Immigrants Bring Lower Crime Rates

The end of the border fence, at Imperial Beach
The end of the border fence, at Imperial Beach

The American Immigration Council hit back at Donald Trump recently with a report that concludes immigrants commit less crime than native-born citizens.

In remarks that continue to resonate, GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump said June 16 that Mexican immigrants were criminals and "rapists."

The report, "The Criminalization of Immigration in the United States" by Ph.D. academics Walter A. Ewing, Daniel E. Martínez and Rubén G. Rumbaut, concludes that "immigration is associated with lower crime rates" and that "immigrants are less likely than the native-born to be serious criminals," according to a statement.

A summary says:

This holds true for both legal immigrants and the unauthorized, regardless of their country of origin or level of education. In other words, the overwhelming majority of immigrants are not “criminals” by any commonly accepted definition of the term.

The researchers suggest that there's strong evidence for this in crime rates alone. As immigration rose in the United States, crime went down. Again, a summary gives us more:

Between 1990 and 2013, the foreign-born share of the U.S. population grew from 7.9 percent to 13.1 percent and the number of unauthorized immigrants more than tripled from 3.5 million to 11.2 million.

During the same period, FBI data indicate that the violent crime rate declined 48 percent — which included falling rates of aggravated assault, robbery, rape and murder. Likewise, the property crime rate fell 41 percent, including declining rates of motor vehicle theft, larceny/robbery and burglary.

Sure, you say, but maybe that wave of immigration simply arrived at a time of low crime. Researchers also looked at rates of incarcerated immigrants:

According to an original analysis of data from the 2010 American Community Survey (ACS) conducted by the authors of this report, roughly 1.6 percent of immigrant males age 18-39 are incarcerated, compared to 3.3 percent of the native-born. This disparity in incarceration rates has existed for decades ...

OK, but Trump said Mexicans, not all immigrants. The American Immigration Council:

The 2010 Census data reveals that incarceration rates among the young, less-educated Mexican, Salvadoran and Guatemalan men who make up the bulk of the unauthorized population are significantly lower than the incarceration rate among native-born young men without a high-school diploma. In 2010, less-educated native-born men age 18-39 had an incarceration rate of 10.7 percent — more than triple the 2.8 percent rate among foreign-born Mexican men, and five times greater than the 1.7 percent rate among foreign-born Salvadoran and Guatemalan men.

Immigrants who came here as adolescents in the 1990s "have among the lowest delinquency rates of all young people," the summary says.

Still, the government has increasingly loosened the definition of "criminal alien" and made it easier to deport people, adding to the impression that the undocumented are part of a crime wave, the researchers argue.

The report says "fear" and "prejudice" shape our immigration policy while data shows that cracking down on those here illegally does not affect crime.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow L.A. Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.


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