, President-elect Trump was asked about his pledge to deport unauthorized immigrants, and he responded: “What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers, we have a lot of these people, probably two million, it could be even three million, we are getting them out of our country or we are going to incarcerate. But we’re getting them out of our country, they’re here illegally.”

So, how many unauthorized immigrants would be priorities for removal and could be removed, as outlined by Mr. Trump? It’s a question we have been asked repeatedly since the Trump interview.

The most recent publicly available information provided by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on the criminal alien population (the government’s official terminology) dates back to a 2012 report to Congress. Based on it, we estimated in a 2015 report that 820,000 of the approximately 11 million people living in the country illegally had criminal convictions. Of these, we estimated 300,000 had a felony conviction and 390,000 were serious misdemeanants (meaning they had been convicted of a misdemeanor in which they were sentenced to actual custody of 90 days or more).

These 820,000 unauthorized immigrants are a subset of the 1.9 million noncitizens identified by DHS as removable criminal aliens, in other words noncitizens identified for deportation from the United States based on a criminal conviction. While this fact appears little known, a very substantial portion of these 1.9 million noncitizens are people lawfully present in the United States—either legal permanent residents (also known as green-card holders) or noncitizens on temporary visas—who have become deportable as the result of a disqualifying crime.

How did we get to this 820,000 number? The government’s estimate of 1.9 million did not break down the population by legal status. But examining the legal status of all noncitizens in the United States by category (legal permanent resident, nonimmigrant visa holder, and unauthorized immigrant), unauthorized immigrants accounted for 43 percent of the noncitizen population in 2012, the year of the DHS estimate. Assuming unauthorized immigrants commit crimes at similar rates as other noncitizens, the result would be 820,000 unauthorized immigrants with criminal convictions. ... [more...] ..."