does immigration cause crime

Does Immigration Cause Crime? – A Look At The Relevant Data

The link between immigration and crime is one that politicians and public policy experts frequently talk about. But with all of the grand-standing aside, what does the data really say?

Immigration And Crime

Does immigration cause crime? This might be one of the most frequently asked questions in the realm of public policy throughout the entire world.

And it’s easily among the most controversial. Questions surrounding this topic sometimes lead to despotism, half-truths, outright lies, fear, and a swath of unsubstantiated claims based on anecdotes and personal feelings.

With the rise of Donald Trump and the subsequent media outrage, those worried about the livelihood of visible minorities in America will sometimes embellish deleterious facts for the sake of refusing to give legitimate ammunition to racists.

On the other hand, authorities, and politicians lay the blame on minorities and other visible groups for political gain.

Others fear political leaders who claim that “some illegal immigrants are rapists,” are giving credence to racist ideologies and bigotted beliefs.

There are some minority groups who are at an economic and political disadvantage in the country in which they live, with a portion of the members of the collective representing victims, offenders, perpetrators, and the convicted.

Politicians, academia, and policymakers frequently disagree on whether this is caused by behavioral patterns, bias, or differential treatment by the dominant group.

Sometimes, all three claims are true; some groups are disproportionately involved with crime than others, but the consequences of those crimes – through their treatment in the criminal justice system –  are only made worse by stereotypes and bias (16).

For a number of different reasons, empirical research is limited but mostly due to the difficulty of finding legitimate and reliable data (16).

With increasing globalization and declining birth rates in the Western world, governments have begun supplanting their workforce with foreign workers. In some nations, like Canada, for example, at an exponential rate.

However, fear is a natural human reaction, it seems, to the confrontation with the unknown. It’s not uncommon for members of the host country to ask what sort of effect immigration has on their culture.

They fear that immigrants bring crime and destitution into the nation. Because of this anxiety, researchers have conducted many studies on the effects of immigration, particularly, on the crime rate. Researchers have come to a consensus on some conclusions, but very few of them.

In some cases, it appears as though they’re afraid of pointing out the data for fear of being called racist, a fear strengthened when they’re looking for tenure, respect from their co-workers, or a future position in an institution or big company.

According to, the research is relatively “one-sided,” but we’ll come to our own conclusion by the end of the essay.

Why Would Immigrants Commit More Crimes Than The Native-Born?

Before getting into the crime statistics of immigration, first, we’ll look at a couple of different models for explaining why immigrants might commit more crimes than the native-born.

For this, we’ll use four models described by Scott Wortley, which I think are useful for understanding the issue.

Importation Model

The first one is the importation model, which focuses primarily on the connection between crime and migration. This theoretical framework is predicated on the idea that some migrants emigrate to a country for the sole purpose of criminal activity.

Typically, the framework is used to explain global crime syndicates, ethnic gangs, and other political/terrorist organizations.

Organized crime groups are active in fraud; human and drug trafficking, theft, extortion, smuggling, prostitution, as well as terrorism, and their reason for migration is ‘purely’ criminal.

In an attempt to combat migrant criminality, leaders rely on policy initiatives like screening at the border; tracking international lawbreakers through agencies like Interpol; reducing immigration from areas associated with increased crime rates, and the deportation of convicted immigrants.

The theory is that migrant perpetrators are motivated by criminality from the start, so lawmakers should use stern policies.

Wortley, citing Annmarie Barnes, uses Jamaican immigration into Canada as an example of how this way of thinking led to hysteria over immigration (16).

The public’s sense of urgency, motivated by fear, led to the strengthening of Canadian legislation including the justification for the deportation of individuals guilty of a criminal offense (16).

Representatives and lawmakers have created deportation laws in many immigrant-receiving countries, and the unintended consequences of these policies are often more detrimental than one would think.

According to Barnes, via Wortley, criminal deportations to Jamaica have caused a number of volatile problems in the Caribbean nation (16).

Barnes stated that deportation is destructive for the deportee; including social stigmatization and ostracization from their community. The result of which is both, emotional: depression and alienation, and financial: ostracized by their peers, and thus less likely to find work.

In other words, when the deportee returns to their native country, other members of the community look down on them and treat them with contempt, thus their propensity for criminality only increases.

