Immigration is not linked to rise in crime, study finds. In fact, it lowers it.


Immigrants not only fail to increase crime but, in some cases, actually reduce crime rates, according to research in the Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice's first issue of 2017.

The study is yet another in a long line of findings over the past century that all tell the same story: Immigrants are less inclined to be criminals than native-born Americans.

Decades of data support this assumption. Native-born males 18 to 39 years old were more than twice as likely to be incarcerated than immigrants in the same demographic, according to the American Immigration Council, which analyzed 2010 data from the American Community Survey.

"Immigrants are much less likely to be criminals than the native born," University of Alabama professor Lesley Reid, one of the paper's authors, said by phone. Reid is also department chair of the university's Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

"We really weren't surprised by the findings," Reid said. "What we found was consistent with all the research in this area."

These findings are deeply at odds with President Donald Trump, who's used immigrants' alleged criminal activity to defend draconian immigration policies, prompting uproar and demonstrations around the world

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Trump's controversial immigration ban was ultimately rejected by the courts, which called into question its legality. 

Trump's scapegoating of immigrants has also emboldened Immigration and Custom Enforcement officials: In the past week, for instance, starting Feb. 6, ICE conducted raids in Southern California, arresting and detaining around 160 immigrants. 

"We have many criminal illegal aliens," Trump said during the second presidential debate in St. Louis on Oct. 9. "When we want to send them back to their country, their country says, 'We don't want them.' In some cases, they're murderers and drug lords. And they don't want them." 

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The criminality of immigrants has been part of a consistent narrative for Trump who, during his presidential bid announcement speech in June 2015, kicked off his campaign by painting Mexican immigrants largely as drug-dealing rapists. 

Mexico is "sending people that have lots of problems and they're bringing those problems," he said. "They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime. They're rapists and some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they're telling us what we're getting."

However, it would seem supporting public education would do more to hamper crime rates than oppressive immigration policy and stricter border control. 

Native-born American males ages 18 to 39 without a high school degree had a 10.7% incarceration rate in 2010, compared with 2.8% for male foreign-born Mexicans with similar levels of education and 1.7% for Salvadoran and Guatemalan men, the American Immigration Council reported.

"Immigrants are much less likely to be criminals than the native born."

And the Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice study, which examined 40 years of census data, confirms the prevailing consensus among social scientists regarding immigrants' impact on communities. 

Robert Adelman, the paper's lead author and an associate professor of sociology at the University of Buffalo, said by phone that their conclusions support a large literature that shows, with empirical evidence, immigrants tend not to bring crime with them. 

"I would say that the big takeaway is this idea that this research shows strong and stable evidence across 200 metropolitan areas, using 40 years of data, that as immigration increases on average these crimes — murder, larceny and robbery — decrease," Adelman said. 

Reid and Adelman said these reduced crime rates could be the result of immigrants revitalizing otherwise neglected communities and their generating economic activity. 

The economic activity promotes job creation for all, Reid said, which could be why crime rates decrease throughout said communities. 

Both authors hope this body of research will help inform political discourse surrounding immigration and its attendant myths.

"I think there's lots of discussion and dialogue about immigrants and crime and my argument is let's have public policy that's based off data and evidence," Adelman said. "Let's take a careful look at what the data and evidence suggest as opposed to basing public policy on ideology."