Immigration and Public Safety
Immigrants—regardless of legal status—commit crimes at lower rates than native-born citizens. Survey of key research concludes that policies further restricting immigration are ineffective crime-control strategies.
Related to: Incarceration
Starting from his first day as a candidate, President Donald Trump has made demonstrably false claims associating immigrants with criminality.1 As president, he has sought to justify restrictive immigration policies, such as increasing detentions and deportations and building a southern border wall, as public safety measures.2 He has also linked immigrants with crime through an Executive Order directing the Attorney General to establish a task force to assist in “developing strategies to reduce crime, including, in particular, illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and violent crime,”3 and by directing the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to assist and publicize victims of crimes committed by immigrants.4
By surveying key research on immigration and crime, this report seeks to enable the public and policymakers to engage in a more meaningful policy debate rooted in facts. Immigrants’ impact on public safety is a well-examined field of study.
A rigorous body of research supports the following conclusions about the recent impact of immigrants in the United States:
- Immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than native-born citizens.
- Higher levels of immigration in recent decades may have contributed to the historic drop in crime rates.
- Police chiefs believe that intensifying immigration law enforcement undermines public safety.
- Immigrants are under-represented in U.S. prisons.
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Washington Post Staff (June 16, 2015). Full text: Donald Trump Announces a Presidential Bid. The Washington Post.
The Department of Homeland Security. (February 21, 2017). Executive Orders on Protecting the Homeland. The Department of Homeland Security; Bains, C. (February 28, 2017). How Immigrants Make Communities Safer. The Marshall Project.
The White House. (February 9, 2017). Presidential Executive Order on a Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety. The White House.
Wang, C. (February 28, 2017). Trump Calls for New Government Agency for ‘Victims of Crime’ by Immigrants. CNBC.