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Unauthorized Immigration, Crime, and Recidivism: Evidence from Texas

NCJ Number
Date Published
79 pages

This study uses Texas’s Computerized Criminal History System (CCH) to assess the relationship between unauthorized immigration, crime, and recidivism.


Leveraging the Computerized Criminal History System (CCH), which provides case processing information for all arrests recorded in Texas between 2011 and 2018, this study explores the relationship between unauthorized immigration, crime, and recidivism. The first section compares the criminality of undocumented immigrants to legal immigrants and native-born U.S. citizens between 2012 and 2018 in Texas. The second section establishes the foundational empirics for a general criminological literature on the immigration-homicide nexus. Key findings include: 1) Immigrants generally exhibit lower rates of serious violent crime in California and Texas. This is true for overall rates of violence and homicide. 2) Violent crime rates among immigrants in California are lower than among immigrants in Texas, and the relative gap between native and foreign-born individuals is considerably larger in California. 3) In both states, there is substantial heterogeneity in the immigration-homicide relationship by race/ethnicity and national origin. Generally speaking, immigrants from Asian countries have especially low rates of homicide offending. 4) Relative to the U.S.-born population, the criminal histories of immigrants arrested for violent crimes are both less extensive and less severe. Section 3 answers important question about the extent to which immigrant criminality changed during the Trump administration. The authors find no evidence, descriptive or otherwise, to suggest that the transition from the Obama administration to the Trump administration had a meaningful effect on immigrant criminality, whether measured as violence, property, drug, or traffic offenses. Section 4 examines recidivism among the undocumented population and details the data limitations that caution against strong conclusions on this issue. Most notably, criminal justice databases rarely have information as to whether the defendant was eventually deported. As a result, researchers do not know if an individual restrains from recidivating or is simply removed from the country and is thus no longer at risk to recidivate.

Date Published: January 1, 2022