Children raised in Canada who are deported as adults suffer the most. Since the Enlightenment era, legislators and penal scholars have condemned this sort of punishment (16).

When it comes to citizens of the host country; intellectuals, legislators, and penal scholars consider banishment and transportation to a foreign land as barbaric (16).

Western democratic nations have eliminated banishment and exile as a means for punishment (16). However, the same cannot be said for immigrants.

On the other hand, one could argue that sending immigrants back to the country from which they came is not “banishment,” considering it’s their native land, depending on the case.

Nonetheless, there’s no doubt that deportation is a stressful experience for everyone involved. Whenever a person has to pack up their things and move, it’s frequently challenging, even if they’re moving to a land of more opportunities.

And the next model, the Strain Model, deals with precisely that: the idea that stress from moving from one nation to the other may increase the propensity for criminality.

The Strain Model

The strain model understands that moving from one country to the next, and resettling in a foreign land, is a stressful experience.

The idea behind this theoretical framework is that the host countries have within them the reason for why immigrants and ethnic minorities commit crimes.

It states that institutionalized racism or social, political, cultural or economic disenfranchisement of immigrants lead to more unlawful behavior.

Wortley states that immigrants experience more unemployment and make less money. They suffer from discrimination and other institutional barriers regarding housing, job opportunities, education, and in the realm of politics.

Due to unfortunate life experiences, members of this disenfranchised group find themselves more attracted to a life of crime.

For instance, if young kids feel isolated from the larger society, they might turn to ethnicity-based gangs for both peer acceptance and financial gain.

Alienated individuals, unhappy with mainstream society, may look to illegal markets and opportunities provided by gangs and other organized crime groups.

Poverty may push mothers and fathers to petty crime, including theft of simple groceries and other items for the sake of clothing their children. Moreover, men who are frustrated with the discrimination they experience might use violence as a coping mechanism.

The idea behind this way of understanding crime and poverty is that if we were to eliminate the poverty and destitution of crime-committing groups, then the relationship between migration and illicit behavior would disappear.

In other words, if the government provided for all of the immigrants’ needs, they wouldn’t be attracted to criminal behavior.

The strain model absolves the immigrant of responsibility, and instead, places the blame on the host nation, and how they go about integrating that person into society.

The thought of absolving the responsibility of a criminal is a thorn in the side of conservative-minded individuals, who, consider taking personal responsibility for one’s lot in life as a key way of living life.

Rather than placing all of the blame on the individual, or, all of the blame on the nation, the government could take some of the blame and implement beneficial policies, but also punish the criminal behavior. Thus, it would be a balance of both.

Some of the policies stemming from this model include eliminating discrimination, reducing economic inequality, and increasing educational and employment opportunities.

Rossitor and Rossitor conducted a study, where they spoke with young at-risk immigrants. They agreed that poverty, alienation, cultural isolation, discrimination, and language barriers were key motives in their criminality.

If we’re to stop this sort of thing from happening, things like strong family relations, religion, positive peer influence, and school engagement are great ways of keeping at-risk children away from crime.

In another study, Collins and Reid corroborate the point made above in reference to immigrant youth in Australia. But they also state that youth criminality in Australia is “greatly exaggerated” and the media, as well as political opportunists, capitalize on it (16).

The result of which has led to the stereotyping of ethnic communities. Some of the policies –  stemming from outrage – lead to increased spending on policing and national security initiatives. One could argue they avoid the issue altogether: poverty.

Collins and Reid argued that resources would be better spent lifting those at-risk individuals out of poverty, rather than spending on defense, police, and national security policies at the border (16).

Despite some of the examples of immigrant crime and open racism, interethnic conflict is typically the exception, rather than the rule.

Other data concerning Australia indicate that immigrant youth hold “cosmopolitan identities” and are doing just fine.

However, immigrants tend not to be as passionate about Australian values, and the country’s national identity, as much as white Australians. And for that reason, native-born, white, Australians believe migrants aren’t committed enough to society.

The fear here is that immigrants are not willing to drop their convictions, beliefs, and commitment to their native country, for the sake of committing to the Australian nation.

One could argue that, if immigrants are to move into another nation, they should adopt the host country’s values. If society doesn’t have a shared identity, a set of agreed-upon moral convictions and standards, then it’s easy to forsee division and turmoil.

