Justice and Law Enforcement:
Information on Certain Illegal Aliens Arrested in the United States
GAO-05-646R: Published: May 9, 2005. Publicly Released: May 9, 2005.
The former Immigration and Naturalization Service estimated that as of January 2000 the total unauthorized immigrant population residing in the United States was 7 million. This total includes those who entered the United States illegally and those who entered legally but overstayed their authorized period of stay. A more recent study estimated that there were about 10 million illegal aliens living in the United States as of March 2005. The study estimated that nearly 700,000 aliens entered the United States illegally or overstayed their authorized period of stay each year between 2000 and 2004. Some illegal aliens in the United States have been arrested and incarcerated in federal and state prisons and local jails, adding to already overcrowded prisons and jails. On April 7, 2005, we issued a report on criminal aliens that were incarcerated in federal and state prisons and local jails. Our report contained information on the number of criminal aliens incarcerated, their country of citizenship or country of birth, and the cost to incarcerate them. Congress also requested that we provide information on the criminal history of aliens incarcerated in federal and state prisons or local jails who had entered the country illegally. For a population of aliens that entered the country illegally and were incarcerated in federal or state prisons or local jails, this report addresses the following questions: (1) How many times have they been arrested? (2) How many and what type of criminal offenses have they been arrested for? (3) What states were they arrested in?
In our population study of 55,322 illegal aliens, we found that 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. Eighty percent of all arrests occurred in three states--California, Texas, and Arizona. Specifically, about 58 percent of all arrests occurred in California, 14 percent in Texas, and 8 percent in Arizona.