Immigration and crime
Much of the empirical research on the causal relationship between immigration and crime has been limited due to weak instruments for determining causality. According to one economist writing in 2014, "while there have been many papers that document various correlations between immigrants and crime for a range of countries and time periods, most do not seriously address the issue of causality." The problem with causality primarily revolves around the location of immigrants being endogenous, which means that immigrants tend to disproportionally locate in deprived areas where crime is higher (because they cannot afford to stay in more expensive areas) or because they tend to locate in areas where there is a large population of residents of the same ethnic background. A burgeoning literature relying on strong instruments provides mixed findings. As one economist describes the existing literature in 2014, "most research for the US indicates that if any, this association is negative... while the results for Europe are mixed for property crime but no association is found for violent crime". Another economist writing in 2014, describes how "the evidence, based on empirical studies of many countries, indicates that there is no simple link between immigration and crime, but legalizing the status of immigrants has beneficial effects on crime rates." A 2009 review of the literature focusing on recent, high-quality studies from the United States found that immigration generally did not increase crime and, in fact, often decreased it.
The relationship between crime and the legal status of immigrants remains understudied but studies on amnesty programs in the United States and Italy suggest that legal status can largely explain the differences in crime between legal and illegal immigrants, most likely because legal status leads to greater job market opportunities for the immigrants. However, one study finds that the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 led to an increase in crime among previously undocumented immigrants.
Existing research suggests that labor market opportunities have a significant impact on immigrant crime rates. Young, male and poorly educated immigrants have the highest individual probabilities of imprisonment among immigrants. Research suggests that the allocation of immigrants to high crime neighborhoods increases individual immigrant crime propensity later in life, due to social interaction with criminals.
Some factors may effect the reliability of data on suspect rates, crime rates, conviction rates and prison populations for drawing conclusions about immigrants’ overall involvement in criminal activity:
- Police practices, such as racial profiling, over-policing in areas populated by immigrants or in-group bias may result in disproportionately high numbers of immigrants among crime suspects.
- Possible discrimination by the judicial system may result in higher number of convictions.
- Unfavorable bail and sentencing decisions due to foreigners’ ease of flight, lack of domiciles, lack of regular employment and lack of family able to host the individual can explain immigrants’ higher incarceration rates when compared to their share of convictions relative to the native population.
- Natives may be more likely to report crimes when they believe the offender has an immigrant background.
- Imprisonment for migration offenses, which are more common among immigrants, need to be taken account of for meaningful comparisons between overall immigrant and native criminal involvement.
- Foreigners imprisoned for drug offenses may not actually live in the country where they are serving sentences but were arrested while in transit.
- Stranger rapes are far more likely to be reported to police than acquaintance rapes.
The relationship between immigration and terrorism remains understudied. A 2016 study finds that higher levels of migration is associated with lower levels of terrorism in the host country but that migrants from terror-prone states do increase the risk of terrorism in the host country. The authors note though that "only a minority of migrants from high-terrorism states can be associated with increases in terrorism, and not necessarily in a direct way."
A survey of existing research on immigration and crime in Japan found that "prosecution and sentencing in Japan do seem to result in some disparities by nationality, but the available data are too limited to arrive at confident conclusions about their nature or magnitude".
According to a 1997 news report, a large portion of crimes by immigrants are by Chinese in Japan, and some highly publicized crimes by organized groups of Chinese (often with help of Japanese organized crime) have led to a negative public perception of immigrants.
A 2015 study found that the increase in immigration flows into western European countries that took place in the 2000s did "not affect crime victimization, but it is associated with an increase in the fear of crime, the latter being consistently and positively correlated with the natives’ unfavourable attitude toward immigrants." In a survey of the existing economic literature on immigration and crime, one economist describes the existing literature in 2014 as showing that "the results for Europe are mixed for property crime but no association is found for violent crime".
A report by Statistics Denmark released in December 2015 found that 83% of crimes are committed by individuals of Danish origin (88.4% of the total population), 3% by those of non-Danish Western descent and 14% by individuals of non-Western descent.
Male Lebanese immigrants and their descendants, a big part of them being of Palestinian descent, have, at 257, the highest crime-index among the studied groups, which translates to crime rates 150% higher than the country's average. The index is standardized by both age and socioeconomic status. Men of Yugoslav origin and men originating in Turkey, Pakistan, Somalia and Morocco are associated with high crime-indexes, ranging between 187 and 205, which translate to crime rates about double the country's average. The lowest crime index is recorded among immigrants and descendants originating from the United States. Their crime-index, at 32, is far below the average for all men in Denmark. Among immigrants from China a very small crime-index is recorded as well, at 38.
A 2014 study of the random dispersal of refugee immigrants over the period 1986-1998, and focusing on the immigrant children who underwent this random assignment before the age of 15, suggests that exposure to neighbourhood crime increases individual crime propensity. The share of convicted criminals living in the assignment neighborhood at assignment affects later crime convictions of males, but not of females, who were assigned to these neighborhoods as children. The authors "find that a one standard deviation increase in the share of youth criminals living in the assignment neighborhood, and who committed a crime in the assignment year, increases the probability of a conviction for male assignees by between 5 percent and 9 percent later in life (when they are between 15 and 21 years old)."
