Immigration and Crime

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Here’s Steve Chapman on some of the scaremongering anti-immigration activists are pushing in support of Arizona’s awful new law:

The state has an estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants. But contrary to myth, they have not brought an epidemic of murder and mayhem with them. Surprise of surprises, the state has gotten safer.

Over the last decade, the violent crime rate has dropped by 19 percent, while property crime is down by 20 percent. Crime has also declined in the rest of the country, but not as fast as in Arizona.

Babeu’s claim about police killings came as news to me. When I called his office to get a list of victims, I learned there has been only one since the beginning of 2008—deeply regrettable, but not exactly a trend.

Truth is, illegal immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native Americans. Most come here to work, and in their desire to stay, they are generally afraid to do anything that might draw the attention of armed people wearing badges.

El Paso, Texas, is next door to the exceptionally violent Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and easily accessible to illegal entry. Yet it is one of the safest cities in the United States.

In 2007, scholars Ruben Rumbaut and Walter Ewing investigated the issue for the Immigration Policy Center and concluded that “if immigrants suddenly disappeared and the country became immigrant-free (and illegal-immigrant free), crime rates would likely increase.”

I wrote about the “El Paso Miracle” last year. Immigrants—yes, even illegal ones—simply aren’t prone to crime. The process selects for people who want to make a better life for themselves and their families. Not generally the sort more likely to rape and murder. The bill will also likely make actual crime worse because it will make illegals much less likely to cooperate with police.

This part is interesting, too:

Massey says the number of people coming illegally has not risen appreciably in the last couple of decades. But the number staying has climbed, because anyone who leaves faces a harder task returning.

Had the government not cracked down at the border, he says, “the undocumented population would be half what it is now.” A fence intended to keep illegal immigrants out is serving beautifully to keep them in.


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75 Responses to “Immigration and Crime”

  1. #1 |  Robert | 

    Nick:

    Interestly enough, the last paragraph of your second link states:

    “Brooklyn’s 81st Precinct is currently being investigated by the NYPD “for manipulating statistics to make its cops look like better crimefighters,” the Daily News recently reported.

    Officers were reportedly told to record felonies as misdemeanors and to ignore complaints from crime victims in order to massage official statistics. One lieutenant has been given the sobriquet “The Shredder” because of his penchant for destroying documents.”

    Again, if the cops are massaging the numbers on crime statistics, who are we to believe when the reports are issued saying crime rates are down?

  2. #2 |  PW | 

    One more point to add: any effort to liberalize American immigration laws should also involve a sweeping bilateral liberalization of Mexico’s immigration and property ownership laws at the same time. It could be negotiated along similar lines as NAFTA, but apply strictly to immigration policies. If Mexico says no, then I see no reason why the United States should even bother with this issue any further.

    Mexico’s immigration laws are substantially more restrictive than the United States, and they have highly protectionist restrictions on property ownership by foreign nationals. This is an old article, but it summarizes the major parts:

    http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=14632

  3. #3 |  Zargon | 

    #44
    Also, the numbers you offered are based on total crime, not crime per 100K, which is a better measure.

    That is correct. That was an error on my end.

    Other confounding problems would include whether or not illegitimate possession crimes are being included, and how much the stats are being juked by the individual departments. Additionally, the more non-citizens there are in AZ, the better the real picture becomes for them, per 100K, so if there’s more in 2008 than 1998, that’s another bonus. However, I don’t think that’s a given, since pretty much everyone I know of who reports that information has an incentive to overestimate the immigrant problem.

    So I’d say it’s pretty hard or impossible to get a really accurate picture, but it seems clear enough to say that AZ isn’t in the midst of a crime wave prompted by illegals.

  4. #4 |  albatross | 

    If you’re worried about manipulation of reports by police, isn’t the usual solution to look at the reported rates of murder? The argument I’ve always seen is that murders are extremely hard to “forget” by losing the paperwork, so while you might “forget” about a few assault cases or petty thefts, the victims’ dead bodies don’t fit so well into a paper shredder.

