How many times have you heard the carefully worded claims from media “experts” about how immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than citizens? If you follow the news at all closely I’m guessing it’s been fairly often. Of course, the careful wording is required so they don’t have to invoke the phrase “illegal immigrants” (i.e. illegal aliens) and ruin their narrative.

A new study may help put that debate to rest. Results produced by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, using statistics from prisons and jails, found that illegal aliens are roughly four times as likely to commit crimes than citizens. (Washington Times)

Nearly 3 percent of illegal immigrants in Arizona end up in state prison or jail during the course of a year — four times the rate of U.S. citizens and legal residents, according to a study that uses federal reimbursements for prisons and jails to try to calculate one of the most important yet elusive statistics in the immigration debate.

In New Jersey, illegal immigrants are incarcerated five times more often, and rates on the West Coast are triple that of legal residents and citizens, according to the study by the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

FAIR based its calculations on federal government reimbursements to states and localities under the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, which pays some of the costs for holding illegal immigrants in prisons and jails. To make the payments, the federal government must determine whether an inmate is definitely or possibly in the country illegally.

One important feature of this study is that it’s only looking at people who have definitely been convicted of a crime, not simply arrested or suspected. Also, as I noted above, this study draws a distinction between legal immigrants (who arguably have the lowest rate of criminal convictions) and illegal aliens. A previous Arizona study done by John Lott found the same thing, though with a smaller population sample.

It’s worth noting that this methodology has drawn criticism. The SCAAP data measures a different set of prisoners than other samples, leading some critics to question whether the results would be the same if we looked at the entire prison and jail population. I’ll leave that one for the statisticians to sort out, but overall trends still appear to conform with previous attempts at quantifying these numbers.

So what does that mean in terms of the current policy debate over illegal immigration, the wall and all the rest? Our friend Jeff Dunetz weighed in on that question and concludes that significantly reducing illegal immigration could only produce lower crime rates.

The above crime numbers and rates for illegal immigrants reflect offenses that would not have happened, or at the very least would be significantly reduced if the U.S borders were secured and illegal immigrants were not permitted into the country. Border Protection agents and Ice officials, the people on the ground, tell us that barriers work. The victims of those 121,984 crimes can thank liberals and Democrats for not taking action to prevent their victimhood.

Yet again, we should remind ourselves that these numbers fail to deal with the underlying fact that every illegal alien is committing a crime simply by being in the country. In that sense, the crime rate among illegals is technically 100% before you even begin counting other violations of the law. But that sort of view is considered heresy on the left and in much of the media these days.