This brings us to the next model: the Cultural Conflict Model.

The Cultural Conflict Model

This model is exactly what it sounds like, it looks at competing cultures and migration, and how one culture might be opposed to another within the host nation.

The idea behind the theoretical framework is that most immigrants have no intention for criminal activity, and just want to live their lives in peace.

However, cultural and religious tenets of migrants may clash with the customs and traditions of the native-born.

For example, in a Western country, domestic violence is not accepted as a means of recourse at all. But in others, violence may be acceptable to enforce the adoption of religious codes.

In their home country, this sort of thing may be allowed, but in the host nation, it isn’t, and they may face criminal charges as a result.

Female genital cutting, for instance, a practice in Somalia and other countries, is widely condemned in Western nations, and the idea of bringing such an activity to a country like the United States, Germany, or Canada, would be met with nothing but derision and outrage (21).

Additionally, prostitution and specific drugs may be permitted in some nations, but not in others.

In the Philippines, for example, it isn’t a good idea for a Western tourist to search for drugs, even marijuana, which is socially acceptable in Canada and is on the path to legality.

Policies based on this theoretical framework emphasize education on criminal laws and also seek to inform immigrants to understand how to avoid getting into trouble with the law.

Moreover, the influence of media culture may play a role in the developing of young minds, although, this is a superficial effect. Local conditions and circumstances likely play a more significant role than the media.

According to this model, education is a better way of dealing with immigration, rather than increases in border security. Similar to the strain perspective, this model highlights the importance of economic disadvantage and social disorganization.

The final model is The Bias Model.

The Bias Model

This model is something else entirely. This perspective is becoming increasingly popular in popular culture and in the media, with publications like the New York Times and The Atlantic arguing that criminality and other problems are a result of discrimination rather than behavioral patterns of the minority group.

A contentious example of this would be violence in African-American communities, where some would argue that the problem is culture and the corresponding behavioral patterns. While others would state the problem is institutionalized racism, biased policing, and discrimination in the legal system, as well as the War on Drugs.

The first three theoretical perspectives explain that immigrant criminality has something to do with economic and social marginalization; cultural barriers; stress and the difficulty of integration, and potentially malicious intentions.

However, the final perspective has a fundamental difference. The notion that immigrants and other minority groups might not even be committing crimes at all. It may be just that the justice system and the policing are biased.

Rather than immigrants being more likely to commit a crime, the issue is that maybe the police and the justice system are more likely to bother them.

As a result, these people are more likely to be arrested, charged, convicted, and penalized with tougher sentences due to the fact they’re perceived as a bigger threat by the courts and the larger society.

According to Wortley and Owusu-Bempah, through their use of a population survey in 2007, they state that, increasingly, people believe the criminal justice system is biased and discriminatory. These numbers are slowly increasing and in some groups more than others (16).

For instance, Black Canadians are more likely to believe in biased criminal courts and racist policing than other ethnic groups.  Interestingly, recent immigrants into Canada have a more positive view of the criminal justice system than Black Canadians.

As time goes on, Chinese immigrants and Black Canadians are more likely to look at the police and the justice system unfavorably (16).

In a report from the Roper Center at the University of Cornell, researchers demonstrate the way in which Black and White Americans look at the police.

They state that 51% of White Americans believe the police are held accountable for their actions, in comparison to 29% of Black Americans (20).

The result of these findings shouldn’t be pushed under the rug, as immigrants and other citizens may believe that cooperating with the authorities is a bad idea and that criminal behavior is justified due to an inherent injustice in the system.

In one essay, Rob White looks at the relationship between minority groups and the police in Australia.

He argues that hysteria often contributes to a collective exaggeration of immigrant/minority crime, the result of which is increased policing and a zero-tolerance policy for crimes – which do more harm than good.

Due to more aggressive policing tactics, the distasteful interactions between minority groups and the police lead to a distrust of authorities; a stereotypical understanding of the native-born and the country in which they live, and an increase in hostility toward the justice system.

Moreover, this form of policing becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts, whereby the police, because of their aggression, lead to minority resentment, distrust, and hatred. And therefore increased chances of criminality among the harangued minority groups.

White, in the final notes of his paper, writes that police can improve their relationship with immigrant and ethnic minority communities, and ultimately help the immigrants integrate, rather than ostracize them (16).

