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FACT & FICTION: Debunking myths about immigrants and refugees

  October 17, 2017

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August 10, 2017
“It’s a fact: Immigrants make communities safer”

The impact of immigration on every part of society is a topic consistently debated both in the news and on social media. As supporters of New Americans, the International Institute of New England (IINE) takes this opportunity to share facts and information that de-bunk distortions often heard in today’s social and political discourse – that undocumented immigrants and refugees pose a threat to public safety. In fact, it has been found that immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than native-born Americans. Below are just a few publications which aim to disprove this accusation. The myth that immigrants and refugees are more dangerous than U.S.-born citizens is just that – a myth.


1.Immigration & Public Safety Report – The Sentencing Project

Surveying key research on immigration and crime, this report from The Sentencing Project (a 30-year leader in criminal justice research) was designed to inform meaningful policy debate that is rooted in facts. It found a rigorous body of research supporting key conclusions about the recent impact of immigrants to the U.S:

  • Immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than native-born citizens.
  • Higher levels of immigration in recent decades may have contributed to the historic drop in crime rates.
  • Police chiefs believe that intensifying immigration law enforcement undermines public safety.
  • Immigrants are under-represented in U.S. prisons.

Policies that further restrict immigration are not effective crime-control strategies. These facts—supported by over 100 years of research— have been misrepresented both historically and in recent political debates. A century of research has shown immigrants do not threaten public safety. False statements about immigrant criminality only contribute to unfounded public fears that threaten the safety of BOTH immigrants and U.S. citizens. Improving public safety is a complicated question that cannot be addressed by scapegoating foreign-born residents, but rather by investing effective community-based solutions that address the true causes of crime.


2. Policymakers’ analysis shows negative correlation between immigrant communities and crime – by Governing Magazine

Using data from Pew Research, Governing Magazine – a trade journal for municipal policymakers – conducted a deep analysis of the correlation between immigrant communities and crime.

Among a large body of research, however, finds no link between immigration and high crime rates, with some studies suggesting places with more immigrants actually see slightly lower crime rates. Still, critics often contend that illegal immigration leads to more crime as research has generally failed to distinguish such individuals from the vast majority of legal immigrants who’ve been vetted by authorities.

To shed light on this contention, Governing conducted an analysis using recently released metro area population estimates from the Pew Research Center for “unauthorized immigrants” — people who crossed the border illegally or overstayed visas. The analysis not only found no link with violent crime, but indicated concentrations of unauthorized immigrants were associated with marginally lower violent crime rates. “There’s a long history in our country of immigrants being scapegoated for all sorts of things,” says Monica Varsanyi, a John Jay College of Criminal Justice associate professor. “They are easy targets.”


3. 40-year Data Analysis Illustrates Immigration Linked to Decrease in Crime
by Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice

In this analysis, investigators looked at the immigration-crime relationship among metropolitan areas over a 40 year period from 1970 to 2010. Their goal was to describe the ongoing and changing association between immigration and a broad range of violent and property crimes. Even in a period in which the United States underwent considerable economic and demographic changes, their results indicate that immigration is consistently linked to decreases in violent and property crime throughout the time period. This is strong and stable evidence that, at the macro-level, immigration does not cause crime to increase in U.S. metropolitan areas, and may even help reduce it.


Conclusion: If all this evidence exists that immigration status is not some kind of indicator for criminality, why is the administration so hyper-focused on making the connection between the two?



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