Immigration and crime - Wikipedia
Immigration and crime refers to perceived or actual relationships between crime and immigration. The academic literature provides mixed findings for the relationship between immigration and crime worldwide, but finds for the United States that immigration either has no impact on the crime rate or that it reduces the crime rate. A meta-analysis of 51 studies from 1994–2014 on the relationship between immigration and crime in the United States found that overall immigration reduces crime, but the relationship is very weak. Research suggests that people tend to overestimate the relationship between immigration and criminality, and that the media tends to erroneously depict immigrants as particularly crime-prone.
The over-representation of immigrants in the criminal justice systems of several countries may be due to socioeconomic factors, imprisonment for migration offenses, and racial and ethnic discrimination by police and the judicial system. The relationship between immigration and terrorism is understudied, but existing research suggests that the relationship is weak and that repression of the immigrants increases the terror risk. Research on the relationship between refugee migration and crime is scarce, but existing empirical evidence fails to substantiate a relationship between refugee migration and crime.
Much of the empirical research on the causal relationship between immigration and crime has been limited due to weak instruments for determining causality. According to one economist writing in 2014, “while there have been many papers that document various correlations between immigrants and crime for a range of countries and time periods, most do not seriously address the issue of causality.” The problem with causality primarily revolves around the location of immigrants being endogenous, which means that immigrants tend to disproportionately locate in deprived areas where crime is higher (because they cannot afford to stay in more expensive areas) or because they tend to locate in areas where there is a large population of residents of the same ethnic background. A burgeoning literature relying on strong instruments provides mixed findings. As one economist describes the existing literature in 2014, “most research for the US indicates that if any, this association is negative... while the results for Europe are mixed for property crime but no association is found for violent crime”. Another economist writing in 2014, describes how “the evidence, based on empirical studies of many countries, indicates that there is no simple link between immigration and crime, but legalizing the status of immigrants has beneficial effects on crime rates.” A 2009 review of the literature focusing on recent, high-quality studies from the United States found that immigration generally did not increase crime and often decreased it.
The relationship between crime and the legal status of immigrants remains understudied but studies on amnesty programs in the United States and Italy suggest that legal status can largely explain the differences in crime between legal and illegal immigrants, most likely because legal status leads to greater job market opportunities for the immigrants. However, one study finds that the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 led to an increase in crime among previously undocumented immigrants.
Existing research suggests that labor market opportunities have a significant impact on immigrant crime rates. Young, male and poorly educated immigrants have the highest individual probabilities of imprisonment among immigrants. Research suggests that the allocation of immigrants to high crime neighborhoods increases individual immigrant crime propensity later in life, due to social interaction with criminals.
Some factors may effect the reliability of data on suspect rates, crime rates, conviction rates and prison populations for drawing conclusions about immigrants’ overall involvement in criminal activity:
Police practices, such as racial profiling, over-policing in areas populated by immigrants or in-group bias may result in disproportionately high numbers of immigrants among crime suspects.
Possible discrimination by the judicial system may result in higher number of convictions.
Unfavorable bail and sentencing decisions due to foreigners’ ease of flight, lack of domiciles, lack of regular employment and lack of family able to host the individual can explain immigrants’ higher incarceration rates when compared to their share of convictions relative to the native population.
Natives may be more likely to report crimes when they believe the offender has an immigrant background.
Imprisonment for migration offenses, which are more common among immigrants, need to be taken account of for meaningful comparisons between overall immigrant and native criminal involvement.
Foreigners imprisoned for drug offenses may not actually live in the country where they are serving sentences but were arrested while in transit.