I have an intuition that immigrants, contrary to Republican rhetoric, are going to be more law-abiding than those who take their citizenship for granted — I think if I were living in a foreign country, one where I was less confident about my rights, I’d be more cautious about breaking laws. That would be especially true if I were in a country where the police had a reputation for brutality.
But that’s just my feelings on the issue. Apparently a lot of Americans think the people who move here to do hard, menial labor in the farm fields or the poultry sheds are more prone to be criminals. If only there were objective studies of immigrants and crime rates…oh, there are? And there are no crime waves fueled by illegal immigrants? Gosh, I guess it’s nice to have one’s subjective opinions confirmed.
Now, four academic studies show that illegal immigration does not increase the prevalence of violent crime or drug and alcohol problems. In the slew of research, motivated by Trump’s rhetoric, social scientists set out to answer this question: Are undocumented immigrants more likely to break the law?
Michael Light, a criminologist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, looked at whether the soaring increase in illegal immigration over the last three decades caused a commensurate jump in violent crimes: murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.
“Increased undocumented immigration since 1990 has not increased violent crime over that same time period,” Light said in a phone interview.
You can read summaries of the other studies at the link. They all say the same thing: the myth of the predatory, criminal immigrant is imaginary.
But of course they also have to find a contrary view.
Ed Dykes, a local electrical engineer, says a crime committed by an undocumented immigrant is one too many.
“It’s actually immaterial whether they commit more crimes or not because they commit additional crimes,” Dykes says. “They are crimes that would not be committed. There are American citizens who’d be alive today if [unauthorized immigrants] were not in this country.”
So they found a guy with zero qualifications and no expertise at all in the sociology of immigration, and he disagrees. That’s about as relevant as my subjective opinions on immigrants. I do find something interesting about his comment, though: it’s a refocusing of the problem to concerns about individual crimes, rather than the aggregate behavior of a particular group. I think that is a valid perspective. We should be seeing this situation through the eyes of the individual victim and the individual criminal, because that’s how we address the breaking of laws, by trying the individual lawbreaker. That does say, though, that Ed ought not to be policing classes of people if he’s only concerned about individual acts.
Of course, from that perspective, there are more American citizens who’d be alive today if other American citizens had been properly investigated by law enforcement, rather than the law haring off after innocent people who happened to be brown-skinned, a fact irrelevant to the crime. It’s also a confusing argument to say it’s immaterial whether they commit more crimes or not — because if you replace a population having a certain frequency of crime with a different population that has a lower frequency, you will see fewer crimes committed.
Maybe Ed ought to stick to electrical engineering.