Immigrant Crime?

For the past several years, Republicans, especially far-right Republicans, have trumpeted “immigrant crime” as a massive problem, using specific incidents as an illustration of the magnitude of the problem.

There’s one “small” problem with this claim. U.S.-born citizens are far more likely to commit horrendous crimes than immigrants.

Yes, some immigrants do commit crimes, and once in a while those crimes are horrendous. But a study co-led by Northwestern University economist Elisa Jácome and conducted by a team of economists found that over the past 150 years immigrants were consistently less likely commit crimes than people born in the U.S. They also found beginning in 1960, gap between immigrants and U.S.- born citizens increased enough that immigrants today are 60% less likely to be criminally imprisoned than the U.S.-born.

In another similar study, Stanford University economist Ran Abramitzky and his co-authors also found that for the last 140 years imprisonment for crimes was markedly lower for immigrants, and that, today, immigrants are 30 percent less likely to be incarcerated than are U.S.-born individuals who are white. And when the analysis was expanded to include Black Americans — whose prison rates are higher than the general population — the likelihood of an immigrant being incarcerated is still more than 55 percent lower than of people born in the United States.

So, if the average immigrant is more law-abiding than the average U.S. citizen, why are the Republicans getting away with blaming crime on immigrants, and why have so many Americans bought into this myth for more than a century?

There are many good reasons to restrict immigration, beginning with the simple fact that the U.S. doesn’t have the resources to process the number of people trying to enter the United States, or that we should be allowing more talented immigrants who follow the rules, but claiming that immigrants increase criminality isn’t one of them.

8 thoughts on “Immigrant Crime?”

  1. Postagoras says:

    Republican candidates aren’t “getting away” with blaming crime on immigrants.

    It’s simply that when Republican candidates blame crime on immigrants, the Republican base believes them. So the Republican candidates keep saying it.

    When people try to quote the facts, as you do here, Mr. Modesitt, the Republican base just doesn’t believe the facts.

    The Republican candidates are using a very old tactic: Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

  2. Darcherd says:

    One of the sayings that my father, a high school science teacher, had on the wall of his classroom read, “My mind is made up. Don’t confuse me with the facts.”

  3. KevinJ says:

    But if Republican politicians pay attention to facts, how will that let them get the power to take everyone’s choices and freedoms away??

  4. Martin Sinclair says:

    To borrow one of Robert Heinlein’s lines from Starship Troopers – “because it works”. They have to stoke the fear of the “other” so they seize on anything that they can use ( distort ) to justify their rhetoric. Even in this part of the world where compulsory ranked-choice voting means that extremist positions don’t get far, the conservative side of politics uses the fear of undocumented and/or recent immigrants to attack the government. Even on the occasions when their claims are proven wrong, there’s no apology nor recantation – just a doubling-down on anything, however ethically dubious, that might help them regain power

  5. R. Hamilton says:

    What does anyone not understand? Most (most are) reasonable Republicans have no problem with LEGAL immigrants; many are only a generation or two from that themselves; some are themselves immigrants, from places like Eastern Europe that have a recent memory of tyranny.

    But if even one illegal murders someone, that could have been prevented by keeping them out.

    Everything in politics eventually ends up as demagoguery. Call that a variant of Godwin’s Law. The Democrats do quite their share too, just with different targets.

    1. Postagoras says:

      As usual, R. Hamilton, your extreme views cause you to throw out the baby with the bath water.

      The vast majority of undocumented immigrants are propping up businesses across America, but in your logic, one murder justifies removing them all.

      And saying that “everything in politics eventually ends up as demagoguery” is just a way to excuse the demagoguery you’re putting out there. Just as with the undocumented immigrants, the vast majority of politics deals with roads, schools, and local business, the kind of consensus politics that you deny with your extreme views.

    2. By your logic, we should take away all guns. Just think how many fewer deaths there would be.

      1. Wine Guy says:

        Please don’t let pesky facts get in the way of a good republican/NRA rant.

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