Does Immigration Cause Crime? – No

For the most part, a quick look into Google Scholar shows many different studies on the connection between immigration and crime, with most North Americans arguing that, on the whole, immigration doesn’t lead to crime.

For instance, Daniel P Mears, in his essay, writes that while the methodology of the studies conducted is not perfect, what they do show is an absence of a link between crime and immigration (2). But it’s even more complicated than that.

Mears explains that certain immigrant groups are actually less prone to crime than others, so the data is less than conclusive.

According to the Industrial Commissions report from 1901; the 1911 Immigration Commission; the 1931 Wickersham Report, and the 1994 US Commission on Immigration Reform, there isn’t a clear link between immigration and crime (2).

In fact, their studies have shown the opposite. In areas with a lot of immigration, crime decreases, rather than increases. But what’s interesting is, like noted above, it really depends on who the immigrants are; their gender, their age, and their background, as well as what country or to which city they’re emigrating (2).

Another issue is how researchers choose what data to look at. And how to look at it because there are a number of different ways of calculating how many immigrants are criminals.

One way of doing so is through the Census and American Community Survey, which counts the members of the incarcerated population (1). ACS data shows that immigrants, on the whole, are less inclined to crime than native citizens (1).

In Butcher and Piehl’s study, they look at the imprisonment rate for men, ages 18-40, beginning in 1980 until 2000 (4).

They concluded that, as time continued across the twenty years between 1980 and 2000, immigrants progressively became less inclined to commit crimes, and by 2000, immigrants were one-fifth less likely to commit crimes than their native-born counterparts (4).

One issue with this paper, however, is the fact that Butcher and Piehl looked at “immigrants,” as a whole, rather than individual groups (4).

In another paper written by Butcher and Piehl, they studied both violent and property crimes in a Californian city. And between 2000 and 2005, they found that cities with increased immigration tended to have lower violent crime rates. And there was no statistically significant relationship between property crime and immigration either.

Ewing, Martinez, and Rumbaut come to a similar conclusion. They state that around 1.6% of immigrant males between the ages of 18-39 are incarcerated, in comparison to 3.3.% of the native-born.

They studied the incarceration rates of men from Latin American countries, including Mexico, El Salvadore, and Guatemala.

And according to their study, men from the three countries have a significantly lower incarceration rate than men born in the United States who didn’t graduate high school.

However, for whatever reason, their study chose to compare men from Mexico, El Salvadore, and Guatemala with Americans without a high school diploma –  a rarity nowadays.

According to the Census from the United States government, 9 out of 10 Americans have at least a high school diploma (3).

Presumably, they included Americans without a diploma to account for the argument that those who come from an uneducated background typically commit more crimes.

Regardless, in 2010, 10.7% of native-born men between the ages of 18-39 without completing high school were in jail in comparison to just 2.8% of Mexican immigrants and 1.7% of Salvadoran and Guatemalan migrants.

One possible explanation for why immigrants commit less crime than uneducated Americans is that they control for those who are a risk during the immigration process.

For instance, a legal Mexican immigrant, coming from a middle-class and educated background, might emigrate to the United States and be less of a risk than a poor uneducated American.

Individuals with the ambition to move to another country, likely will appreciate their new homeland more, and thus feel less inclined to commit crimes.

Moreover, those who have to work harder, and know the consequences for them are much stronger, might feel more fearful of the criminal justice system.  With that said, they didn’t include the crime rates for illegal immigrants in their analysis.

Another paper from Thomas J Miles and Adam B Cox looked at the effect of the Secure Communities Act from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency of the United States (5).

The policy, S-Comm, was a program which gave officers permission from the federal government to look at the citizenship status of any person arrested by the local police.

Before the government implemented the program, they checked the immigration status of very few individuals, but afterward, came to a quarter of a million detentions (5).

Upon an immigrants’ arrest, fingerprints and the perpetrator’s identity were forwarded to both the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.

If immigrants were identified as illegal by the Department Of Homeland Security, they would be held in custody until the Immigration And Customs Enforcement Agency notified the local police and came to deport them.

This study’s conditions were outside the control of the investigators (a natural experiment), based on the S-Comm act implemented in over 3000 counties. It was thought that if immigrants were criminal, and were deported after committing a crime, then the crime rates would go down (5).

