A Rising Share: Hispanics and Federal Crime

Feb 18, 2009

Sharp growth in illegal immigration and increased enforcement of immigration laws have altered the ethnic composition of offenders sentenced in federal courts. In 2007, Latinos accounted for 40% of all sentenced federal offenders-more than triple their share (13%) of the total U.S. adult population. The share of all sentenced offenders who were Latino in 2007 was up from 24% in 1991, according to an analysis of data from the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center. Moreover, by 2007, immigration offenses represented nearly one-quarter (24%) of all federal convictions, up from just 7% in 1991. Among those sentenced for immigration offenses in 2007, 80% were Hispanic.

This heightened focus on immigration enforcement has also changed the citizenship profile of federal offenders. In 2007, Latinos without U.S. citizenship represented 29% of all federal offenders. Among all Latino offenders, some 72% were not U.S. citizens, up from 61% in 1991. By contrast, a much smaller share of white offenders (8%) and black offenders (6%) who were sentenced in federal courts in 2007 were not U.S. citizens.

Among sentenced immigration offenders, most were convicted of unlawfully entering or remaining in the U.S. Fully 75% of Latino offenders sentenced for immigration crimes in 2007 were convicted of entering the U.S. unlawfully or residing in the country without authorization.

Hispanics who were convicted of any federal offense were more likely than non-Hispanics to be sentenced to prison. But among all federal offenders sentenced to prison, Hispanics were also more likely than blacks or whites to receive a shorter prison term.

Read the full report A Rising Share: Hispanics and Federal Crime on the Pew Hispanic Center's Web site.

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