a bird and a bottle

Rethinking the Illegal Immigration – Crime Connection
December 2, 2006, 10:44 pm
Filed under: criminal justice, law, news, politics

Eyal Press, the Nation contributing writer who recently published his book Absolute Convictions, about his father’s work as a doctor providing abortions in Buffalo, NY, has a really interesting article in today’s NY Times Magazine. The article explores whether there is any connection between illegal immigration and crime rates, and, if there is such a correlation, whether illegal immigration creates crime or depresses it. Though the article doesn’t come down definitively on either side, it highlights some important new research pointing to an unexpected conclusion: illegal immigration may bring down crime rates.

Despite many Americans’ perception that the presence of undocumented workers – mostly from Mexico – creates crime, recent studies show that the opposite may be true. Though no one is sure exactly why this is the case, Robert J. Sampson, the chair of Harvard’s sociology department, posits that it’s connected to the nature of social interactions in these communities: shared caregiving responsibilities, eyes on the street, and high rates of marriage. Whatever, the reason, the numbers are powerful – studies show that the rate of violence aomong Mexican-Americnas (documented and undocumented immigrants) is lower than among both non-Hispanic whites and blacks. For people concerned about this country’s increasingly vitriolic rhetoric about immigration, this is good news. It takes away one important piece of ammunition from anti-immigrant forces, which have long tried to link illegal immigration to crime in order to scare people away from supporting humane and open immigration laws.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is this: the U.S. seems to be so good at assimilation that by the second, and especially by the third generation, the crime rate among Mexican-Americans catches up to their white and African-American peers. As Press reports, the Alejandro Protes and Ruben Rumbaut, two sociologists, found that as Mexican-Americans are exposed to racial and economic discrimination, their behavior begins to mirror that of other inner-city kids. Some have labeled it “downward assmilation.”

So what are we to make of all this? I’m sure that people who want to can spin the statistics to make it look like there is some direct connection between undocumented immigration and violent crime. But that’s not really what the numbers say. From the studies, it appears that it’s not immigration that causes crime but Americanization.

And that is much harder to fix.


1 Comment so far
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this is the most pussy collection of words ive read in a long time…. get these illegal little bean farmers out of my country..

Comment by gary hinkle

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