The number of non-citizens who are held by the state correctional system at any time seems to be very low—less than the percentage of non-citizens in the population as a whole. In other words, non-citizens are arrested or detained less frequently than citizens—for any reason, whether for criminal activity or immigration violations. This contradicts a frequently-made assertion that immigrants—with or without legal documentation—are more frequently involved in crime.
The figures in the accompanying table present the totals of non-citizens in Department of Correctional facilities for June 30 for eight successive years, from 1999–2006. The figures were reported by DOC to the Bureau of Justice Statistics as part of national reporting program on non-citizens in state prisons. They include all non-citizens—both those in the U.S. with valid documentation and those without (those popularly termed illegal aliens)—who are being held for any reason and any length of time in Alaska facilities. These individuals may have been charged with a criminal offense or held for an immigration violation pending review, deportation, or transfer to an immigration facility. (Immigration violations are not criminal offenses.)
The figures show that the number of non-citizens being arrested for any reason or detained for an immigration violation has been consistently low—never rising even to one percent of the total incarcerated population. This is less than half the representation of non-citizens in the general population: According to U.S. Census data for 2005, the total non-citizen resident population for the state was 14,190—two percent of the state’s total population (641,724).
A Justice Center study of those arrested in Anchorage for drug-related offenses from 2000 through 2002 (see “Non-Citizens Among Anchorage Arrestees,”Alaska Justice Forum, Spring 2003) also shows similarly low percentages of non-citizens in the jailed population.