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Large Immigrant Populations Make Cities Safe ... Just Ask El Paso

The fact is that immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, are actually less likely to commit crimes than U.S. citizens.
 
 
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El Paso, Texas, is a relatively poor, Hispanic, gun-friendly city and home to many undocumented immigrants. Yet although El Paso is adjacent to a violence-riddled Mexican city, it’s actually counted among the safest big citiesin the U.S. Why is El Paso so safe? A recent article in Reason Online dispels some of the myths associated with immigrants and crime.

Many Americans believe that immigrants—especially illegal immigrants—are associated with high levels of crime. However, according to criminologist Jack Levin, El Paso is safe because of its immigrant population.

If you want to find a safe city, first determine the size of the immigrant population. If the immigrant community represents a large proportion of the population, you’re likely in one of the country’s safer cities. San Diego, Laredo, El Paso—these cities are teeming with immigrants, and they’re some of the safest places in the country.

The Immigration Policy Center (IPC) has repeatedly provided factual information about the lack of relationship between immigrants and crime levels.

  • Although the undocumented immigrant population doubled to about 12 million from 1994 to 2004, data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics indicates that the violent crime rate in the United States declined by 35.1 percent during this time and the property crime rate fell by 25.0 percent.
  • According to a 2008 report from the conservative Americas Majority Foundation, crime rates are lowest in states with the highest immigration growth rates. From 1999 to 2006, the total crime rate declined 13.6 percent in the 19 highest-immigration states, compared to a 7.1 percent decline in the other 32 states. In 2006, the 10 “high influx” states—those with the most dramatic, recent increases in immigration—had the lowest rates of violent crime and total crime.

Yet the myth persists—due, in part, to news headlines that read, “ Hispanic males are now majority in county jails,” which appeared in the Arizona Republic this week.

Michele Waslin, Ph.D., is the Senior Policy Analyst at the Immigration Policy Center.

 
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