A 2015 study found that immigrant youth had higher incidence rates in 14 out 17 delinquent acts. The gap is small for thefts and vandalism, and no significant differences for shoplifting, bullying and use of intoxicants. According to the authors, "weak parental social control and risk routines, such as staying out late, appear to partly explain the immigrant youths’ higher delinquency", and "the relevance of socioeconomic factors was modest".
According to the American Bureau of Diplomatic Security, Estonians and Romanians were the two largest group of foreigners in Finnish prisons.
According to 2014 official statistics, 24% of rapes are estimated to have been committed by individuals with foreign surnames in Finland. For some context, foreign-language speakers and the foreign-born comprised roughly 6% of the Finnish population in 2014, meaning that the percentage of individuals with foreign surnames in Finland is at very least 6%. Additionally, Finnish rapists are more likely to be known personally by the victim, increasing the threshold to report. Furthermore, there are great asymmetries between nationalities of rapists: while in 1998 there were no rapists hailing from Vietnam or China, there were many from other countries; 10 times more "foreign-looking" men were accused of rape than the overall percentage of foreigners in Finland.
A 2009 study found "that the share of immigrants in the population has no significant impact on crime rates once immigrants’ economic circumstances are controlled for, while finding that unemployed immigrants tend to commit more crimes than unemployed non-immigrants." A study by sociologist Farhad Khosrokhavar, director of studies at the EHESS, found that "Muslims, mostly from North African origin, are becoming the most numerous group in [French prisons]."
A report released by the German Federal Office of Criminal Investigation in November 2015 found that over the period January–September 2015, the crime rate of refugees was the same as that of native Germans. According to Deutsche Welle, the report "concluded that the majority of crimes committed by refugees (67 percent) consisted of theft, robbery and fraud. Sex crimes made for less than 1 percent of all crimes committed by refugees, while homicide registered the smallest fraction at 0,1 percent." According to the conservative newspaper Die Welt's description of the report, the most common crime committed by refugees was not paying fares on public transportation. According to Deutsche Welle's reporting in February 2016 of a report by the German Federal Office of Criminal Investigation, the number of crimes committed by refugees did not rise in proportion to the number of refugees between 2014-2015. According to Deutsche Welle, "between 2014 and 2015, the number of crimes committed by refugees increased by 79 percent. Over the same period, however, the number of refugees in Germany increased by 440 percent."
In May 2016, Politifact deemed Donald Trump's statement that "Germany "is crime-riddled right now" because of migration to Europe" as mostly false. The fact-checker noted that Germany's crime rate, particularly the violent crime rate, is far lower than in the United States, and that data suggest that the crime rate of the average refugee is lower than that of the average German.
Researchers at the Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute found in 2015 that the German government's policy of immigration of more than 3 million people of German descent to Germany after the collapse of the Soviet Union led to a significant increase in crime. The effects were strongest in regions with high unemployment, high preexisting crime levels or large shares of foreigners.
DW reported in 2006 that in Berlin, young male immigrants are three times more likely to commit violent crimes than their German peers. Whereas the Gastarbeiter in the 50s and 60s did not have an elevated crime rate, second- and third-generation of immigrants had significantly higher crime rates.
Illegal immigration to Greece has increased rapidly over the past several years. Tough immigration policies in Spain and Italy and agreements with their neighboring African countries to combat illegal immigration have changed the direction of African immigration flows toward Greece. At the same time, flows from Asia and the Middle East — mainly Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Bangladesh — to Greece appear to have increased as well. By 2012 it was estimated that more than 1 million illegal immigrants entered Greece. The evidence now indicates that nearly all illegal immigration to the European Union flows through the country's porous borders. In 2010, 90 percent of all apprehensions for unauthorized entry into the European Union took place in Greece, compared to 75 percent in 2009 and 50 percent in 2008.
In 2010, 132,524 persons were arrested for "illegal entry or stay" in Greece, a sharp increase from 95,239 in 2006. Nearly half of those arrested (52,469) were immediately deported, the majority of them being Albanians. Official statistics show that immigrants are responsible for about half of the criminal activity in Greece.
A study of immigration to Italy during the period 1990-2003 found that "immigration increases only the incidence of robberies, while leaving unaffected all other types of crime. Since robberies represent a very minor fraction of all criminal offenses, the effect on the overall crime rate is not significantly different from zero."
A study of Italy before and after the January 2007 European Union enlargement found that giving legal status to the previously illegal immigrants from the new EU members states led to a "50 percent reduction in recidivism". The authors find that "legal status... explains one-half to two-thirds of the observed differences in crime rates between legal and illegal immigrants". A study on the 2007 so-called "click day" amnesty for undocumented immigrants in Italy found that the amnesty reduced the immigrant crime rate. The authors estimate "that a ten percent increase in the share of immigrants legalized in one region would imply a 0.3 percent reduction in immigrants’ criminal charges in the following year in that same region". However, research also shows that stricter enforcement of migration policy leads to a reduction in the crime rate of undocumented migrants.
