Undocumented Immigration and Rates of Crime and Imprisonment: Popular Myths and Empirical Realities
Invited Address to the “Immigration Enforcement and Civil Liberties: The Role of Local Police” National Conference, Police Foundation, Washington, DC, August 21-22, 2008.
22 Pages Posted: 3 Jul 2011 Last revised: 7 Jul 2011
Date Written: August 2008
This paper examines the relationship of contemporary immigration, including undocumented migration, to crime and imprisonment. First, at the national level, I analyze changes in the rates of violent crimes and property crimes during the years of the surge in immigration. Next I look at the incarceration rates of young men 18 to 39, comparing the foreign-born vs. the U.S.-born by national origin and by education, and, among the foreign-born, by length of residence in the United States. The analysis compares the rates of incarceration of foreign-born young men from nationalities the majority of whom are undocumented immigrants with less than a high school education (Mexicans, Salvadorans and Guatemalans) vs. the rates for other immigrant nationalities as well as for native ethnic majority and minority groups. Finally, I summarize the available empirical evidence from a wide range of other studies, compare it to prevailing public perceptions, and note their implications for criminological theory, research, and public policy.
Keywords: immigration, undocumented immigration, crime rates, incarceration rates, education, ethnicity, public opinion vs. empirical realities
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