Arizona has become safer since illegal immigrants began pouring into the state in the 1990s, reports the Los Angeles Times. Crime has dropped across the U.S. since then, but the decrease has been as fast or faster in Arizona. The rate of property crimes in the state has plummeted 43 percent since 1995, compared with 30 percent nationwide. That’s no surprise to those who study immigration – both sides, whether for or against increased immigration, agree that immigrants tend to commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans.
Nonetheless, authors of a controversial new law against illegal immigration in Arizona have long cited the need to fight crime as a key reason behind the measure, which makes it a state crime to lack immigration papers and requires police to determine whether people they stop are in the country illegally. Backers cite the killing of two Phoenix police officers by illegal immigrants since 2007, or the recent slaying of a cattle rancher near the Mexican border by a drug smuggler. Phoenix Police Chief Jack Harris said about 10 percent of his department’s arrests are illegal immigrants; the Maricopa County sheriff’s office said 20 percent of its inmates are illegal immigrants. Fifteen percent of state prisoners are illegal immigrants. Phoenix has become a hub of human trafficking, and it has kidnapping numbers that rival cities in Mexico because of smugglers who hold illegal immigrants hostage in drop houses.