As the 2016 election fast approaches, and in light of recent terror attacks, it is difficult to avoid the ever-increasing anti-immigrant rhetoric. Much of this rhetoric revolves around the misplaced presumption that immigrants are “criminals.” However, statistical studies indicate that, in the United States, “immigrants are far more law-abiding than natives, regardless of race, class or education.” Research Doesn’t Back a Link Between Migrants and Crime in U.S., The New York Times (Jan. 13, 2016).
Immigrants are often scape-goats for society’s issues, especially after events where foreigners are to blame. However, Walter A. Ewing, Rubén G. Rumbaut, and Daniel E. Martinez collaborated on a study using census and F.B.I. data to determine the accuracy of the belief that an influx of immigrants causes more crime. Ewing, Martinez, & Rumbaut, THE CRIMINALIZATION OF IMMIGRATION IN THE UNITED STATES (Jul. 2015). Among other things, the study found that in 1980, 1990, and 2000, native-born Americans were incarcerated at a rate of two to five times that of immigrants. It also found that, between 1990 and 2013, the foreign-born population almost doubled and the number of unauthorized immigrants more than tripled. However, violent crime decreased 48 percent, and property crime decreased 41 percent. The study also determined that immigrants are less likely to engage in antisocial behavior and less likely to be repeat offenders among “high risk” adolescents.
Despite these statistics, anti-immigrant stereotypes and prejudices remain engrained in United States society, and they are exaggerated during political years such as this one. Many legislators create immigration law and policy based on these stereotypes rather than on statistics. As the authors of the study state, the United States is in the middle of a “great expulsion” of non-violent and non-threatening immigrants, many of whom have extensive ties to the United States and have committed nothing more than traffic offenses.
As the 2016 election approaches, I encourage you to get to know your legislators, your neighbors, and your fellow voters. Inform them of the statistics. Whether you’re an immigrant or native-born, tell your story. Put a human face to the term “immigrant.” Personalize the issue, and perhaps then we can achieve the comprehensive immigration reform that we so desperately need.
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