However, the researchers found that the S-COMM act led to “no meaningful reduction in the FBI Index Crime Rate.”

Other literature shows similar figures.

Reid, Weiss, Adelman, and Jaret combined the 2000 US Census data and the 2000 Uniform Crime Report data to look at how non-native citizens affected the crime rates across several different metropolitan areas.

According to Reid et al, when they controlled for a number of different economic and demographic factors, they found that immigration generally doesn’t lead to higher crime rates, and in some ways, it actually leads to less crime (6).

Reid et al investigated 150 Metropolitan Statistical Areas and discovered immigration had a negative effect (meaning immigration led to a decrease) on the homicide rate, and zero effect on property crimes.

In another study by Stowell et al, they researched 103 MSAs in the ten years between 1994 until 2002 and discovered that violent crime rates generally drop as the number of immigrants rises.

A concentration of migrants two standard deviations above the mean led to 40.5 fewer violent crimes per 100,000 people, in comparison to a decrease of 8.1 in violent crime in areas with a migrant concentration two standard deviations below the mean.

In other words, more immigrants equal less crime, and the effect is more pronounced as the number of immigrants increase. They summarize by stating there is simply no evidence that immigration is positively associated with crime.

And in New York City, Davies and Fagan found that in areas with higher levels of immigrants, there is less crime. Legal Hispanic migrants were less inclined to violent criminal acts than native-born black people or white Chicagoans.

Recent immigration in areas like San Diego, Miami, and El Paso have a negative correlation between immigration and crime. However, in San Diego, there is a positive correlation between migration and African-American murder rates in San Diego.

Moreover, other studies claim the immigration wave of the 1990’s led to a drop in crime in that very same decade.

The theory is that immigrants are typically more involved in their community, like rebuilding civil society in deteriorating urban centers, and also facilitate economic prosperity and diversity through inadvertently pushing the native-born to learn better skills for employment.

However, while there doesn’t seem to be a relationship between crime and legal migrants, the public generally tends to focus on the crime rate of illegal immigrants.

But due to the difficulty of identifying them, it’s challenging to measure just precisely how much crime they account for.

Does Immigration Cause Crime? – Yes

When researching this topic, it’s easy to look at the first few studies and conclude that, as it turns out, immigration doesn’t cause as much crime as one would think.

But, unfortunately, there is data showing that certain groups are more disproportionately involved in criminal acts than others. And in some cases, immigration does lead to an increase in crime.

It seems as though the relationship between immigration and crime, as was noted above, depends strongly on who the immigrants are, where they come from, and to what city they emigrated.

There is also some speculation that the crime rates of the host country have a lot to do with how “welcoming” the native-born are; a possible explanation noted above by the Strain Model.

In other words, cross-national research has shown that immigrant involvement in crime may be correlated to the way the host country receives them.

In a 2007 study by Lynch and Simon, they looked at the relationship between crime and immigration in seven different countries, with the United States and Canada being identified as “immigrant nations (9).”

The term signifies a low barrier to entry, and also the nation’s general encouragement for integration. Other countries like Japan, Germany, and France, were called, “nonimmigrant nations (9).”

In a “non-immigrant nation,” getting into the country is difficult and permanent settlement is generally not encouraged.

The results of the studies show that, in general, “immigrant countries” typically have lower immigrant crime rates in comparison to the native-born than the “nonimmigrant nations (9).”

In the concluding comments of their essay, Lynch, and Simon state that as a nation’s immigration policy gets stricter, the more immigrants find themselves in jail. And the native-born population is more likely to believe that immigration leads to crime and that migrants pose a threat.

However, they note it’s not a “perfect pattern.” (9).

According to Lynch and Simon, France, in particular, has a 6:1 incarceration rate. In other words, for every French citizen sitting in a jail cell, there are 6 foreign-born individuals (9).

France has the highest rate at 6:1, while Japan comes in second place with a rate of 3.50 to 1 (9). Their hypothesis is that when a nation is harsher on their immigrants, they’re more likely to wind up in jail.

Regardless of the reason why the foreign-born end up in jail, they still appear more likely to be criminal.

In relation to the low immigrant crime rate of “immigrant nations,” the hypothesis is that the “immigrant nations” work harder to integrate migrants, and for that reason, they’re less likely to commit crimes (9).

