Immigration and Crimes
Immigration and Crimes
During the first week of the former administration, DHS was directed to deport the majority of the illegal immigrants who had any type of brush with the law—even down to a traffic offense. That edict was based on the perception by many that one of the primary sources of criminal behavior in the United States is immigrants—legal and illegal alike. In fact, the actual numbers do not bear this belief out, and, in fact, legal immigrants to this country are significantly less likely to be serving time in jail or prison than natives, relative to the percentage of the population they represent. When talking of illegal immigrants, this group is also less likely to be spending time in jail or prison than natives to the country, relative to their percentage of the population.
Immigration and Crime in the State of Pennsylvania
Immigrants not only do not increase local crime rates, but they are also less likely to commit criminal offenses than U.S. natives. Since Pennsylvania is not a border town, there are fewer illegal immigrants in the state than in those states closer to the Mexico border. That being said, a significant portion of Pennsylvania’s population are legal immigrants. About one in 14 state residents is an immigrant, and one in 10 are entrepreneurs in the state.
As of 2016, the state of Pennsylvania had about 170,000 unauthorized immigrants in the state. Since much of Pennsylvania’s economy relies on the manufacturing industry, the growing migrant population is a benefit. The top five countries of origin for immigrants in Pennsylvania are India, Dominican Republic, China, Mexico, and Vietnam. More than half of the immigrants in the state of Pennsylvania had naturalized as of 2018, with many more eligible to become naturalized.
Do Illegal Immigrants Affect Nationwide Crime Rates?
The Secure Communities program studied how illegal immigrants affected local crime rates, finding that there was no significant effect on the levels of crime when there were illegal immigrants in the area. Nationwide, the statistics shake out as: In 2014 there were 2,007,502 natives incarcerated, 122,939 illegal immigrants, and 63,994 legal immigrants.
This translates to a 1.53 percent incarceration rate for natives, 0.85 percent for illegal immigrants, and 0.47 percent for legal immigrants. This means that illegal immigrants are actually 44 percent less likely to be incarcerated as natives, and legal immigrants are nearly 70 percent less likely to be incarcerated as natives.
Are Immigrants from Certain Countries More Likely to Be Incarcerated?
Keeping in mind that both illegal and legal immigrants are much less likely to be incarcerated as natives of the United States, for legal immigrants, those from Oceania, North America, and Latin American have the three highest incarceration rates. For illegal immigrants, those from Latin America have the second-highest rates of incarceration. Almost 90 percent of all immigrant prisoners—legal and illegal—are men—a number that is very similar to the rates of those native to the United States. Both native and illegal and legal immigrants who are incarcerated are less likely to have any college education.
Data from Texas Shines a Light on Immigration and Crime
The Texas Department of Public Safety keeps records of the immigration status of all arrestees throughout the state. Contrary to public perception, there were considerably lower felony arrest rates among undocumented immigrants compared to legal immigrants and native-born U.S. citizens. In fact, when compared to U.S.-born citizens, undocumented immigrants were more than 2 times less likely to be arrested for a violent crime, 2.5 times less likely to be arrested for a drug crime, and 4 times less likely to be arrested for a property crime. Between 2012 and 2018, the proportion of arrests involving undocumented immigrants in the state of Texas either remained stable or decreased.
Since Texas has the second-largest immigrant population in the United States with about 4.8 million foreign-born individuals, the data from Texas should tell the rest of the nation that as far as criminal offenses go, immigrants are not the problem. Texas is also the only state that requires determination and documentation of immigration status as a part of the standard criminal justice records practice. While many other states do include this information, it is not a requirement as it is in Texas—another reason the data from Texas should be convincing to those who believe immigrants commit more criminal offenses than native-born citizens.
The Debate on Undocumented Criminality
This past June (2020), the U.S. Supreme Court heard a case in which the U.S. Solicitor General sought to invalidate the “sanctuary” policies in the state of California. The theory behind this move was that illegal immigrants in the United States were disproportionately likely to commit crimes. These concerns, while baseless if you look at the research, have pushed the U.S. to spend more on immigration enforcement than all other principle criminal law enforcement agencies combined. This seems counterintuitive, considering immigrants are generally less prone to committing crimes than their native counterparts.
Immigrants Baselessly Blamed for Virtually Every Problem in the U.S.
Since 1911, these questions of immigrants and crime have been ongoing, even though from that time until now, data has made it clear that while immigrants are blamed for virtually every problem in the United States, this blame is wholly unjustified. Even though many studies have combined legal and undocumented migrants when calculating crime rates, when the two are separated, even unlawful immigrants still have a significantly lower rate of crime than native-born individuals.
Even when the incarceration rate for young illegal immigrants brought here as babies or children (Dreamers) is compared to that of young native-born Americans, the rates remain lower for the young undocumented migrants. These are children that, for all intents and purposes, are as American as native-born Americans, yet they still have a lower rate of criminal offenses and incarceration. Sociologists Ty Miller and Michael Light researched the issue, concluding that a higher illegal immigrant population does not increase violent crime rates.
Not only did a higher illegal immigrant population have little to no effect on violent crimes, but there were also significant reductions in drug arrests, drug overdose deaths, and DUI arrests in areas with higher concentrations of illegal immigrants. While the majority of the public understands the actions of some illegal immigrants does not mean the entire illegal immigration population is out committing criminal acts, politicians continue making baseless claims regarding immigrant crime as a method of stirring up their base.
Unlawful Immigrants Do Have a Higher Rate of Arrest—for Immigration Violations
One number commonly thrown around is that arrests of non-citizens by the U.S. Government account for 64 percent of all federal arrests. Those who like to quote this number fail to tell “the rest of the story.” Yes, 64 percent of all federal arrests are of unlawful immigrants—largely for violations of immigration, not for violent crimes. Across the nation, arrests of non-citizens for immigration offenses have risen 440 percent between 1998 and 2018. A full 95 percent of this increase of unlawful immigrants was due to immigration offenses.
There has been a significant shift in the demographics of the arrests of unlawful immigrants; In 1998 Central Americans accounted for less than 4 percent of all immigration arrests.
By 2018, that number was resting at 34 percent. Most of those in the federal system for immigration violations for the two decades between 1998 and 2018 were from Mexico—83 percent in 1998 and 60 percent in 2018. Unfortunately, a fact that is overlooked is that these immigrants are crossing the border to request asylum from countries that have failed them and are full of crime and poverty. While the word “gang” has been bandied about in relation to unlawful immigrants—particularly the Central American gang known as MS-13—in fact it is estimated there are about 10,000 members of MS-13 unlawfully in the United States currently—the same number as a decade ago.
Answers to Immigration Issues in the United States Remain Elusive
Congress has failed to agree on how immigration challenges should be met, including the issue of border security and undocumented immigration. Security, economic, and humanitarian concerns must all be weighed carefully. Today, the undocumented population is around 11 million, leveling off since the 2008 economic crisis which discouraged many immigrants from making the trip to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection stopped and/or apprehended about twice the number of people at the southern border in 2019 as in 2018, yet the numbers are still far below levels from prior years.
It is important to note that more than half of all undocumented immigrants have lived in the United States for more than ten years, and a full one-third are the parents of children born in the United States. Central Americans who are seeking asylum make up more and more of those crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, and may have different legal rights under an anti-human trafficking law than immigrants from Mexico. This spike in Central American migration has severely strained our current system, with as many as one million cases pending. For those undocumented immigrants currently residing in the state of Pennsylvania, an experienced immigration attorney can help determine the best path to citizenship, helping move the process along as quickly as possible.