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Undocumented immigrants may arrive illegally, but don't commit higher rates of crime once here

Published June 25, 2009 6:17 pm

Sutherland Institute says jail numbers do not reflect hyperbole of illegal immigration foes.
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An assessment of undocumented inmates in Utah's prison and county jails shows that undocumented immigrants do not commit crimes at a higher rate than the rest of Utah residents, according to a local think tank.

The number of undocumented immigrants has risen 57 percent between 2004 and 2008, but the number of undocumented state prisoners only increased 10 percent, according to a report by The Sutherland Institute. The conservative research organization opposes Utah's new immigration law, SB81.

Also, the 3.9 percent of county jail inmates who are here illegally mirrors the percentage of undocumented residents in the state's general population.

"County-level data confirms what state-level information suggests: Undocumented immigrants are not a major source of crime in Utah," the group's "Just the Facts" report states. "Further, county jail data suggests that anecdotes often cited by supporters of SB81 are unreliable and misleading."

Eli Cawley, president of the Utah Minutemen, questions the source of the information, calling the Sutherland Institute a "liberal-biased organization."

"Our law enforcement [agencies] don't go after crimes of document fraud, identity fraud and welfare fraud. These numbers are only the ones who have been caught," Cawley said. "We all know there are vast, vast, vast numbers of illegal aliens being employed in Utah and we can expect more gangbangers and criminals of that stripe being forced into Utah from California as their economy collapses."

The Sutherland Institute's report, though, says such hyperbole is not backed up by fact.

"Are undocumented immigrants criminals?" the report asks. "Based on the available information, responsible citizens must answer with a resounding 'no.' "

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