Crime and immigration

News of immigration reform efforts has been accompanied recently by speculation about immigration and crime. A tragic shooting in California gave rise to many pundits making comments about whether there are connections between crime and immigration, and whether undocumented immigrants are high-risk for committing crimes.

The Washington Post pointed out that Mexican-born immigrant males between the ages of 18 and 39 who do not have a high school diploma had a lower rate of incarceration in 2010 than all native-born males of the same age regardless of education level – and a much lower incarceration rate than native-born American males without high school diplomas. In general, the Post reported, immigrants are one fifth as likely to be incarcerated for crimes, and analysts have found this difference is due to a lower propensity for crime overall.

The Wall Street Journal quoted a report by the Immigration Policy Center from 2007, which found “for every ethnic group without exception, incarceration rates among young men are lowest for immigrants. This holds true especially for the Mexicans, Salvadorans, and Guatemalans who make up the bulk of the undocumented population.”

As the debates around immigration reform continue, it’s important to have the facts on immigration and crime rather than speculation.