    Similarly, you could look at car insurance rates, or insurance industry statistics on car theft. That’s an independent channel from the police, and even if the local police “lose” the paperwork before reporting the crime to the justice dept., the insurance company gets a claim.

    Finally, I believe the BJS includes victim survey data, in which random people are surveyed and asked if they’ve been victims of crime. Aren’t those broken down by state? That would give another independent measure of the rate of crime in AZ vs. other places.

  5. #5 |  Kidseven | 

    So nice to see so many Agitator readers having at least some problem with unchecked illegal immigration. I’m sympathetic to most libertarian principals, but illegal immigration and a welfare state simply aren’t compatible. It’s an old argument, but I think the “country being like a family” analogy is still a good one. I need to have some control over who moves into my home if I’m going to run a successful household.

  6. #6 |  Nick | 

    “Nick:

    Interestly enough, the last paragraph of your second link states:

    Officers were reportedly told to record felonies as misdemeanors and to ignore complaints from crime victims in order to massage official statistics….

    Again, if the cops are massaging the numbers on crime statistics, who are we to believe when the reports are issued saying crime rates are down?”

    I agree. Government is not a credible source of information (especially when it comes to statistics). It’s a moot point though. Even if I had access to accurate statistics, it would have no effect on my opinion about immigration. My view on immigration is based on property rights and the axiom of non-aggression.

  7. #7 |  PW | 

    #56 – There is an overlooked yet indisputable property rights issue deriving from immigration debate in the form of trespass. The physical act of illegally entering a country almost always involves an act of trespass across the private property of another person.

    Ask the farmers along the southern border, and they will generally tell you that this trespass is unwanted, inconveniencing, and at times even dangerous, as with smugglers and criminal cartels who often use the same routes to enter the United States. At the very least this trespass frequently results in litter on private property, vandalism of their fences and buildings, theft of their crops and water, and a general nuisance of traffic and its associated costs where it is neither wanted by nor re-compensated to the land owner.

    If we start from the fundamentally libertarian premise that one of the few actual legitimate functions of the state is the protection and enforcement of private property rights, then it becomes a necessary and irrefutable conclusion that the current federal immigration policy is failing to fulfill this function. Private property owners are having their land trespassed upon, and virtually no meaningful recourse from the state against those who illegally trespass upon it.

    Now in some cases it may be argued that a minor trespass is outweighed by other factors in the grander scheme of things. But if I am a property owner, it is my right by definition to control who may enter, use, and exit my property. And it is equally reasonable for me to expect that the state will uphold and protect this right under the law, and upon my asking prosecute those who infringe upon it just as they prosecute those who would burglarize my house or steal my car.

    And the failure of the government to protect that private property right so is not the cause for celebration that some around here seem to think it is.

  8. #8 |  Some of my thoughts on Immigration - LONG post! - Page 2 - INGunOwners | 

    […] by 20 percent. Crime has also declined in the rest of the country, but not as fast as in Arizona. Immigration and Crime | The Agitator El Paso is one of the safest big cities in the US if you are to believe reported crime data. The […]

  9. #9 |  Some of my thoughts on Immigration - LONG post! - Page 3 - INGunOwners | 

    […] by 20 percent. Crime has also declined in the rest of the country, but not as fast as in Arizona. Immigration and Crime | The Agitator El Paso is one of the safest big cities in the US if you are to believe reported crime data. The […]

  10. #10 |  bobzbob | 

    “Truth is, illegal immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native Americans”

    Shouldn’t that be “illegal immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than the descendants of previous generations of immigrants?”

  11. #11 |  Nick | 

    “There is an overlooked yet indisputable property rights issue deriving from immigration debate in the form of trespass.”

    I agree but I find it’s almost always overlooked by those favoring state control of immigration. A property owner has every right to expel a trespasser from their property, by force if necessary. In our current system, where the state has a monopoly on law enforcement and the costs are socialized, that property owner also has every right to ask the police to protect his property rights.

