Crimes and Immigrants – the Myth

Every month I struggle with what to write in my monthly blog. There is no shortage of subjects. The problem I have is to decide what of many topics to use and to try not to make it too political but with immigration issues, it is really impossible to stay away from political commentary. Just reading the morning papers give me numerous ideas and then I look at my inbox with emails from AILA (the American Immigration Attorney’s Association) as well as emails from my friends and readers.  The article this month is one that I have been wanting to write since March when I read an article in the N.Y. Times entitled “ The Myth of the Criminal Immigrant”

The article in the times starts with two charts. On the left, it shows an increase of 118% in the immigrant population since 1980. On the right, it shows that the violent crime rate since 1980 has decreased by 36%.  

A Gallop Poll conducted in June of 2017 asked about whether immigrants to the U.S. are making the country better, worse or not having much effect on crime. 9% thought immigrants were making things better, 45 % thought that immigrants were having a negative effect on crime in the U.S. However, numerous well-documented studies show that immigrants are making things better when it comes to crime rates.

A study done in Texas by the libertarian Cato Institute studied  Texas data for 2015 and compared the immigrants in the country illegally with native- born residents. The study showed that “the arrest rates for illegal immigrants was 40 % below that of native- born Americans”  A national study also done by the Cato Institute conclude “Illegal immigrants are 47 % less likely to be incarcerated than natives.” (and legal immigrants are even less likely to be in jail or prison than undocumented).  A March study “Does Undocumented Immigration Increase Violent Crime? which was published in Criminology in March concluded “Increased concentrations of undocumented immigrants are associated with statistically significant decreases in violent crime”  Numerous other studies have found that immigrants overall, including those with legal status, commit far fewer crimes than the native born. Immigrant are coming here to work and contribute to our economy , to reunite with families and to escape crime – not to commit crime.

The fact that a few immigrants commit crimes does not mean that “immigrants are brining crime. ” As the author of the Cato institute report stated ““Imagine I were to claim that women are less violent than men, which is as close to a social fact that we have in criminology and one were to reply saying that this isn’t true because in 2015 over 78,000 women were arrested for violent crimes, and nearly 1,000 were arrested for homicide. Those statistics in no way contradict the original statement that men tend to be more violent.”

I  understand that statistics rarely change a persons’ mind when the issues are so emotional and have been manipulated  for political purposes but would like to end this article with words written by Rob Tibbetts, father of Mollie who was tragically killed recently allegedly by an undocumented Mexican immigrant. He wrote this because of all of the political rhetoric about keeping criminals out of the country that this tragic incident generated.               

“The person who is accused of taking Mollie’s life is no more a reflection of the Hispanic community as white supremacists are of all white people. To suggest otherwise is a lie. Justice in my America is blind. This person will receive a fair trial, as it should be. If convicted, he will face the consequences society has set. Beyond that, he deserves no more attention.   

To the Hispanic community, my family stands with you and offers its heartfelt apology. That you’ve been beset by the circumstances of Mollie’s death is wrong. We treasure the contribution you bring to the American tapestry in all its color and melody. And yes, we love your food.

My stepdaughter, whom Mollie loved so dearly, is Latina. Her sons — Mollie’s cherished nephews and my grandchildren — are Latino. That means I am Hispanic. I am African. I am Asian. I am European. My blood runs from every corner of the Earth because I am American. As an American, I have one tenet: to respect every citizen of the world and actively engage in the ongoing pursuit to form a more perfect union.

Given that, to knowingly foment discord among races is a disgrace to our flag.” 

We are in the final stretches of the midterm elections. Please remember that politics is not a spectator sport. Get involved and get better informed. One of the best new  tools for being better informed is the site – which is a project  of the League of Women Voters. You can insert your address, see the races on your ballot, compare candidates’ positions side by side and print our a “ballot”  with your preferences.

Linda M Kaplan
Latest posts by Linda M Kaplan (see all)