In Some U.S. States, Crime Drops as Immigration Increases

Some of the ideas that some people have about immigration are based on confusion and fear rather than facts. For example, more immigrants inevitably means more crime, right? Think again. That kind of prejudice is being entirely debunked in 2017.

A research study released in June shows that California’s substantial decline in drug overdoses, gun violence, and juvenile crime actually parallels the increase in the state’s immigrant population. What we are learning is that more immigrants actually means less crime. How can that be?

According to a San Francisco-based non-profit, the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, the rate of violent crimes committed by young people in California dropped substantially in the years from 1980 through 2015, by 72 percent. In the same 35-year period, homicide arrests of urban youths in the state of California have declined by a remarkable 92 percent.

In those same 35 years, millions of immigrants arrived in the nation’s largest state – California – and a population that was two-thirds white non-Hispanic in 1980 has transitioned into a population that was about 60 percent nonwhite by 2015.

EXACTLY HOW HAS IMMIGRATION POPULATION CHANGED?

Since 1995, 3.4 million immigrants have arrived in California from a number of foreign nations. Also since 1995, two million U.S.-born residents, predominantly white, have emigrated out of the state. An estimated 2.6 million undocumented immigrants, mostly from Mexico and nations in Central America, now live in California, which became an all-minority state with no demographic majority in 1998.

The rest of the nation is projected to have no demographic majority by the 2040s. The author of the report, Mike Males, Ph.D., said his findings suggest that as diversity increases, it may be having a benign impact on crime statistics and public safety.

Males is a senior research fellow at the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. He writes, “California has demonstrated substantial gains in health and safety as its demographic composition has become more diverse and immigration has increased. The state’s experience shows that racial transition can accompany greater public safety and well-being, a reality that should impact the national discussion over immigration.”

From the 1950s through the 1970s, California was a state with extraordinarily high rates of drug overdoses and violent crime. As the population becomes diversified, states like California have seen a number of genuine improvements in public health and safety.

The state’s immigration experience shows that greater public safety and well-being is one of the lesser-known effects of rising immigration. The Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice report comes at a moment when the nation is engaged in a contentious political controversy over so-called “sanctuary” cities.

PRECISELY WHAT ARE SANCTUARY CITIES AND HOW CAN THEY HELP IMMIGRANTS?

Sanctuary cities are those cities where police officers do not ask persons about their immigration status and do not hold undocumented immigrants in custody for immigration authorities beyond their scheduled release dates.

The Trump Administration and Attorney General Sessions have announced that they will seek ways to withhold vital federal funding – as much as $4.1 billion in federal resources – from those cities and counties that have proclaimed themselves sanctuaries. Some of the cities have even created legal defense funds to assist those immigrants targeted by the raids now being conducted by immigration officials and the Trump Administration.

A number of police officials in those cities, however, understand that a “crackdown” on sanctuary cities and undocumented immigrants will backfire and eventually result in more crime, not less. Why? Because immigrants without sanctuary protection are often afraid to report crimes committed against them to the police, out of the fear that they will be discovered as undocumented and deported back to their home countries for their lack of documentation. In sanctuary cities, however, no one is afraid to report crimes for that reason. Crimes are routinely reported and investigated, and offenders are taken off the street.

The police officers in cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco (as well as other sanctuary cities like Chicago and Detroit) adhere to sanctuary-style policies that build trust and a spirit of cooperation with immigrant communities. When people in a community trust the police, that community is safer for all.

But without the information that immigrants can offer, police investigations can stall out, and crime goes up. The truth is that most undocumented immigrants have no criminal background, and they are statistically less likely to commit crimes than U.S.-born citizens. In its conclusion, the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice report says:

“That these sustained declines in crime, violence, and school dropout rates have been concentrated in the groups most impacted by immigration – Californians compared to those in other states, urban residents more than rural ones, younger age groups more than older age groups, and Asian and Latino populations more than populations with a lower proportion of recent immigrants – suggests that immigration may be contributing, in part, to reduced risk” for addiction, crime, and dropping out of school.

HOW DOES IMMIGRATION BENEFIT THE ECONOMY?

Immigrants don’t increase the crime rate in the United States. In fact, as immigrants arrive, crime drops. Immigrants are not a burden on the economy, either – that’s another prejudice that’s being debunked in 2017. Immigrants are vital to the U.S. economy and a key part of the workforce.

Many immigrants have invested in job-creating enterprises in the U.S. In 2010, undocumented immigrants paid over $8 billion in sales taxes, over $1.5 billion in property taxes, and over $1 billion in personal income taxes. Immigrants also contribute to the Social Security fund, and the law prevents undocumented immigrants from obtaining food stamps or other public benefits.

Many immigrants have worked hard and struggled for years to build hope in the United States for themselves and their families. If that hope is threatened in any way, an experienced Ohio immigration lawyer can help. An Ohio immigration lawyer can explain your legal situation and options, protect your rights, and guide you through any necessary legal procedures.

If you are an immigrant in the U.S. and you are dealing with any immigration matter, consult an experienced immigration attorney right away. If you are an immigrant in the United States, do not let a simple technicality or a misunderstanding destroy what you have worked for so long and so diligently.