The Criminalization of Immigration in the United States
Washington, DC: American Immigration Council Special Report, July 2015
28 Pages Posted: 17 Jul 2015
Date Written: July 1, 2015
For more than a century, innumerable studies have confirmed two simple yet powerful truths about the relationship between immigration and crime: immigrants are less likely to commit serious crimes or be behind bars than the native-born, and high rates of immigration are associated with lower rates of violent crime and property crime. This holds true for both legal immigrants and the unauthorized, regardless of their country of origin or level of education. The overwhelming majority of immigrants are not “criminals” by any commonly accepted definition of the term. But immigration policy is often shaped more by fear and stereotype than by empirical evidence. As a result, immigrants have the stigma of “criminality” ascribed to them by an ever-evolving assortment of laws and immigration-enforcement mechanisms. Immigrants are being defined more and more as threats. Whole new classes of “felonies” have been created which apply only to immigrants, deportation has become a punishment for even minor offenses, and policies aimed at trying to end unauthorized immigration have been made more punitive rather than more rational and practical. In short, immigrants themselves are being criminalized.
Keywords: crime, immigration, criminalization, crimmigration, detention, deportation, immigration enforcement, xenophobia, ethnicity, race
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