    But that’s only half of it. Just as a property owner has the right to deny an individual entry to their property, they also have the right to allow any individual entry to their property (regardless of where that person came from). If my friend from Mexico and I decide it would be mutually beneficial for him to come live on my property, to tell me it is not allowed or will only be allowed if some men with guns give both of us permission is to deny me my property rights.

  12. #12 |  dobropet | 

    Seeing all these responses proves this is truly a diversified problem:

    http://www.judicialwatch.org/blog/2010/apr/mexico-migrant-abuse-human-rights-crisis

    Maybe the annexation of Mexico is a possiblility (remembering this suggestion from another article).

  13. #13 |  Guido | 

    Shame on white people.

    Disclaimer: I’m white.

  14. #14 |  PW | 

    “A property owner has every right to expel a trespasser from their property, by force if necessary.”

    Except they don’t really. Our lunatic-driven tort system and its far left enablers who look to illegal immigrants as a prospective political bloc have essentially made it the case that a person who uses force to defend his property in such a manner is simply inviting a costly lawsuit.

    As to asking law enforcement to do its job (which is also one of the very few legitimate jobs it has), what do you think they’ve been doing all these years? The border ranchers have been pleading with the feds for more border patrol, and in Arizona they are clamoring behind this new law, misguided though it may be. But it’s also the product of begging for help to enforce their property rights for years and getting jack squat.

    But it’s often worse than jack squat. For simply insisting that their property rights be respected, they are routinely tarred as racists by the left and generally overlooked as inconsequential complainers with comparatively trivial grievances by open border libertarians.

    You are also absolutely right that a rancher should be able to allow people – including those from another country – to cross his property if he so chooses. But the majority of them do not so choose. The problem we have right now is that virtually nobody on the pro-immigration side of the debate gives a shit that their inherent right to control access to their own private property is being trampled upon and the government isn’t doing a damn thing to stop it.

    With that in mind, I submit that there are three basic conditions that libertarians should demand be met BEFORE we should even begin to consider whether to open up our borders:

    1. End the welfare state, or at least open access to it among the immigrant population.

    2. Insist that Mexico adopt a bilateral and equally comprehensive liberalization of its own immigration laws, which are far worse than ours.

    3. Recognize the inherent right of private property among those who own land along the border and either fulfill the state’s function of enforcing that right or enable them the unquestioned right to enforce it themselves without constant fear of political harassment and abusive lawsuits.

  15. #15 |  Straybeat in Phoenix | 

    PW, in Arizona you are allowed to shoot anyone within your property line that you deem a threat to you or your property. Now of course a court might decide otherwise, but you have the option nonetheless.

    One caveat, I did live in Florida for a couple of years and they might have repealed this while I was gone, but I never heard about it if they did?

  16. #16 |  Guido | 

    scott in PHX
    “So stay in LA if you lilke but we in AZ have made our decision, and the fewer Californians that come here the better.”

    You had me at hello.

  17. #17 |  Bob | 

    Frankly Balko, your immigration stance is asinine. What Exactly don’t you understand about them being ‘ILLEGAL’ ???
    This article is stupid. Why don’t we just fire all the cops and move in a few thousand illegals. Then crime will disappear, right?
    Do yourself (and us) a favor and print the Mexican policy on illegal aliens in their country. THEY ARREST YOU OR KICK YOU OUT. But we shouldn’t do the same? Liberals like you are what has killed this country.

  18. #18 |  Werner | 

    I get tired of people saying “respect has to be earned”. We are not talking about anything more than the right to exist and be left alone by government busy bodies. If borders did not exist then social welfare would have to be organized differently, in other words so that people wouldn’t have to run from one low wage rat hole to another.

  19. #19 |  Guido | 

    @ Bob
    Why do hate freedom?

  20. #20 |  Nick | 

    “A property owner has every right to expel a trespasser from their property, by force if necessary.”

    Except they don’t really.

