Illegal Immigrants Aren’t Responsible for the Rise in Homicides in Houston, Texas

A recent Tucker Carlson segment argued that the increase of illegal immigrants coming across the border in recent years caused the rise in homicides in Houston, Texas. Using crime data given to me by the Texas Department of Public Safety that identifies arrests by the immigration status of the arrestee as well as county, crime, date, and other information, I was able to check Tucker’s claim.

Here, I focus on homicide arrests (not individuals arrested, but total arrests) by immigration status in Harris County, Texas by month. Arrests are used because they are closer to the date of the actual homicide than convictions, so if an increase in illegal immigrants caused more crime then we’d see it in arrests before convictions. I have previously used these data to investigate illegal immigrant criminality in Texas. Unfortunately, I do not have data on homicide arrests by city in Texas, but Harris County is the county that contains Houston. I also incorporated CDC WONDER data on mortality to identify homicides on the county level for Harris County, Texas.

Figure 1 shows that homicides are up overall in Harris County, that arrests for native‐​born Americans are also up, and that arrests for illegal immigrants are flat.

First, homicides are up substantially in Harris County. The number of homicides climbed from 421 in 2019 to 563 in 2020. CDC WONDER data for 2021 only run through September, but there were already 97 more homicides by that point in 2021 than there were at the same point in 2020. There was a slight upward trend from 2013 through Summer 2019, but the number of homicides started to increase and then shot up dramatically in the first half of 2020.

Second, arrests of illegal immigrants for homicide are steady in Harris County from January 2013 to September 2021 with an average of about 1.5 per month. Since January 2020, there were only 1.2 arrests of illegal immigrants for homicide per month in Harris County. From January 2013 to the end of 2021, illegal immigrants accounted for just over 10 percent of Harris County’s population and 7.6 percent of arrests for homicide. It’s unlikely that illegal immigrant learned how to commit homicide and not get arrested.

Third, arrests of native‐​born Americans for homicides have skyrocketed. In 2019, there was a monthly average of 17.5 arrests of native‐​born Americans for homicide which climbed to 23.6 in 2020 and averaged 30.1 for the first 9 months of 2021. Since January of 2020, there was an average of 26 arrests of native‐​born Americans for homicide in Harris County.

Fourth, the number of arrests of illegal immigrants for homicide is tiny so it might be difficult to say anything other than there aren’t many arrests of illegal immigrants for homicide. But doesn’t that show that Tucker Carlson misidentified the cause of the rise in homicides in Houston?

Whatever the cause of the increase in homicides in Houston, it appears to be entirely driven by native‐​born Americans. Illegal immigrants are substantially less likely to be arrested for homicide than native‐​born Americans, especially since the increase in homicide in Harris County.


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