“The Wall that Speaks, Sings, and Shouts” (La Pared Que Habla, Canta y Grita): Paul Botello with Adalberto Ortiz, Agerardo Herrera, Gustavo Sanchez (2001) Ruben Salazar Park: 3864 Whittier Blvd., East Los Angeles
By Chiraag Bains,* The Marshall Project (non-profit journalism about criminal justice), February 28, 2017
Immigrants may actually bring down crime in areas where they live.
“President Donald Trump campaigned promising a return to ‘law and order.’ Since taking office, he has attempted to fulfill that promise through policies that have been criticized as being thin on substance and out of touch with crime statistics. The president’s approach is misguided for another reason, however: he is targeting immigration as a driver of violent crime when it just might have the opposite effect.
Most recently, Trump’s secretary of homeland security issued memos providing for the expanded use of detention, wide-scale deportation and the immediate design and construction of a southern border wall — all in the name of public safety. To justify such measures, Trump and his supporters point to cases such as that of Kate Steinle, a young woman killed by an undocumented immigrant who already had been deported five times. While stories like Steinle’s are undeniably tragic [and illustrate the hazardous social and political consequences associated with the bias of anchoring, the availability heuristic, and group attribution error], when used this way they obscure rather than illustrate the broader truth regarding immigrants and crime.
A trove of empirical research contradicts the notion that immigrants are the violent criminal horde Trump makes them out to be. In fact, studies consistently show that they commit significantly less crime than native-born Americans, and although the data are difficult to untangle, this appears to be true of both authorized and unauthorized immigrants. Even more, new findings suggest that immigrants may actually cause crime to decline in the areas where they live.
In a study published recently in the Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice, researchers analyzed Census Bureau and Federal Bureau of Investigation crime data across 200 metropolitan areas in every census year from 1970 to 2010. After controlling for age, level of unemployment, labor market structure and other factors, the researchers found a reduction of almost five violent crimes per 100,000 residents for every 1 percent increase in the foreign-born population. Analyses of city- and neighborhood-level data in ‘gateway’ cities such as New York, Chicago, Miami and El Paso have similarly found that violent crime rates — homicide rates in particular — are not higher, but actually lower in areas with more immigrants. This might help explain how violent crime dropped 48 percent over the same period that our undocumented population grew from 3.5 million to 11.2 million.” [….] The rest of this piece is here.
* Chiraag Bains is a senior fellow at Harvard Law School’s Criminal Justice Policy Program and a Leadership in Government fellow with the Open Society Foundation(s). He was a federal prosecutor and senior official at the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division from 2010 to 2017.