    Yes, they do. Just because a group of criminals who call themselves “the government” are willing to use force to prevent you from or punish you for exercising that right, does not mean that you don’t have it. Yours is an argument for ending the state’s monopoly on law enforcement and the court system, not an argument to restrict the property rights of others.

  21. #21 |  PW | 

    Tell ya what, Nick. Why don’t you go out and try to “exercise” that “right” for yourself then. Go shoot the next person who trespasses on your property. Then go tell the court that you were simply defending your property. And tell the warden at the prison they send you to that he must release you for simply defending your property.

    I’m not saying you shouldn’t have that right, but the simple reality is far from it. And that brings your analysis of the property rights argument to something else in common with your take on the immigration problem: both are utterly impractical.

  22. #22 |  Kevin | 

    I believe there is a way to deal with the issue of immigration without going at it to this extreme. It’s easy to make the case that the law is getting rid of illegals…but what about the civil rights of us who are here legally and get “profiled by local police”. That’s what my beef with the whole thing. How will police be able to spot illegals without “racial profiling”. Any other argument is baseless, because I’m interested to see how the hell they will make this work without infringing on my rights, and your rights. Because the way I see it, the police will not looking for European illegals (I have met one before…true story), there focus is…Brown…Black…Accent…No English…cuff em.

    Also, didn’t conservatives/gop/republicans want less government interference. Now you want government interference, I wish you people make up your minds. Or just admit that your bitter about the ass kicking in the presidential election. So I’m gonna sit back and see how this plays out…and pray I don’t get my rights violated because of my skin color. No I will not be carrying my birth certificate (I have no idea where it’s at). Just my drivers license. And once I get stopped for “suspicion” and not speeding…I will have my lawyer available via On-Star speed dial.

  23. #23 |  Nick | 

    “Tell ya what, Nick. Why don’t you go out and try to ‘exercise’ that ‘right’ for yourself then. Go shoot the next person who trespasses on your property. Then go tell the court that you were simply defending your property. And tell the warden at the prison they send you to that he must release you for simply defending your property.

    I’m not saying you shouldn’t have that right, but the simple reality is far from it.”

    Did you read my comment? In that comment, I acknowledged that there is a “group of criminals who call themselves ‘the government’ [that] are willing to use force to prevent you from [exercising that right] or punish you for exercising that right”. Why would you repeat this point as if it rebutted something I said? I’m also getting the feeling you think property rights are something that come from government.

    “And that brings your analysis of the property rights argument to something else in common with your take on the immigration problem: both are utterly impractical.”

    I see where you’re confused. My view isn’t utilitarian, it’s ethical. It’s pretty simple, I’m saying that aggression is never justified. You’re saying that, in this case, aggression is justified because solving the actual problem (welfare state, gov’t not recognizing property rights, etc.) is not “practical”. It’s kind of ironic because the welfare-statists also believe aggression is justified, albeit for different reasons.

  24. #24 |  Dennis Lee Wilson | 

    I note with interest—especially in the comments—the many calls for “respect the law” and “enforce the law” and “make the Feds do their job”. However, because ALL these Federal “laws”, rules, restrictions and regulations are themselves ILLEGAL, the solution is NOT reform but immediate REPEAL!

    THAT would be true “enforcement of the law” and true “respect for the law”! The Constitution is SUPPOSED TO BE the supreme law of the country.

    As I stated in my 2007 article by the same name: “Immigration control is UN-Constitutional!”

    REALLY! It is TRUE! The US Constitution does NOT AUTHORIZE immigration control! Check it out at http://tinyurl.com/yeyd7kq

    As for open immigration being “incompatible with the modern welfare state”, I addressed the error of THAT argument in detail in my 2006 article “Ask the Right Question” at http://tinyurl.com/law9vz in which I show (among other things) that government employees are not doing the job of qualifying the citizenship status of recipients which—by their own laws & regulations–they are supposed to do.

    And, for those who may be interested, I also address the alleged trespass issue, its true cause, and show the fallacy of the analogy that your home is like “your” country. Too long to post here.

  25. #25 |  Legal Articles | 

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