A frequent argument of those proposing tougher illegal immigration
policies is that illegal immigration goes hand-in-hand with more crime.
They cite the fact that illegal immigrants must already live outside the
law and suggest that the violent drug cartels operating across
Mexico's border could bring their criminal behavior into the U.S. Are
these arguments right? Here are cases for and against.
Enforcement Increases Crime The Washington Post's Spencer Hsu reports that
"police chiefs from several of the state's and the nation's largest
cities" agree that "Arizona's new crackdown on illegal immigration will
increase crime in U.S. cities, not reduce it, by driving a wedge between
police and immigrant communities. ... Arizona's law will intimidate
crime victims and witnesses who are illegal immigrants and divert police
from investigating more serious crimes." These police chiefs are not
arguing that any immigration enforcement increases crime, only that
Arizona-style extreme enforcement can increase crime.
Place Where That Wasn't The Case Prince William County, a Virginia
suburb of Washington DC, became notorious in years past for its
Arizona-like extreme immigration enforcement. National Review's John Miller points out
that "crime rates are at a 15-year low" in the county. "The latest
numbers are part of a trend that started long before the county took a
stand against illegal immigration.
One thing is certain: The county's current policy has not led to more
- Immigration Sanctuaries Don't Reduce Crime
National Review's Heather
MacDonald looks at the other extreme: Sanctuary cities. "This
standard argument in favor of local sanctuary policies has never been
tested empirically by comparing witness involvement in sanctuary and
non-sanctuary cities. As Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, head of the
Arizona Sheriff's Association and a supporter of SB 1070, points out,
cooperation from illegal aliens is already low. ... local governments
have been creating unofficial amnesties through their sanctuary laws for
years. Those don't seem to have worked out so well."
Crime vs 'Serious' Crime The Moderate Voice's Jason Arvak makes
the distinction. "Supporters of the law point out that illegal
immigration is a crime. Ok, fair enough. But how serious of a crime is
it? Does anyone die or get injured from a poor guy crossing a border
looking for work picking tomatoes? Of course not. Yes, some illegal
immigrants are criminals or drug runners or human traffickers, but so
are a lot of citizens and legal residents."
- Crime in Immigrant
Communities It exists, says Doug Mataconis, which is
why over-enforcement would be so counter-productive. "Communities where
immigrants, legal and illegal, live are also likely to be the targets
of criminal activity for a variety of reasons. If the impression is
created that the local police are little more than agents of the Federal
immigration authorities, then, obviously, someone who is the victim of a
crime is going to be less likely to report that crime, or cooperate
with investigating officers, if they believe that they risk
- As Illegal Immigration Rises in Phoenix, Crime
Falls The Wall Street Journal's Evan Perez reports that, from
2008 to 2009, violent crime "plunged 16.6% in Phoenix, despite a
perception of rising crime that has fueled an immigration backlash."
Violent crime fell 5.5% nationally. "For the first quarter of 2010,
violent crime was down 17% overall in the city, while homicides were
down 38% and robberies 27%, compared with the same period in 2009.
Arizona's major cities all registered declines." CATO's Daniel Griswold adds, "One
of the clinching arguments for Arizona's tough new law aimed at illegal
immigration has been the perception in that state that crime has been
rising, and that undocumented workers are largely to blame."
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