News | Center for Homeland Security and Immigration

CHSI Post: The Victims of Illegal Alien Crime Demand Vigilance

June 10, 2021

Mollie Tibbetts was a student at the University of Iowa when she went missing in July 2018. A month later, investigators found her body in an Iowa cornfield and arrested Cristhian Bahena Rivera, an illegal alien from Mexico who was employed under a false identity by a dairy farm in Poweshiek County, Iowa. Recently, Rivera was convicted of murder in the first degree and now faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Unfortunately, instances of violent crime by illegal aliens are commonplace. Yet, as the Biden Administration has halted at least 90 percent of illegal alien removals, released thousands of criminal aliens from jails and prisons, and invited a mass influx of illegal aliens across the United States-Mexico border, stories like that of Mollie Tibbetts—and thousands of others—continue to highlight the importance of interior immigration enforcement and swift removal of criminal aliens.

While crime is inevitable to some degree, most crimes committed by illegal aliens are entirely avoidable. Non-profit organizations like Advocates for Victims of Illegal Alien Crime (AVIAC), Angel Families, and the Remembrance Project, which are dedicated to highlighting the problem of illegal alien crime and its impact on Americans, provide a sense of the true scale of the problem. A database maintained by the Federation of American Immigration Reform also chronicles thousands of specific stories of illegal alien-on-citizen crime. Official data collection on crimes committed by illegal aliens is becoming more challenging, however, as many cities—particularly sanctuary jurisdictions—are increasingly unwilling to disclose the immigration status of offenders, even for statistical purposes. Refusals to share data do not erase the problem. They merely conceal reality.

Consider the following cases from just the last few months:

  • Cindy Goulding of Kansas City, Kansas, was helping people who had been in a car accident on the side of the road when she was struck and killed by Ramon Vazquez-Carmona, an illegal alien from Mexico, who was driving under the influence. Vazquez-Carmona had been removed from the United States in 2008 but subsequently re-entered illegally a year later.
  • Deborah Brandao of Chester County, Pennsylvania, was stabbed to death in front of her two young children by Danelo Cavalcante, an illegal alien. Cavalcante was subsequently apprehended in Virginia and is awaiting trial back in Chester County.
  • An 82-year-old woman in Martin County, Florida, was tied up and raped by Marvin Ailon-Mendoza, a 20-year-old illegal alien from Guatemala. Ailon-Mendoza entered the country illegally as a minor and garnered three arrests before this assault. He previously spent approximately 1 year in a local jail for exposing himself in a public park and drug possession before raping the victim in a senior community.
  • Francisco Zamora of Chicago, Illinois, was allegedly murdered by his neighbor Luis Pedrote Salinas, who is illegally in the United States. Pedrote Salinas had a criminal record before this arrest and previously sued the city’s police department for being placed on a gang database collected by ICE, although this lawsuit was dismissed.

Studies done using data from the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) have found that more than one in five inmates in federal prison, where data are most readily available, are aliens. It is important to remember that federal inmates tend to be the perpetrators of more serious or more expansive criminal conduct. Federal prosecutors are also excessively selective in the cases they pursue, which permits a reasonable inference that the percentage of inmates who are incarcerated in state and local prison populations for an array of lesser crimes may be more voluminous. Without full transparency from these governments, many of which have wrapped themselves in sanctuary virtue-signaling, we cannot know with any degree of accuracy how many inmates are illegally present in the United States. All of these costs impact our criminal justice system in other ways and are paid for by hardworking Americans.

Federal data released during the Obama Administration clarifies that illegal aliens absorb a sizeable proportion of pre-prison criminal justice resources. For example, in 2011, the Government Accountability Office noted that criminal aliens in federal custody had an average of 7 arrests for both immigration and non-immigration offenses and that 40 percent of DOJ’s convictions stemming from terrorism-related investigations were aliens. Similarly, according to DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, while non-citizens make up approximately 7 percent of the U.S. population, they account for roughly 15 percent of all non-immigration-related federal arrests.

Despite the volume and persistence of illegal alien-driven violent crime, the Biden Administration has all but shut down interior immigration enforcement, which will allow preventable crime to flourish. It would obviously be neither accurate nor fair to say that illegal aliens are responsible for all crimes in the United States. But it would be both accurate and fair to say that many specific crimes perpetrated at the hands of illegal aliens would not have occurred if the federal government had enforced federal immigration law concerning those individuals. One victim is too many, but the costs—both human and financial—add up.

Americans need to keep a sharp eye on whether the Biden Administration follows federal law and protects the American public. The Biden Administration has already telegraphed its interest, based on its rollback of a proposed Trump-era rule requiring enhanced biometric screening and vetting of foreign nationals seeking immigration benefits, in reducing transparency and decreasing public safety. We owe it to the family of Mollie Tibbetts and the families of other victims of illegal alien crime to remain vigilant.

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