Friday, August 22, 2008

Are Illegal Mexican Immigrants Causing a Crime Wave?

In any discussion of the immigration issue, someone is bound to mention all the crime committed by illegal immigrants. Likewise, if the discussion is about crime, someone will always bring up illegal immigration as a cause. In Nashville, we have had several news stories in the last few years in which illegal immigrants were perpetrators of horrific crimes. There is a perception that illegal Mexican immigrants commit a lot of crime and should be feared. It may be considered "common knowledge," but it is completely untrue that illegal immigrants are causing a crime wave in America.

First, people are simply wrong in thinking we have a crime wave. Violent crime has been steadily declining since 1993, and in 2005 it reached its lowest level ever recorded. Property crime has been on a downward trend since 1973. Within the last two years, there has been a slight increase in crime. It is still too early, however, to say the downward trend is reversing or even leveling off. One can certainly not conclude we are experiencing a "crime wave." For some reason, it seems like people simply do not like good news; they always want to believe things are "worse than ever." In regards to crime, as in many other areas of life, we have never had it so good. When it comes to crime, these are the "good ol’ days." (To see crime stats go to: Bureau of Justice)

Secondly, immigrants, whether legal or illegal, are more law abiding than your average citizen. The article posted below from the Arizona Star examines a study on the issue of crime and immigration. It concludes that the statistics do not support the widely held belief that greater immigration means more crime. Another article published in the current issue of Newsweek, also posted below, examines immigration and crime. It finds that the safest American cities are cities with many of immigrants.

It is surprising that immigrant crime is as low as it is. Crimes are most typically committed by young, single men; Among immigrants, there are more young, single men than compared to the general population. Because of this, it seems like one should expect the crime rate among immigrants to be higher, not lower. This does not intend to imply, however, that illegal immigration is problem-free. Like most people, I believe we need to control our borders, and we need to know who is in our country. We need to address the immigration issue. We have a problem with immigration, but this does not mean we should let myths become common knowledge. We must also guard against nativistic bigotry, which may keep us from thinking logically about the important issue of immigration.

Some will say all illegal immigrants are criminals because they committed the crime of entering the country illegally. This statement is clever, but we know that the misdemeanor crime of illegal-entry into the country is not what people are talking about when they complain about crime committed by immigrants.

With all of this said however, one area that is of legitimate concern is the high incidence of drunk driving by illegal, Hispanic immigrants. While hard numbers on this issue are hard to find, it seems undeniable this is a serious problem. Exactly why though is not clear. Possibly there are no social stigmas, or perhaps no strict DUI laws established or enforced, within their country of origin. Maybe they are unaware of American, DUI laws. What ever the reason, there does seem to be a DUI problem associated with Hispanic, illegal immigrants, and the DUI laws should be strictly enforced. In Nashville, the Sheriff now has the authority to act as an enforcer of immigration law. As a result, an arrest for drunk driving could lead to the deportation of the caught illegal immigrant. I feel this is a positive development.

Illegal immigrants may be know to have too many cars parked on the lawns of single, family homes. They may violate housing codes by having too many people share an apartment. But when it comes to violent crime, it is a myth that illegal immigrants are responsible for an increase in American crime rates.

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  1. I'm perfectly okay with illegal immigrants getting citizenship if they can prove that they can be helpful to society. There are plenty of gangbangers crossing the borders though and we'd definetely be better off without them. I do believe that most immigrants come here to find a better life though.

  2. Who cares for a better life for them all they do is try to KILL us...