Once again, the supposed link between immigrants and crime was peddled by President Trump with the announcement of VOICE: Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement office. “We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests,” Trump said in his joint address to Congress this past Tuesday.
But the scare over immigrant criminality is, frankly, nothing more than fear-mongering. “Research has shown virtually no support for the enduring assumption that increases in immigration are associated with increases in crime,” write sociologist Robert Adelman and criminologist Lesley Reid.
Immigration-crime research over the past 20 years has widely corroborated the conclusions of a number of early 20th-century presidential commissions that found no backing for the immigration-crime connection. Although there are always individual exceptions, the literature demonstrates that immigrants commit fewer crimes, on average, than native-born Americans.
Also, large cities with substantial immigrant populations have lower crime rates, on average, than those with minimal immigrant populations.
Drawing on their recent study that “analyzed census data spanning four decades from 1970 to 2010 for 200 randomly selected metropolitan areas,” Adelman and Reid explain that an increase in immigration led to a decrease in murder, robbery, burglary, and larceny (on average). They conclude, “These associations are strong and stable evidence that immigration does not cause crime to increase in U.S. metropolitan areas, and may even help reduce it.”
Researchers Charis Kubrin and Graham Ousey also find that “[c]ities and neighborhoods with greater concentrations of immigrants have lower rates of crime and violence, all else being equal…In one study, for example, we found that cities with historically high immigration levels are especially likely to enjoy reduced crime rates as a result of their immigrant populations.” One of the more exciting bits of research is their forthcoming article in The Annual Review of Criminology:1
We conducted a meta-analysis, meaning we systematically evaluated available research on the immigration-crime relationship in neighborhoods, cities and metropolitan areas across the U.S. We examined findings from more than 50 studies published between 1994 and 2014[.]
Our analysis of the literature reveals that immigration has a weak crime-suppressing effect. In other words, more immigration equals less crime.
There were some individual studies that found that with an increase in immigration, there was an increase in crime. However, there were 2.5 times as many findings that showed immigration was actually correlated with less crime. And, the most common finding was that immigration had no impact on crime.
The upshot? We find no evidence to indicate that immigration leads to more crime and it may, in fact, suppress it.
Despite these facts, President Trump will likely continue and expand the Obama administration’s deportation tactics. Here’s hoping it turns out differently.