Comparing crime rates between undocumented immigrants, legal immigrants, and native-born US citizens in Texas

Author: 
Michael T. Light, Jingying He, and Jason P. Robey
Date of Publication: 
December, 2020
Source Organization: 
Other

Despite the lack of data on crime rates among undocumented immigrants in the U.S., assumptions about undocumented criminality have not only distorted public perceptions of the issue, but have also influenced immigration policy and enforcement decisions. In this report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), comprehensive arrest data from the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Department of Homeland Security between 2012 and 2018 bring clarity to this understudied issue. Contrary to prominent political discourse, the researchers found that undocumented immigrants have substantially lower crime rates than both U.S.-born citizens and authorized immigrants, and, over the seven years covered by the data, the proportion of arrests in Texas involving undocumented immigrants was either relatively stable or decreasing. In fact, the authors found that, when compared with undocumented immigrants, U.S.-born citizens are more than twice as likely to be arrested for violent crimes, 2.5 times more likely to be arrested for drug crimes and over four times more likely to be arrested for property crimes. These findings can help explain why certain immigration enforcement programs focused on removing undocumented immigrants with relatively low felony crime rates have not succeeded in their stated purpose of reducing crime. As the authors explain, these empirical findings run contrary to political discourse claiming undocumented immigrants are more likely to commit crimes, when in fact the research suggests undocumented immigrants are substantially less likely to commit crimes than authorized immigrants and the U.S.-born. (Katelin Reger for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)

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Citation: 

Light, M., He, J. & Robey, J. (2020, December). Comparing crime rates between undocumented immigrants, legal immigrants, and native-born US citizens in Texas. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. https://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/117/51/32340.full.pdf

 

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