As Attorney General Jeff Sessions prepares to sue the state of California over its so-called “sanctuary state” policies, which prevent local authorities from complying with some requests by federal law enforcement agents, research suggests that crime and immigration may not be correlated. In fact, research shows that immigrants may commit fewer crimes overall. While crime rates in California remain low, some types of crime – notably, violent crime – have begun to see an upswing in recent years.
Attorney General Sessions, along with President Trump’s administration, have routinely linked crime with immigration, especially unlawful immigration. According to President Trump, “Many aliens who illegally enter the United States… present a significant threat to national security and public safety.” As California moves to protect its residents living in the state without proper documentation, its politicians disagree with the President that illegal immigrants are more likely to cause crime or commit crimes.
In the debate between the President and the country’s most populous state, evidence appears to back California’s position. In an analysis by the San Diego Union-Tribune, the results of three studies showed that immigrants committed less crime. According to one study, which analyzed incarceration demographics in 1980, 1990, and 2000, native-born individuals are anywhere from two to five times more likely to become incarcerated than immigrants. Speculating about the causes, the conservative-leaning CATO Institute said the severity of punishments, including likely deportation for minor crimes, may be the reason for the lower crime rate among immigrants.
California, a state flush with immigrants, is currently enjoying a historically low crime rate. However, violent crime is increasing throughout the state – a full 3.7% in just the last year, according to the newspaper. At 444 instances of violent crime per every 100,000 California residents, this is still a marginally low number – and a far cry from the rate of 1,104 violent crimes per 100,000 residents seen in the state when crime peaked in 1992. Some critics have retorted that the low crime rate is more likely caused by crime that increasingly goes unreported or criminal justice reform, which decriminalizes some types of formerly criminal behavior.
In contrast to the violent crime rate, California’s property crime rate fell roughly 3% last year. San Diego did not mirror the state’s crime trend with both the violent crime rate and property crime rate both dropping last year. Only Los Angeles County and Kern County saw an increase in both crime rates.
As further evidence that immigration does not cause an uptick in crime, the San Diego Union-Tribune cites the relative safety of border cities. If immigrants caused more crime, then cities with more immigrants, such as those on the border, should have higher crime rates. According to the newspaper, the opposite is true. Border cities are generally safer – both San Diego and El Paso, Texas are some of the safest cities in the country. Continue reading