Part of the effect has something to do with the fact that immigrants who don’t integrate properly, are treated as outsiders and outcasts, leading to an increased propensity for a life of crime due to social ostracisation.

One study, in particular, showed that a 10% increase in immigration causes an increase in property crime of around 1.2% (18). According to Spenkuch, immigrants committed 2.5x the number of property crimes than the average native, but the rate of violent crime did not increase (18).

In his study, Mr. Spenkuch claims that, while controlling for all other immigrant groups, Mexicans commit 3.5 to 5 times as many crimes as the average native. However, immigrants who come from Guatemala and El Salvador commit, still, less than half of the native-born population (18).

In a paper from Alonso-Borrego, Garoupa, and Vazquez, the researchers conclude that crime rates in Spain increased by a large number during a period of increased immigration.

They looked at crime from 1999 until 2009, a period where the European country had accepted a large number of migrants from several areas around the world.

The authors noted that, in comparison to the increase in crime of other European countries, the crime rates had increased less, but still by a lot.

In the abstract of their study, they write, “we show that there is a significant relationship between crime and immigration.” According to Alonso-Borrego, Garoupa, and Vasquez, the explanation for the crime lies in the individual characteristics of the specific immigrant groups (8).

Peterson, Krivo, and Hagan, state while first-generation and second-generation immigrants, on the whole, tend to commit fewer crimes than native-born citizens, some immigrant groups are overrepresented in official and unofficial crime statistics (10).

For instance, Russian immigrants in Israel generally tend to commit more crimes than native Israelis. And Siegel and Bovenkirk state that Russian immigrants are responsible for a majority of the organized crime in The Netherlands (12).

Jamaican gangs are also involved in transnational networks of gun running, money laundering, and drug trafficking. With that said, the existence of organized crime networks among particular groups doesn’t necessarily mean all members of that group are involved in illicit activity.

Similarly, in Canada, the police completed an investigation and trial and noted that the rise in organized crime in British Columbia has a lot to do with Asian and Indo-Canadian gangs, in addition to the usual suspects: the Hell’s Angels (14).

In 2007, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said to Senate committees that Indo-Canadian, Asian, and the Hells Angels were very active at the Port of Vancouver (14).

The former premier of British Columbia, Gordon Campbell, explained that geography plays a huge role in its appeal to criminals, considering they’re so close to Asia, and the US border is right by Vancouver.

For its geographical advantages, Vancouver is a prime location for drug trafficking, gun running, and other illicit – but massively profitable –  business practices.

One can observe the same patterns across the Atlantic Ocean in the United Kingdom.

According to Michael Tonry, in England and Wales, Afro-Caribbeans and migrants from South East Asia came in large groups around the same time during the 1950’s and the 1960’s (16).

And both groups faced a comparable amount of discrimination and suspicion from the native-born population. Interestingly, Bangladeshis, in particular, generally tended to be more poor and disadvantaged than the Afro-Caribbeans (16).

However, Afro-Caribbeans in England are disproportionately involved in crime within the justice system in comparison to Bangladeshis and Whites. English Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis, generally don’t commit as much crime as whites (16).

It’s possible South East Asians may become more delinquent as time goes on, especially if the host population becomes more Islamophobic. Thus contributing to feelings of alienation and hatred, and an increased propensity for criminality.

The aforementioned explanation is just a theory, however, and we haven’t seen any evidence of this yet. We can see the difference in crime between groups in the Netherlands, as well, with the Moroccans and the Turks.

Tonry notes that Moroccans and Turkish people came to the Netherlands as guest workers in the 1950’s and the 1960’s. Many of those same workers chose to stay in the Netherlands and were later joined by other family members in the 1970’s (16).

Ultimately, by the 1990’s, both the Turks and the Morrocans were in a comparable situation, economically, but the Turks were less likely to commit crimes – even less likely than the native-born people – than the Morrocans (16).

Regarding Afro-Caribbean and South East Asians, one could argue that the former are more discriminated against than the latter.

However, according to Tonry, as per David Smith, the research shows that Asians were victims of bias and stereotyping just as much as Afro-Caribbeans from the outset (16). But maybe the nature and content of those stereotypes are different, potentially leading to different behavioral patterns.

