Latest Research Shows No Connection Between Undocumented Immigrants and Crime

The political right often links immigrants with rampant crime as a scare tactic, but is there any truth to the claim? (Spoiler: The answer is no.)

Remind the White House: Asylum seekers aren’t criminals

You’ve probably heard of various previous studies that show no link between immigrant populations and crime. The “problem” with these studies, according to conservatives, is that they focus on immigrants in the country legally (since the data is easier to come by) rather than the undocumented immigrants we should supposedly fear.

So okay – the Marshall Project, a bipartisan organization with a focus on the criminal justice system, took that challenge to look for any link between undocumented immigrants and crime. It did so by comparing cities’ crime rate reports from the FBI to the estimated undocumented populations in these same regions.

What the Marshall Project found was that as undocumented populations increased in cities, the crime rate actually decreased moderately. The idea that crime would spike with more immigrants has no basis in reality.

Now you may be saying, “But hasn’t crime been steadily declining everywhere in this country anyway?” (Another thing, incidentally, that Donald Trump is misrepresenting.) Absolutely! However, cities with an influx of undocumented migrants show slightly bigger drops in crime than the average American metropolis.

Really, the researchers acknowledge that the rates are close enough to the national average to say that there’s no significant effect. However, if you did want to try to explain why undocumented immigrants committed less crime, it’d stand to reason that they’re trying to keep their noses clean and go undetected by law enforcement so they can continue living in the country. Also, many are fleeing from countries with loads of crime and corruption.

These stats hold for all types of crime, by the way, both violent and property. The rates of assaults, robberies, burglaries and larcenies all decreased even with surges in migrants. The only category that saw a slight uptick is murder, though the researchers stress that the change is “effectively zero,” and it’s not like the murder rate can be linked specifically to the migrants in this type of study anyway.

Admittedly, this research is unlikely to be persuasive to anti-immigrant types; after all, they don’t call undocumented people “illegals” for nothing. To be clear, though, crossing the border or overstaying a visa is considered a misdemeanor at worst. That’s, of course, nothing compared to the felony charge Trump supporters would get if they followed through on their suggestion to shoot those who came to the country for a better life.

Take Action!

As the numbers show, Trump’s attacks on “criminal” immigrants are exaggerated and unfounded. Use this Care2 petition to tell the president and attorney general that the White House’s “zero tolerance” approach to those seeking asylum is a policy that must go.

98 comments

Ruth S
Ruth S8 days ago

Thanks.

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Ruth S
Ruth S8 days ago

Thanks.

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Karen Swenson
Karen S23 days ago

Rhoberta E--- I don't know why Milli insists on throwing the hate word around when people don't agree with her. There are plenty of people on this site whom I do not agree with and have had heated discussions with, like Dan B, for instance. I do not hate him, or any of the others I have disagreed with. You have to be a grown up in order to disagree without being childish about it. Now the Trolls are different creatures, and are to be pitied for their stupidity and ridiculed. I'd like to wish you and everyone here a safe Memorial day weekend.

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Rhoberta E
Rhoberta E23 days ago

@ Karen Swenson
I think trump said it all yesterday when he had to ask all his stooges what kind of mood he was in when he blew off the infrastructure meeting the day before and then declared himself a "stable genius". Like trump and milli, if you have to declare it to the world, maybe you're not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

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Rhoberta E
Rhoberta E23 days ago

@ Karen Swenon
As I stated, just consider the source . Milli is JUST like trump. When brains elude her/ him, just name call and become all around obnoxious by focusing on another bright shiny object.
In another way she's just like brian f who constantly states that X, Y or Z is more intelligent that the one he is ragging on.
One thing I have learned in my "old age" is that NONE of us are so intelligent that there aren't things still to learn. I am open to learn new things daily but milli seems to have stopped at "She's smarter than the average bear and everyone else is wrong" Sometimes that "bear" learns the hard way.
Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend remembering all those who look after the US in service and beyond.

