Monday, January 28, 2008
The thruth about Undocumented Immigration and crime. The myth created by Anti Immigrants, Extremists, conservaties, xenophobics, like Lou Dobbs, Pat Buchannan, Tom Tancredo and many more.
Anti-immigration forces have been hammering into our heads the dangerous link between illegal immigration and increases in violent crime. Their only problem: the facts don't support their alarmist contentions.
"Some of the most violent criminals at large today are illegal aliens." That's the lead sentence of a policy report published by the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington, DC institute that provides intellectual ammunition to the anti-immigration forces.
Another CIS study led with a similarly impressionistic assertion about the immigrant-crime link: "In recent years, it has become difficult to avoid perceiving immigrants, legal or not, as overwhelming this country with serious crime."
CIS is not alone in relying on impressions to form opinions about just how illegal immigrants are. On the basis of fear-mongering stories rather than scientific studies, groups like the Center for Immigration Studies have succeeded in convincing the media and the U.S. public that undocumented immigrants are criminals. A National Opinion Research Center survey found in 2000 that 73% of Americans believed that immigrants were casually related to more crime.
But, as in other dimensions of the immigration debate, the facts don't support the alarm.
There have been dozens of national studies examining immigration and crime, and they all come to the same conclusion: immigrants are more law-abiding than citizens. A 2007 study by the Immigration Policy Center (IPC) found that immigrants, whether legal or illegal, are substantially less likely to commit crimes or to be incarcerated than U.S. citizens.
Ruben G. Rumbaut, coauthor of "The Myth of Immigrant Criminality" study, said: "The misperception that immigrants, especially illegal immigrants, are responsible for higher crime rates is deeply rooted in American public opinion and is sustained by media anecdotes and popular myth." According to Rumbaut, a sociology professor at the University of California at Irvine, "This perception is not supported empirically. In fact, it is refuted by the preponderance of scientific evidence."
The Immigration Policy Center study found that:
At the same time that immigration—especially undocumented immigration—has reached or surpassed historic highs, crime rates have declined, notably in cities with large numbers of undocumented immigrants, including border cities like El Paso and San Diego.
Incarceration rate for native-born men in the 18-39 age group was five times higher than for foreign-born men in the same age group.
Data from the census and other sources show that for every ethnic group, incarceration rates among young men are lowest for immigrants, even those who are least educated and least acculturated.
As the study noted, the fact that many immigrants enter the country illegally is framed by anti-immigration forces as an assault on the "rule of law," thereby reinforcing the false impression that immigration and criminality are linked.
One of the most disturbing findings of the IPC study was that immigrant children and immigrants with many years in the country are more likely to become criminals than first-generation immigrants or those with less than 15 years in the country. In other words, the more acculturated immigrants are the more likely they are to become criminals—although still at lower rates than those for non-immigrants.
Indignant anti-immigration voices dominate internet discussions with their vitriol and misinformation, and even point to false data to bolster their case. The anti-immigrant forces draw, for example, on the "2006 (First Quarter) INS/FBI Statistical Report on Undocumented Immigrants" with its array of alarming statistics about illegal immigrants and crime to make their case that undocumented immigrants not only break the law entering the country but also break the laws, with a proclivity to violent crimes, once they make their own homes here. Statistics from this study circulate on restrictionist websites and routinely appear in blogs and post-article comment sections across the web.
In fact, no such report exists. INS, the agency that supposedly produced the report, ceased to exist in 2003.
But facts don't get in the way of those who are intent on demonizing undocumented immigrants or "illegals" in the vocabulary of the restrictionists. How do groups like CIS explain the gap between their impressions and the real statistics about crime and immigration? CIS asks the same question in a 2001 report: Why is it that studies don't make the immigration-crime connection when "so much other evidence indicates they are responsible for a wave of individual and organized crime?"
Contrary to their prevailing argument that immigrant crime is terrorizing the U.S. general public, CIS argues that immigrant crime is unreported because it stays within the immigrant community as immigrant-on-immigrant crime. Furthermore, police departments tend to avoid enforcing laws when immigrants are involved because police are not the agency charged with enforcing immigration law. As Heather MacDonald argued in a report published by CIS, "In cities where crime from these lawbreakers ["illegal aliens"] is highest, the police cannot use the most obvious tool to apprehend them: their immigration status."
CIS and other restrictionist think tanks argue that given their supposed criminal natures, the best way to solve the crime problem in cities like Los Angeles is to round up the illegal immigrants. "The police should be given the option of reporting and acting on immigration violations, where doing so would contribute to public safety," wrote MacDonald, a scholar at the conservative Manhattan Institute.
Taking off from the findings of studies that immigrant children are more likely to commit crimes than their parents, CIS argues that our society should root out the problem now by deporting the parents of possible future criminals. "On the issue of crime, the biggest impact of immigration is almost certainly yet to come," warns Steve Camarota, director of research at CIS.
The great distance between fact and perception, reality and scenario was all too evident in Iowa and New Hampshire during presidential primaries, where fear of immigrants has made immigration a leading campaign issue, especially among Republicans. To hear the candidates and constituents rail against immigration, one would have thought immigrants were flooding across the U.S.-Mexico border on their way to Iowa and New Hampshire.
Stoked by anti-immigration groups like the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which publishes alarmist state-by-state profiles of the purported negative impacts of immigrants, restrictionist fever has spread throughout the country. Both Iowa and New Hampshire have overwhelmingly white populations with only a small immigrant population. Even according to FAIR's high estimates, the population of undocumented immigrants or "illegals" does not exceed 55,000 in Iowa and 15,000 in New Hampshire.
Certainly, immigration is an issue that merits public discussion and should be part of the electoral debate. But facts, not irrational fear and dread, should inform the national debate about immigration policy.