For example, stereotypes of black people and Asians are fundamentally different, with blacks typically associated with crime, while Asians are typically associated with reservation and intelligence.

Research from social psychologists like Christian Wheeler and Richard Petty state that an individual’s stereotypical perception of another person causes the other to behave in ways that are consistent with the stereotype (19).

In other words, some individuals may act in accordance with a stereotype while under pressure even when it’s not a normal behavioral pattern for that person (19).

The explanation for why individuals choose to act in this way, confirming the stereotype, is not well explained, but the effect is well documented by social psychologists.

Regardless, the behavior and criminality between South East Asians and Afro-Carribean are markedly different, for whatever reason.

Smith claimed that South East Asians generally depend on self-help and networks based on ethnic groups, rather than fair treatment.

For example, they would find help for their problems and also employment from within their community, rather than looking toward the larger society, which may hold prejudicial views (16).

Some recent immigrants and their descendants say they actively avoid relying on government institutions including the social security net, for the sake of avoiding stereotypical characterizations of the “immigrant on welfare.”

Whether they’re able to avoid acting in a way consistent with stereotypes, the public perception can be tainted by the actions of the few rather than the whole.

And in some cases, individuals in specific groups make it difficult for the rest of the “foreigners.”

In some of the European countries examined, the result showed that “foreigners,” who either recently immigrated to the host nation, or are the descendants of foreigners, were disproportionately involved in crime (16).

After several years of studying immigration in the United States and Canada, research has shown that the foreign-born aren’t the problem.

Academics typically believe that the first generation immigrants don’t commit crimes. And in fact, are more law-abiding than the native-born (16).

One theory is that the foreign-born’s children and grandchildren find it difficult to adapt to the country in some cases. And therefore, they have higher-than-normal offending and imprisonment rates than their parents or grandparents (16).

Commissions in the United States government have looked into migrant crime rates before. In truth, interest in migrant crime has been high ever since the 19th century.

Due to public perception in the USA that immigrants were disproportionately involved in crime, the National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement, known as the Wickersham Commission, named after the Attorney General, George W. Wickersham, wrote an entire document called, “Crime and The Foreign Born (16).”

As it was noted above, public opinion was generally that the foreign-born committed more crimes than the native-born. The commission put a lot of work into figuring out whether immigration led to crime, and made a surprising finding (16).

They looked at the arrest and crime statistics of approximately fifty-two cities; researching crime rates, arrests, convictions, and prison commitments.

They used the term, “foreign-born,” and observed that they committed fewer crimes than the native-born, stating the data “seems to disagree radically with the popular belief that the high percentage of crime may be ascribed to the alien (16).”

Therefore, the foreign-born were not the perpetrators, contrary to what they assumed. As for if their descendants committed crimes or not; that data was harder to collect because the government never indicated the country of origin of the foreign-born’ descendants, so it was nearly impossible to figure out (16).

The difficulty of identifying children of immigrants in the justice system still exists in most countries in the modern era (16).


Does immigration cause crime? A quick look into Google will likely give you the answer to the question. Most essays will say the results are unanimous and there is a consensus in academia that “immigration doesn’t cause crime.”

Opponents of migration critics often state that concern over immigration is merely right-wing racism and a result of “white fragility.”

When looking at 20 different studies and reports, it appears far more complicated than that. On the whole, first-wave immigrants lead to a depreciation in crime.

However, as it was previously mentioned in the article, it depends on who the immigrants are and their socioeconomic background. Some members of some groups, commit more crimes, than other groups.

It becomes even more complicated when you consider the fact that perhaps it isn’t the first-generation immigrants who commit crimes. But instead, their children.

And the issue of illegal immigration is a topic for another day.


(1) CATO 

(2) Jstor

(3) US Census 

(4) Nber

(5) Law UChicago 

(6) Science Direct 

(7) Oxford Academic 

(8) Jstor – American Law And Economics Review 

(9) Lynch and Simon 

(10) Peterson, Krivo, and Hagan 

(11) Rattner 

(12) Siegel and Bovenkirk 

(13) Jones 

(14) Macleans 

(15) Daniel P Mears 

(16) Michael Tonry

(17) Scott Wortley 

(18) Spenkuch 

(19) Wheeler and Petty 

(20) Roper Center 

(21) Unicef