By Maria Sunantha Quibilan/Asianjournal.com
LOS ANGELES — California’s immigrants, including both legal and illegal immigrants, are far less likely than average US-born citizens to commit serious crime, according to a new report released on Monday.
The study conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California, a nonpartisan research group, showed that foreign-born residents which make up more than 35 percent of the state’s adult population account for only around 17 percent of its adult prison population.
It also revealed that several California cities experienced a decrease in crime rates amid recent immigration waves, data that counters the widely-held notion that cities with large immigrant populations are hotspots of criminal activity.
According to the report’s authors, these findings suggest that the long-standing perception that immigration is a threat to public safety is unjustified.
Kristin Butcher, one of the report’s authors and an associate professor of economics at Wellesley College, said that the low rate of incarceration among immigrants has something to do with US immigration policies, which requires the careful selection of visa applicants and the deportation of illegal immigrants guilty of serious crimes like gang involvement and murder. “The type of people who are immigrating are less likely to commit crimes because they’re here for jobs,” she said.
Butcher and her co-author Anne Morrison Piehl, associate professor of economics at Rutgers University, conducted their research by examining California’s foreign-born population, including anyone born outside the U.S., regardless of their naturalization status, and without differentiation among legal and illegal immigrants. Then they focused on men ages 18 to 40 incarcerated for crimes in California prisons and jails, making comparisons with their American-born counterparts with the use of data from the California Census.
The report also noted the following findings:
• Among men ages 18 to 40 (the group most likely to commit crimes) native-born Americans are jailed in state prisons at a rate more than 2.5 times higher than foreign-born men, and are 10 times more likely to be imprisoned.
• Non-citizen men from Mexico ages 18 to 40 (a group most disproportionately likely to have entered the U.S. illegally) are more than eight times less likely than U.S. born men in the same age group to end up in a correctional facility.
• “Our research indicates that limiting immigration, requiring higher educational levels to obtain visas, or spending more money to increase penalties against criminal immigrants will have little impact on public safety,” said Butcher.