No, Mr. President, Undocumented Immigrants are Not Causing a Crime Wave

It didn’t take long for the Trump Administration’s policy of separating children from their undocumented immigrant parents to become international news. The condemnations from nearly all fronts of the political spectrum did something that has been virtually unheard of from this Administration – it resulted in President Trump voluntarily reversing a policy.

Yet, while the policy may have shifted, the President’s efforts to slander and dehumanize immigrants has not. The President continues to speak in terms of undocumented immigrants who “invade” the United States. Mr. Trump blasts the media and Democrats for failing to “… talk about the death and destruction caused by people who shouldn’t be here … They don’t bring cameras to interview the angel moms whose children were killed by criminal aliens who should have never been here in the first place,” the President told a friendly crowd earlier this month. And this is really a large part of what the President’s message has been about immigrants. If they’re not here to steal Americans’ jobs, it’s only because they are here to rob, rape, and kill.

One of the President’s first actions upon being sworn in was to establish the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) office, which is designed to “support victims of crimes committed by criminal alien.” He regularly parades victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants on stage during rallies, playing on people’s fears of “us” being under siege by “them.” President Trump is especially enamored with the idea that he is working to save America from the evils of the infamous MS-13 gang, an “infestation” the U.S. is suffering from due to illegal immigrants. “They’ll take a young, beautiful girl – 16, 15, and others – and they slice them and dice them with a knife because they want them to go through excruciating pain before they die.” Clearly, these are “bad hombres,” so how could anyone object to treating these invaders from across the border as animals?

While it is well established that immigrants, in general, are less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans, could it be that this truth really only applies to those who are in the country legally? Could it be that those who appear willing to violate U.S. immigration law may be doing so because they simply lack a more compass, and therefore are more prone to breaking all manner of U.S. laws? According to a growing body of research, the answer to these questions clearly is no. One academic study after another has shown that undocumented immigrants do not cause crime rates to increase. If anything, the research implies that these populations make excellent neighbors for those wishing to live in safer communities.

One peer-reviewed study by University of Wisconsin, Madison criminologist, Michael Light looked at whether a rise in illegal immigrants entering the U.S. caused an increase in violent crime. It did not. Another study by Light examined whether these populations caused nonviolent crimes to rise. Again, the answer was no.

The Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank, conducted a study of its own – specifically to examine the assertions by President Trump that illegal immigrants are a significant source of crime. Its findings? “Illegal immigrants had a criminal conviction rate 56 percent below that of native-born Americans.” These findings were echoed by the ones made by a study in a recent edition of the peer-reviewed journal, Migration Letters.

This new research is unlikely to sway President Trump’s views on undocumented immigrants any more than the studies linking legal immigration to economic prosperity have altered his outlook on skilled foreign labor. But, this doesn’t make the fight for the truth any less important. [See Illegal Immigration Does Not Increase Violent Crime, 4 Studies Show, by John Burnett, NPR, 02.May.2018, Trump’s Animals, by Jamelle Bouie, Slate.com, 17.May.2018, and The Myth of the Criminal Immigrant, by Anna Flagg, New York Times, 30.Mar.2018.]

 

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