Immigration Policy Center

Separating Fact From Fiction About Immigrants and Crime

The perennially hot, and inflammatory, question of whether or not immigration is related to crime has yielded front-page stories in both the Washington Post and New York Times over the past two days.  In different ways, each of these stories highlights the extent to which the myth of a supposed link between crime and immigration has long been based on emotion rather than fact. Although study upon study over the past century has demonstrated that immigration is not associated with more crime, the "myth of immigrant criminality" persists.
On Sunday, the Washington Post ran a story about how two high-profile murders recently committed by undocumented immigrants in Maryland's Montgomery County, together with a rising number of "serious crimes" in the county, have provoked fear among officials and residents, prompting new proposals to have police officers check the immigration status of suspects in violent crimes.  However, as the story points out, police do not know how much of the recent rise in serious crimes, "if any, is attributable to illegal immigrants."  Yet, to many people, the lack of evidence in this regard is irrelevant.  As a defense attorney quoted in the story points out: "You're talking about the fear that crime evokes."

Congressional Event Perpetuates Myth of Immigrant Criminality

Washington, DC - Yesterday morning, Republican members of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration regrettably perpetuated the persistent myth of immigrant criminality with their forum on "The Toll of Illegal Alien Criminals on American Families." Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Steve King (R-Iowa) spearheaded yesterday's conversation.

Numerous studies by independent researchers and government commissions over the past 100 years have consistently found that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than the native-born. This holds true for both legal immigrants and the undocumented, regardless of their country of origin or level of education.

It's not likely a coincidence that Smith and King's forum happened during the same week that the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) is lobbying Congress, demanding an impractical and hateful agenda of mass deportations, worksite raids, and other expensive and ultimately ineffective approaches as part of their "Hold Their Feet to the Fire" gathering. The Republican forum even featured some of the same witnesses who participated in FAIR's rally earlier in the week.
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