The truth about immigrants and violent crime in America

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By Gerry Hopkin, JD

The immigrant Barack Obama wire-tapped the Donald Trump campaign and other undocumented immigrants are responsible for the high crime rates we observe in U.S. cities. Is this statement true or false?
As reality would have it, most of us always knew that Barack Obama was born a U.S. citizen in Hawaii, while scientific studies show that immigrants, whether documented
or undocumented, have little or no undesirable impact on U.S. crime rates, compared to acts by native citizens. Yet, certain leaders, such as President Donald Trump, speak of undocumented immigrants, as
if they are solely responsible for the violent crimes we see each day on the streets and in the homes of America.
The well-respected CATO Institute, as well as other institutions
confirm the obvious fact that most of our violent crimes are committed by U.S. native-born citizens. So why is our President parading the victims of a relatively small number of violent crimes committed
by a few immigrants, while there are tens of thousands more victims of the tens of thousands more, per capita, crimes comitted by nativeborn citizens?
Shouldn’t we be as concerned
about the much larger number of
victims of the much larger number of U.S. native-born criminals that are on the rampage, with easy access to guns, which are secured and
protected by Republicans and the president’s friends in the National Rifle Association?
Is this simply another case of ‘alternative facts’ or alternative truth?

In July 2015, a very telling article authored by Alex Nowrasteh, “Immigration and Crime – What the Research Says,” was published by the CATO Institute. This article succinctly discussed and summarized the findings of various studies on crime in America in relation to the role of immigrants.

For the rest of this piece, you will find liberally quoted excerpts and paraphrased information from this CATO Institute article: “The alleged murder of Kate Steinle in San Francisco by illegal immigrant Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez has reignited the debate over the link between immigration and crime. Such debates often call for change in policy regarding the deportation or apprehension of illegal immigrants. However, if policies should change, it should not be in reaction to a single tragic murder.
It should be in response to careful research on whether immigrants actually boost the U.S. crime rates.

With few exceptions, immigrants are less crime prone than natives or have no effect on crime rates. As described below, the research is fairly one-sided. There are two broad types of studies that investigate immigrant criminality. The first type uses Census and American Community Survey (ACS) data from the institutionalized population and broadly
concludes that immigrants are less crime prone than the native-born population. It is important to note that immigrants convicted of crimes serve their sentences before being deported with few exceptions.

However, there are some potential problems with Census-based studies that could lead to inaccurate results. That’s where the second type of study comes in. The second type is a macro level analysis to judge the impact of immigration on crime rates, generally finding that increased immigration does not increase crime and sometimes even causes crime rates to fall….” Under Type 1 Studies which look at Immigrant Crime–Censuses of the Institutionalized Population, sociak scientists Ewing, Martinez, and Rumbaut summarize their findings on criminality and immigration thusly: “[R]oughly 1.6 percent of immigrant males 18-39 are incarcerated, compared to 3.3 percent of the native-born. The disparity in incarceration rates has existed for decades, as evidenced by data from the 1980, 1990, and 2000 decennial census. In each of those years, the incarceration rates of the native-born were anywhere from two to five times higher than that of immigrants.” Under Type 2: Macro Level Analysis of Immigrant Criminality, the findings similarly show that immigrants hardly contribute to our nation’s violent crime. rate.
Stowell et al looked at 103 different Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) from
1994-2004 and found that violent crime rates tended to decrease as the concentration of immigrants increased.

In fact, as reported by the CATO Institute article, Stowell summarizes the research on this topic, as follows:

“[T]he weight of the evidence suggests that immigration is not associated with increased levels of crime. To the extent that a relationship does exist, research often finds a negative effect of immigration on levels of crime, in general, and on homicide in particular.” The scientific evidence overwhelmingly disprove the arguments being made by zenophobic politicians, who blame immigrants for the high crime rates in U.S. cities. It remains a fact that no number of staged public relations stunts where the victims of a few violent crimes committed by a few undocumented criminals, are paraded, would erase the well-established reality that the majority of violent crimes in America are committed by native-born citizens who have easy access to guns. And of course we all know, that this is so, thanks to Republican legislators who resist all commonsense attempts to uniformly toughen our gun-control laws, so that fewer mentally ill, criminally-disposed and uncontrollably angry individuals, whether native or immigrant, would have easy access to guns.

The entire CATO Institute article referenced above, can be read at https://www.cato.org/ blog/immigration-crime-what-research-says.

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