Immigrants, regardless of their legal status, commit crimes at lower rates than do native-born citizens, reports The Sentencing Project in a summary of research on the subject. The advocacy group says that higher levels of immigration in recent decades “may have contributed to the historic drop in crime rates,” and that police chiefs believe that intensifying immigration enforcement undermines public safety. The group notes that immigrants are under-represented in U.S. prisons.
“Improving public safety is a complicated question that cannot be addressed by scapegoating foreign-born residents,” says Nazgol Ghandnoosh, co-author of the report with Josh Rovner. “Instead, we should be investing in effective community-based initiatives that address the underlying contributors to crime.” Since 1990, violent crime rates have dropped by half, while the number of immigrants doubled, and the number of undocumented immigrants tripled, the report says. It cites a University of Buffalo study that examined crime in 200 metro areas with varying immigrant population sizes. Researchers found that cities with larger immigrant communities saw much greater declines in homicides than did cities with smaller immigrant populations.