Immigration and Crime

This New York Times article discusses the current politics of immigration in Italy—in particular, new measures to crack down on illegal immigrants, who are believed to increase the crime rate. In a 2002 survey, respondents in Italy and 19 other European nations were asked whether immigration tended to improve or worsen crime. In a 2005 survey, this same item was asked of an American sample. Respondents gave their answers along a 0-10 scale. Here are the percent who gave an answer on the “worsen crime” side of the scale:


In almost every country, a majority of respondents believed that immigrants worsened crime. Interestingly, both Americans and Italians were less likely to say this than were respondents in most other nations. Forty-eight percent of Americans said that immigration worsened crime, as did 61% of Italians. These surveys also asked about the consequences of immigration for the government revenue and services and for national culture. On average, respondents were more concerned about the consequences for crime than for these other areas. Jack Citrin and I discuss these and other results in this paper.

The measures recently proposed in Italy have garnered the support of a majority of Italians:

Do you support or oppose each of these measures?
Allowing citizens from other EU countries to stay in Italy for more than three months only if they have enough income and inform the authorities of their whereabouts, and provide their name and address: 63% support.
Expropriating the houses that are rented to illegal immigrants: 58% support.
Allowing immigrants to reunite with their relatives only after a DNA test has been performed: 56% support.

More survey data are here (US only) and here (US and abroad).

Here is a study by Rubén G. Rumbaut and colleagues about crime among immigrants in the United States. One of its findings is this:

The finding that incarceration rates are much lower among immigrant men than the national norm, despite their lower levels of education and greater poverty, but increase significantly over time in the United States for those who arrived as children and especially among the second generation, suggests that the process of “Americanization” can lead to downward mobility and greater risk of involvement with the criminal justice system for a significant minority of this population.

7 Responses to Immigration and Crime

  1. J from Wpg June 26, 2008 at 10:38 pm #

    Would the rates of criminal activity of the children of immigrants have to do with the lack of baby-sitting/day care options open to their parents? Are the parents working such long hours that the children are unsupervised for too long?

    If so, the solution is to let MORE of the family immigrate, so that the grandparents, aunts, etc can babysit.

  2. willie June 26, 2008 at 11:28 pm #

    Fascinating. Backs up my theory that, although racism is evident in the United States, it is nowhere near as bad here as it is elsewhere.

    Thank you for the post, especially the Rumbaut reference.

  3. indy June 27, 2008 at 8:49 am #

    I find it interesting that the article talks about ILLEGAL immigration; but the survey respondents are only asked about ‘immigration’ which I would assume means LEGAL immigration. The survey needs to distinguish between the two to give an accurate picture of information.

  4. zeezil June 27, 2008 at 9:53 am #

    If the illegality of illegal immigration and the tremendous cost burden to American taxpayers, our economy, our society and our culture doesn’t infuriate you, then look over just a few studies that put illegal alien crime in focus:

    (1) Violating the immigration law is a CRIME
    (2) Forging documents is a FELONY CRIME
    (3) Passing forged documents is a FELONY CRIME
    (4) Stealing ID is a FELONY CRIME
    (5) Using stolen ID is a FELONY CRIME

    A US GAO study found in a study population of 55,322 illegal aliens incarcerated, on average, each had been arrested 8 times for a total arrest figure of at least 459,614 times. If that isn’t astounding enough, these 55,322 illegals in the study population had been arrested for committing 700,000 criminal offenses, which averages 13 crimes per illegal alien. So, each illegal alien incarcerated had been arrested 8 times and had committed at least 13 crimes.

    According to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, in 2005, 25% of prisoners in federal prisons were illegal aliens, and 4% were legal aliens. This proportion has not gone down; if anything, it has gone up markedly. Tom DeWeese, President of the American Policy Institute states that today, illegal aliens make up twenty nine percent of the U.S. prison population. Bill O’Reilly is on record more recently stating that illegal aliens account for 32% of the federal and state prison population.

    The US Justice Department reported that in 2003, alone, 270,000 illegal immigrants had served prison time. The Federation for American Immigration Reform reports: “In March 2000, Congress made public Department of Justice statistics showing that, over the previous five years, the INS had released over 35,000 criminal aliens instead of deporting them. Over 11,000 of those released went on to commit serious crimes, over 1,800 of which were violent ones; including 98 homicides, 142 sexual assaults, and 44 kidnappings. In 2001, thanks to a decision by the Supreme Court, the INS was forced to release into our society over 3,000 criminal aliens who collectively had been convicted of 125 homicides, 387 sex offenses, and 772 assault charges.”

    According to the well-respected U.S. Center for Immigration Studies (, incarcerated convicted illegal aliens make up 29 percent of federal, state and local prisons at a cost of more than $1.6 billion annually. This number doubles when the costs for apprehension, the justice system, public defenders, interpreters, prosecutors and the courts add to the total.

    Illegals represent about 8 percent of Arizona’s population and the Arizona Department of Corrections reports that Mexican nationals make up 12 percent of the state’s 37,200-inmate prison population.

