Immigrants in U.S. Largely Law Abiding

According to one of the largest and most comprehensive studies of its kind, immigrants in the United States are not only overwhelmingly law abiding, but their increased presence in many communities has mostly correlated with a reduction in crime. From the New York Times:

According to data from the study, a large majority of the areas have many more immigrants today than they did in 1980 and fewer violent crimes. The Marshall Project extended the study’s data up to 2016, showing that crime fell more often than it rose even as immigrant populations grew almost across the board.

In 136 metro areas, almost 70 percent of those studied, the immigrant population increased between 1980 and 2016 while crime stayed stable or fell. The number of areas where crime and immigration both increased was much lower — 54 areas, slightly more than a quarter of the total. The 10 places with the largest increases in immigrants all had lower levels of crime in 2016 than in 1980.

And yet the argument that immigrants bring crime into America has driven many of the policies enacted or proposed by the administration so far: restrictions to entry, travel and visas; heightened border enforcement; plans for a wall along the border with Mexico. This month, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against California in response to the state’s restrictions on local police to assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in detaining and deporting undocumented immigrants charged with crimes. On Tuesday, California’s Orange County signed on in support of that suit. But while the immigrant population in the county has more than doubled since 1980, overall violent crime has decreased by more than 50 percent.

There’s a similar pattern in two other places where Mr. Trump has recently feuded with local leaders: Oakland, Calif., and Lawrence, Mass. He described both cities as breeding grounds for drugs and crime brought by immigrants. But Oakland, like Orange County, has had increasing immigration and falling crime. In Lawrence, though murder and robbery rates grew, overall violent crime rates still fell by 10 percent.

In general, the study’s data suggests either that immigration has the effect of reducing average crime, or that there is simply no relationship between the two, and that the 54 areas in the study where both grew were instances of coincidence, not cause and effect. This was a consistent pattern in each decade from 1980 to 2016, with immigrant populations and crime failing to grow together.

Overall, the immigrant population has more than doubled since 1980 (growing 109%) while the rates for assaults, robberies, and murders have declined by 13%, 42%, and 40%, respectively.

Immigration and Crime

Immigration and Crime II

Even in the few immigrant-heavy cities that have seen an uptick in one or another type of crime, the rate is nowhere near commensurate with the growth in immigration; for example, Sioux City, Iowa has seen a 364% growth in immigration since 1980 but only a 4% increase overall in violent crime during the same period (and there is no evidence that this has anything to do with the swelling immigrant population).

I recommend checking out the article here, as it includes interactive graphs that show the immigration rate of select cities and how it matches up with various violent crimes.

This analysis is one of the most comprehensive longitudinal studies of the local immigrant-crime relationship. It spans decades of metropolitan area data, incorporating places with widely differing social, cultural and economic backgrounds, and a broad range of types of violent crime.

Areas were chosen to reflect a range of immigrant composition, from Wheeling, W.Va., where one in 100 people was born outside the United States, to Miami, where every second person was. Some areas were home to newly formed immigrant communities; other immigrant pockets went back generations. Controlling for population characteristics, unemployment rates and other socioeconomic conditions, the researchers still found that, on average, as immigration increases in American metropolises, crime decreases.

The foreign-born data, which is collected through the census, most likely undercounts the numbers of undocumented immigrants, many of whom might wish to avoid the risk of identifying themselves. They are, however, at least partly represented in the overall foreign-born population counts.

This is not the only study showing that immigration does not increase crime. A broad survey released in January examined years of research on the immigrant-crime connection, concluding that an overwhelming majority of studies found either no relationship between the two or a beneficial one, in which immigrant communities bring economic and cultural revitalization to the neighborhoods they join.

In other words, this is as extensive and reliable a study as we’re likely to get with respect to immigration in the U.S.

What are your thoughts?

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