Crime and Violence

Who Makes a Run for the Border? Determinants of U.S. Extradition Policy: Lessons From Canada, Colombia and Mexico

03/17/2023 (written by mdrury) –Justice in Mexico Director, Dr. David Shirk, and University of San Diego professor Dr. Emily Edmonds-Poli recently co-presented their research on U.S. extradition policy in a paper entitled, “Who Makes a Run for the Border? Determinants of U.S. Extradition Policy: Lessons from Canada, Colombia, and Mexico” at the American Political Science Association 2022 Conference. The paper is a comprehensive study utilizing 9,000 extradition cases spanning between 2003 and 2021 in the United States and over 30 other countries. The authors initially found that the majority of extraditions to the United States have been conducted with the intent of acquiring foreign suspects from countries in the Western Hemisphere. In fact, 62% of U.S. extraditions come from just three countries: Canada, Mexico, and Columbia. Drawing upon the data regarding extraditions from these three countries, the researchers examined the factors that could impact or influence the use of extradition by American law enforcement


Extradition is the lawful transfer of custody of a person wanted for a criminal offense from one country to another or an international organization. Extradition is a difficult, lengthy, and costly process that requires cooperation between states or international organizations. It is, however, an essential practice; extradition is often one of the only ways to acquire a fugitive from another country. Extradition also acts as an opportunity for issue linkage and reciprocity between countries or international organizations. 

Towards the end of the 1970s, multiple countries pursued expanded extradition treaties and new treaties in order to combat terrorism. However, extradition is rarely used in cases of terrorism, and is more often used on drug trafficking charges, demonstrating incongruencies in the theory and practice of extradition. Empirical studies on extradition are rare despite the unique and fascinating nature of the practice, especially as a tool for international cooperation.


The researchers hypothesized that “the closer the geographic proximity of the requesting U.S. judicial district is to Canada, Colombia, Mexico, the more likely it is to extradite nationals from that country.” This hypothesis is based on the premise that fugitives are most likely to flee to the closest foreign destination, making the U.S. more likely to extradite individuals from said location. Additionally, they hypothesized that “the larger the size of the foreign-born population of Canadian, or Colombian, or Mexican population in a U.S. state, the more likely it is that U.S. law enforcement in that state will extradite Canadian, Colombian, Mexican suspects from their country of origin to that state.”

Findings and Conclusions

One of the major findings of the study was the significance of geographical location with Columbia and Mexico. The researchers found that “in a comparison of U.S. federal judicial districts, the greater the distance from a suspect’s country of origin, the fewer suspects extradited from that country.” For instance, the data gathered from the study indicates that “for every 100 miles between Mexico and a given U.S. federal judicial district, the number of Mexican suspects extradited to that district decreases by 3.4%.”. 

The study also demonstrated that settlement patterns also influence extradition in regards to Canada, Columbia, and Mexico. “In a comparison of U.S. states, the larger the population of certain foreign nationals, the greater the number of extraditions of nationals from each country, respectively.” For example, in the case of Canada, the researchers predicted that for every 100% increase of Canadian nationals in a state, there would be around a 52% increase in the number of Canadians extradited to that state.

Going forward, this study aids in understanding the domestic determinants of extradition and facilitates a better understanding of U.S. practices of extradition.

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