    Undocumented aliens, mostly from Mexico and Central America, now total 1953 inmates in the Maricopa County Sheriff’s jail system. That number represents 21 percent of the overall inmate population of men and women housed in the nation’s third largest jail system. Sheriff Joe Arpaio says that is just small part of the story about those incarcerated in his jails. He says that recent figures show that serious crime (class four felonies and above) are committed substantially by illegal aliens. During two recent surveys, between 27 and 53 percent of all suspects booked into the jail on serious felonies had immigration holds placed on them. The vast majority of those with holds were in the United States illegally. According to the Sheriff’s figures, illegal alien inmate population numbers have grown steadily in Arizona and other border states over the last several years. In March 2005, the illegal alien population in Arpaio’s jails totaled approximately 700. (Borderfire Report 2/28/08 )

    A new study shows one in five inmates in North Carolina metropolitan jails were not born in this country. The Sheriff’s Association believes a large number of those inmates are here illegally as well. (News 14 Carolina 2/21/08 )

    Members of Utah’s Congressional delegation contacted DHS Secretary Chertoff requesting an additional 22 ICE agents for deportations and to investigate crimes perpetrated by undocumented immigrants. “Our jails are full. The crime rates continue to increase, and we can no longer let this problem escalate,” reads one of the letters, signed by Utah’s two senators and three representatives. Numerous illegal aliens are committing crimes in Utah communities with virtual impunity,” The state now has 25 such agents. (Salt Lake Tribune, 03/05/2008 )

    The conservative Federation for Immigration Reform contends that while illegal immigrants made up 3 percent of the total U.S. population in 2003 they made up 5 percent of the total prison population.

    The Violent Crimes Institute conducted a study in 2006 that determined there were more than 100 sex offenders crossing our southern border daily. Data indicates that there are approximately 240,000 illegal immigrant sex offenders in the United States who have had an average of four victims each, totaling over one million sex crimes.

    Illegal aliens are killing more Americans than the Iraq war, says a report from Family Security Matters that estimates some 2,158 murders are committed every year by illegal aliens in the U.S. The group says that number is more than 15 percent of all the murders reported by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the U.S. and about three times the representation of illegal aliens in the general population.

    The report from FSM estimates that the 267,000 illegal aliens currently incarcerated in the nation are responsible for nearly 1,300,000 crimes, ranging from drug arrests to rape and murder. Such statistics debunk the claim that illegal immigration is a victimless crime.

    Crimes committed by alien criminals costs U.S. taxpayers $1.6 billion in prison costs alone. The figure doesn’t include the cost of lost property, medical bills of the victims, lost work time for injury recovery, higher insurance costs, etc. –Tom DeWeese, President of American Policy Institute.

    In Los Angeles, 95 percent of all outstanding warrants for homicide (which total 1,200 to 1,500) target illegal aliens. Up to two-thirds of all fugitive felony warrants (17,000) are for illegal aliens. The Illegal-Alien Crime Wave: City Journal, winter 2004

    One thing that is never even mentioned by the champions of the illegal aliens nor is factored into any crime studies is the fact that ALL illegal aliens have a 3 – 5 crimes committed head start on American citizens (see the 5 point list above).

    Do you ever hear an acknowledgement from the illegal alien facilitators of the more than 50,000 Americans that have been killed by illegal aliens through murder, manslaughter and drunk driving just since 9/11/01? Of course not, that doesn’t fit within their pre-determined conclusion that illegals are only hard working economically displaced ‘migrants’ that regardless of the laws they break by entering, remaining and operating in America, are only here for a better life at the expense of no one. Excuse me for being cynical but I’ve seen the data, read the studies, considered the facts and seen the reality. If you haven’t done the same, I urge you to do so without delay.

    Furthermore, legalizing an illegal alien’s presence in America by rewarding their illegal behavior through amnesty is not the way to build a good system of law and order. It only invites more criminal activity and non-compliance with our laws.

    The central question for everyone, including the facilitators, illegal alien advocates, the ‘no human being is illegal’ compassion crowd, every legislator and RESPONSIBLE MEDIA REPORTERS is this…Why should even ONE American suffer a crime OF ANY SORT at the hands of an illegal alien? With border security and zero tolerance for illegal immigration, these crimes against our citizens are essentially 100% preventable.

    I urge you to view this video that puts the tragedy of illegal alien crime victims into perspective:

  5. frankcross June 27, 2008 at 9:13 pm #

    Immigration obviously increases crime. While immigrants commit few crimes, that is still a few more than otherwise would have existed. I’m assuming that they more infrequently prevent crimes, which seems likely to me.

    Having children also increases crime. Maybe not on a percentage basis but on an absolute basis.

    I haven’t heard though about those 50,000 killed by immigrants. And I’m not going to take the word of an anonymous blog commentator who can’t be bothered to give a source.

  6. Any Mouse June 28, 2008 at 12:02 pm #

    Bill O’Reilly is on record more recently stating that illegal aliens account for 32% of the federal and state prison population.

    Bill O’Reilly is also on record as wanting to massage falafel into an employee’s genitals.

    Can you just delete the drive-by spam and this comment?

  7. jjv June 29, 2008 at 2:36 pm #

    Does this compare immigrants to the same demographic set of native Americans? Immigrants tend to be younger and thus more crimogenic than “average americans.” However, just like people who make the effort to get a conceal carry permit tend to be more law abiding than the general public, I bet those who have stood through our onerous legal immigration process are regular Dudley Do-Rights.