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Sharp increase in Latino offenders sentenced for immigration crimes [UPDATED]

February 18, 2009 | 10:54 am

Driven by a sharp growth in illegal immigration and tougher enforcement, Latinos accounted for 40% of all sentenced federal offenders in 2007, according to a new study.

Among those sentenced for immigration offenses in 2007, 80% were Latino, according to the study by the Pew Hispanic Center.

Immigration offenses represented nearly one-quarter of all federal convictions during the same period, up from just 7% in 1991, the study found.

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.

“There was a very sharp rise of immigration offenses as a share of all offenses,” said Paul Taylor Lopez, director of the Pew Hispanic Center.

Between 1991 and 2007, enforcement of federal immigration laws became a growing priority in response to the rise in illegal immigration.

In 1991, three times as many Latinos were sentenced in federal courts for drug crimes, 60%, as for immigration crimes, 20%, according to the report.

By 2007, that pattern had reversed. Among Latino offenders sentenced in federal courts, 48% were sentenced for immigration offenses and 37% for a drug offense.

-- Anna Gorman

Updated at 11:50 a.m.: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Paul Taylor Lopez was director of the Pew Hispanic Center. Paul Taylor is vice president of the Pew Hispanic Center.