New Report Dispels Myths About Immigrants and Crime Rates

Do immigrants increase crime rates? Recent political rhetoric and a renewed focus on immigration by the media have once again raised the question of how immigrants affect the overall safety of the communities they live in. And a recent Gallup poll reveals that over half of all Americans believe that immigrants cause crime rates to spike. However, a report released last month by the prestigious National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine shows that immigrants actually reduce crime rates in major American cities and improve overall stability in their respective communities.

The report, entitled The Integration of Immigrants Into American Society, uses data compiled over the last two decades to study how immigrants and their descendants adapt to American culture over time in a variety of areas, including health, language, education, and economic advancement. The findings contradict the popular belief that an influx of immigrants into a community increases crime, revealing instead that a rise in the immigrant population is directly proportional to a decrease in overall crime. One major American city studied for the report was Richmond, California, which, prior to the early 2000’s, was notorious for having one of the worst per capita murder rates in the country. As its immigrant population increased from a quarter to a third over the last decade, however, the city’s total number of criminal incidents decreased by roughly the same amount, from 8,168 in 2004 to 5,151 in 2014. Statistics gathered from other cities included in the report revealed similar reductions in crime rates relative to increases in the immigrant population. In addition, the report showed that nationally, the incarceration rates of immigrant males aged 18-39 were half those of native born males in the same age bracket, regardless of race and ethnicity. [See Study Finds Immigrants Reduce Crime Rates, Suffer From Other Disparities, by Levi Bridges, Richmond Confidential, 15.Oct.2015.]

A panel of 18 leading experts of immigration contributed to the report, including Richard Alba, a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Albany as well as a professor of Sociology at the Graduate Center City University of New York. In a recent interview with a National Academies of Sciences author, he explained that his biggest takeaway from the report’s findings are “the power of the integration processes into American society … despite the difference in immigration sources, immigrants and their descendants on the whole are integrating into American society at a pace that is consistent with our historical experience.” He also noted that, in addition to the reduction in crime rates, an influx of highly skilled professional immigrants to a community can boost the local economy as well. “… [T]he current wave of immigrants includes a very large number of people with high levels of education and professional qualification … there’s really no analogy to this high status group and the earlier wave of immigration, which was mainly people who were coming to work at the bottom of the labor market.” [See The Integration of Immigrants Into American Society, by Adrienne Faraci,, 09.23.2015]

While the prevailing popular opinion remains that immigrants are a danger to communities, statistics prove that immigrants actually lower crime rates and improve overall stability in their neighborhoods. It would appear, then, that the only danger associated with immigrants are the deeply rooted prejudices and falsities being held against them. In order to truly grow and evolve as a nation, we must abandon our long held misbeliefs and welcome immigrants and all that they have to offer our communities. To do otherwise is a grave disservice to ourselves and to future generations.


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