One of the key points of debate about illegal immigrants is whether they commit a significant number of crimes (in addition to being in the U.S. illegally).

The media likes to describe President Trump as "doubling down" on his claim that crime will fall if we secure our borders.  

This has been described as the result of Trump's alleged "obsession with villainizing immigrants."

The media rarely stops to note that it is illegal immigration, not legal immigration, opposed by the President, who held a moving naturalization ceremony for five new Americans last Saturday in the Oval Office.

Some foes of the border wall go on to state that the President is off base because illegal immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than other people.

What is the truth?

Barry Latzer, Professor Emeritus at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, takes a look at crime rates and illegal aliens for City Journal. It is really a must-read for anyone (and that should be all of us) who wants to engage in the all-important issue of our southern border.

First, Latzer says that the question of crime rates and illegal aliens is difficult because of the lack of data. He challenges a New York Times story purporting to show that illegal aliens commit fewer crimes than others as based on a Cato Institute study that Latzer describes as relying on questionable data.  

While we don't have the data we need to answer the question of crime and illegal aliens, we do have some relevant information:

Nationwide data on crime by illegal aliens is unavailable mainly because most states don’t keep such records. For instance, California, with Hispanics making up more than 43 percent of its incarcerated population, provides no information on the alienage of its inmates.

Texas does, though, and its Department of Public Safety reports that illegal aliens were arrested and charged with more than 298,000 crimes, an average of over 39,000 per year, from June 1, 2011 to the end of 2018. Though some of these arrests were for nonviolent crimes, such as theft, burglary, or drug offenses, they also include many violent crimes: 624 homicides, 1,911 robberies, and 3,955 sexual assaults (which, under Texas law, include rapes).

These figures are alarmingly high, Latzer observes, but difficult to interpret because we don't know the number of the illegal population. We can't come up with a percentage if we don't know the whole.

Latzer says that illegal aliens are taken into custody for homicide  more than their apparent numbers would predict. Using a Department of Homeland Security estimate, illegal immigrants make up around 7.3 of the population of Texas. Nearly ten percent of apprehended killers in Texas are illegal immigrants.

For other crimes, burglary, drugs, theft, etc. illegal immigrants seem to be on record for a rate much lower than their percentage of the population. But it is the homicide rate that matters most:

The crime of homicide provides the most accurate measure, though, because a much higher proportion of murders are solved by police—around 70 percent—than for any other crime; by contrast, fewer than 15 percent of property offenses lead to an arrest. As a result, we have much more accurate demographics for murderers than for, say, burglars.

The indication that illegal aliens commit disproportionate numbers of murders is corroborated by crime rates, shaky though they may be, for 2014 and 2015—the two years for which we have population estimates from Pew and DHS. In 2014, Texas illegal-alien murder-arrest rates were 4.99 per 100,000—36 percent higher than the rates for all other apprehended murderers (3.2 per 100,000). In 2015, the rates were 26 percent higher for illegal aliens (4.2 per 100,000, versus 3.1 per 100,000).

Granted, neither the rates nor the percentages of illegal aliens arrested are overwhelmingly high. And the rates and percentages for other crimes that they commit are below those of the arrested citizen and legal-alien populations.

Still, illegal aliens account for nearly 10 percent of the apprehended murderers in Texas, and over 39,000 of the annual arrests for crime overall. These figures are significant, reflecting crime in a single state with an outsize number of illegal aliens—a small part of the nationwide picture.

What is the bottom line?

No amount of crime by those who enter this country unlawfully should be acceptable, because it is “extra” crime that wouldn’t occur if our border security were effective. Crime by illegal aliens is costly.

 The real issue underlying the current public debate is whether the crimes of illegal immigrants are so numerous that they provide a compelling reason, or at least a powerful supporting argument, for urgent spending to secure our southern border.

Judging by Texas the answer, though not incontestable, seems to be “yes.”

As offensive as it is to his critics, based on this article, President Trump is absolutely right to "double down" on the issue of crime and illegal immigrants.