Do Immigrants Threaten US Public Safety?

Pia Orrenius and Madeline Zavodny
Date of Publication: 
June, 2019
Source Organization: 
Center for Migration Studies

Advocates for tougher immigration enforcement often justify their approach as a means to reduce crime and protect public safety. However, it is important to know empirically whether the presence of immigrants, either authorized or unauthorized, actually leads to increases in crime and whether stricter enforcement reduces unauthorized immigration and crime rates. This report reviews available research and finds that immigrants are less likely than the U.S.-born to commit crimes. The authors, for example, cite a study by the Cato Institute that found that arrest and conviction rates of unauthorized immigrants in Texas were significantly lower than those of the U.S.-born, and that rates among legal immigrants were even lower. Second-generation immigrants, on the other hand, have comparable levels of criminal activity with the general U.S. population. These findings demonstrate that there are lower rates of criminal activity among new arrivals and that immigration status has a variable impact on rates of illegal activity. Moreover, there is little evidence to suggest that increased border enforcement affects crime rates. The authors suggest these findings should be used to re-evaluate enforcement policies as well as programs like the Secure Communities Act, which is designed to increase collaboration between Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other law-enforcement agencies, in order to reduce crime and increase public safety. The authors also recognize that more research is necessary to determine the efficacy of the E-Verify program, which helps employers hire workers with work authorization.  (Jasmina Popaja for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)

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Orrenius, P. & Zavodny, M. (2019). Do Immigrants Threaten US Public Safety? Journal of Migration and Human Security. New York: Center for Migration Studies. Retrieved from