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Karen Swenson
Karen S23 days ago

@Milli--Stop being such a hateful child. You certainly did insult me and Rhoberta E. Intelligence is part of all of us. It doesn't exist somewhere in another dimension, or in a land far, far away! Reading your snotty posts, anyone could see that YOU are the HATEFUL one, Milli.

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Annabel Bedini
Annabel Bedini23 days ago

Dan B
Of course I understand what you are saying. I haven't time to read back all Susanne R.'s links but it seemed to me they were doing exactly what you say, though I'm probably wrong.

Susanne R
Thank you for that excellent article. I just wish it were read by the people who NEED to read it (sorry to shout, but you understand why!). In these days we are having the European elections with a real fear that the far right, anti-immigrant parties will win too many seats in the European Parliament. Italy's Matteo Salvini endlessly spouts completely fabricated data on the crimininality of immigrants and those who try to tell the truth are not believed. It's a tragic and dangerous situation.

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Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld24 days ago

Annabel B.,
The difference between the studies is that the Texas study actually differentiated between native-born American, legal immigrants and illegal immigrants with regards to individual criminal activity. The other studies lumped together either all immigrants or all criminal activity. It is not that I am disputing the findings (as they arrived at similar conclusions). It is just that one study shows definitively evidence, while the other just show inferences. [This is the Galileo syndrome; even though he knew we was right, he could not supply proof, and was rejected by the established astronomers.] This is especially evident when examining a small subset of the total. Undocumented immigrants make up such a small percentage of the total that their influences can be overwhelmed by the trends of the majority. Assuming the larger trends apply to the entirety of the population, and consequently, a small minority, is poor science. In the Texas case, not only were they differentiated, but they represented a larger percentage of the total, and garnered better statistics.

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Susanne R
Susanne R24 days ago

Dan B. - (Continued...)
This is hardly surprising since immigrants come to the United States to pursue economic and educational opportunities NOT available in their home countries and to build better lives for themselves and their families. As a result, they have little to gain and much to lose by breaking the law. Unauthorized immigrants in particular have even more reason to NOT run afoul of the law given the risk of deportation that their lack of legal status entails. But the terminological sleight-of-hand inherent in the government's definition of "criminal alien" perpetuates and exacerbates the fallacy of a link between immigration and crime.

As renowned psychologist Abraham H. Maslow wrote many years ago, "It is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail." The blunt weapon that is the U.S. immigration-enforcement apparatus is being wielded against a widening swath of the immigrant community, regardless of their ties to this country, regardless of whether or not they are actually criminals. It is long past time for U.S. immigration policies to accurately reflect the DIVERSITY and COMPLEXITY of immigration to this country, based not on a reflexive politics of FEAR and MYTH, but on sound analysis and empirical evidence."

https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/criminalization-immigration-united-states

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Susanne R
Susanne R24 days ago

Dan B. - (Continued...)
As a result, immigrants have the stigma of “criminality” ascribed to them by an ever-evolving assortment of laws and immigration-enforcement mechanisms. Put differently, immigrants are being defined more and more as THREATS. Whole new classes of "felonies' have been created which apply only to immigrants, deportation has become a punishment for even MINOR offenses, and policies aimed at trying to end unauthorized immigration have been made more PUNITIVE rather than more RATIONAL and PRACTICAL. In short, immigrants themselves are being criminalized.

Each year, billions upon billions of dollars are spent on border and interior enforcement, while hundreds of migrants die in the deserts and mountains of the southwest trying to cross into the country from Mexico-sometimes while trying to reach their families in the United States. These are tragedies that could be prevented-if only CONGRESS would choose to inject proportionality, discretion, and a little humanity back into the immigration system.

While lawmakers repeatedly justify their crackdown on immigrants as a means of fighting crime, the reality is that crime in the United States is not caused or even aggravated by immigrants, REGARDLESS of their LEGAL STATUS. This is hardly surprising since immigrants come to the United States to pursue economic and educational opportunities not available in their home countries and to build better liv

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