Immigrants are more law-abiding by far, study finds
(transcribed from March 7, 2007 edition of El Reportero, p. 1)
"Contrary to public perceptions, crime rates for young, male immigrants are far below those of contemporaries born in the United States, reveals a study released Feb. 26 by the Washington, D.C.-based Immigration Policy Center.
Based on extremely low rates of criminal incarceration of immigrants, the report's findings are consistent with figures from similar past studies.
"The Myth of Immigrant Criminality and the Paradox of Assimilation: Native and Foreign-born Men" draws from 2000 census data. It was prepared by Dr. Ruben Rumbaut of the University of California, Irvine, and Dr. Walter Ewing on the CIS staff.
A large public element still believes otherwise, the authors note, observing that the immigrant-crime myth persists during a period when crime rates have gone down.
The study comes at a time when a number of states and localities are considering restrictive means unfavorable to immigrants, especially the undocumented, and using as justification false allegations quoted in the media that high crime rates are associated with immigrants.
In a telephone press briefing, Harvard researcher Robert Sampson told Weekly Report that the mistaken public attitude about immigrants and higher crime rates is part of a "red meat" issue used by politicians "Being tough on crime is very popular." It also helps explain why the United States has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world, he said. "There's a huge disconnect."
The report found that while the undocumented U.S. population has doubled to 12 million since 1994, violent crime had declined 34.2 percent and property crime was down 26.4 percent.
Men 18 to 39 years (comprising the major prison population) is five times higher among the U.S.-born than a thin .07 percent rate for the foreign-born.
Foreign-born Mexican men had incarceration rates eight times lower than native-born males of Mexican descent.
Foreign-born Salvadoran and Guatemalan men had a 0.5 percent rate, compared to the 3.0 percent of their counterparts who were born in the United States.
Rumbaut says in the report that the erroneous public opinion is fed by media anecdotes and popular myth. In fact, he emphasized, government commissions dating back to 1901 have shown repeatedly "immigration actually is associated with lower crime rates."
Asked by Weekly Report about coverage by Hispanic media, he stated, "By and large, they are not conveying this kind of sensationalized news."
He went on to explain, "I do see a significant difference in the coverage between Spanish-language and English-language media. I think it partly reflects the different constituencies they have."
The researchers concluded the risk of incarceration increases for immigrants and their children the longer they reside in this country.
The report reasoned that because many immigrants enter the country by overstaying visas and through unauthorized channels, their status "is framed as an assault against the 'rule of law.' That reinforces the notion that immigration and criminality are linked.