According to the latest report by Idos/Unar, immigrants made up 32,6% of prison population in 2015 (four percentage points less than five years before), immigrants making up 8,2% of population in 2015. Prison population data may not give a reliable picture of immigrants' involvement in criminal activity due to different bail and sentencing decisions for foreigners. Foreigners are, for instance, far more overrepresented in the prison population than their share of convictions relative to the native population. According to a 2013 study, the majority of foreign prisoners are held in connection with a drug offence. One out of every nine offences ascribed to foreign prisoners concerns violation of ‘laws governing foreigners’. The 2013 study cites literature that points to discriminatory practices against foreigners by Italian law enforcement, judiciary and penal system.
According to a 2013 report, "undocumented immigrants are responsible for the vast majority of crimes committed in Italy by immigrants... the share of undocumented immigrants varies between 60 and 70 percent for violent crimes, and it increases to 70‐85 for property crime. In 2009, the highest shares are in burglary (85), car theft (78), theft (76), robbery (75), assaulting public officer / resisting arrest (75) , handling stolen goods (73)."
According to 2007 data, the crime rate of legal immigrants was 1.23-1.4% whereas the crime rate was 0.75% for native Italians. The overrepresentation is partly due to the large number of young legal immigrants, the crime rate is 1.89% for legal immigrants aged 18–44 whereas it is 1.5% for their Italian peers; 0.44% for legal immigrants aged 45–64 years whereas it is 0.65% for their Italian peers; and for those over 65 years old, the crime rates is the same among natives and foreigners.16.9% of crimes committed by legal immigrants aged 18–44 are linked to violations of immigration laws. By excluding those crimes, the crime rate of legal immigrants aged 18–44 is largely the same as that of same aged Italians.
Non-native Dutch youths, especially young Antillean and Surinamese Rotterdammers, commit more crimes than the average. More than half of Moroccan-Dutch male youths aged 18 to 24 years in Rotterdam have ever been investigated by the police, as compared to close to a quarter of native male youths. Eighteen percent of foreign-born young people aged from 18 to 24 have been investigated for crimes.
According to a 2009 report commissioned by Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin, 63% of the 447 teenagers convicted of serious crime are children of parents born outside the Netherlands. All these cases concern crime for which the maximum jail sentence is longer than eight years, such as robbery with violence, extortion, arson, public acts of violence, sexual assault, manslaughter and murder. The ethnic composition of the perpetrators was: native Dutch - 37%; Moroccans - 14%; Unknown origin - 14%; "other non-Westerners" - 9%; Turkish - 8%; Surinamese - 7%; Antillean - 7%; and "other Westerners" - 4%. In the majority of cases, the judges did not consider the serious offences to be grave enough to necessitate an unconditional jail sentence.
Analysis of police data for 2002 by ethnicity showed that 37.5 percent of all crime suspects living in the Netherlands were of foreign origin (including those of the second generation), almost twice as high as the share of immigrants in the Dutch population. The highest rates per capita were found among first and second generation male migrants of a non‐Western background. Of native male youths between the ages of 18 and 24, in 2002 2.2% were arrested, of all immigrant males of the same age 4.4%, of second generation non-Western males 6.4%. The crime rates for so‐called ‘Western migrants’ were very close to those of the native Dutch. In all groups, the rates for women were considerably lower than for men, lower than one percent, with the highest found among second generation non‐western migrants, 0.9% (Blom et al. 2005: 31).
For Moroccan immigrants, whether they originate from the underdeveloped parts of Morocco has a modest impact on their crime rate. One study finds that "crime rates in the Netherlands are higher among Moroccans who come from the countryside and the Rif, or whose parents do, than among those who come from the urban provinces in Morocco and from outside the Rif, or whose parents do."
A 2011 report by Statistics Norway found that immigrants are overrepresented in crime statistics but that there is substantial variation by country of origin. The report furthermore found that "the overrepresentation is substantially reduced when adjusting for population structure – for some groups as much as 45 per cent, but there are also some groups where the overrepresentation still is large." According to the report, the data for 2009 shows that first-generation immigrants from Africa were three times more likely than ethnic Norwegians (or rather individuals who are neither first- nor second-generation immigrants) to be convicted of a felony while Somali immigrants in particular being 4.4 times more likely to be convicted of a felony than an ethnic Norwegian was. Similarly, Iraqis and Pakistanis were found to have rates of conviction for felonies greater than ethnic Norwegians by a factor of 3 and 2.6 respectively. Another finding was that second-generation African and Asian immigrants had a higher rate of convictions for felonies than first-generation immigrants. While first-generation African immigrants had conviction rates for felonies of 16.7 per 1,000 individuals over the age of 15, for second-generation immigrants the rate was 28 per 1,000 – an increase of over 60%. And for Asian immigrants an increase from 9.3 per 1,000 to 17.1 per 1,000 was observed. In 2010 13% of sexual crimes charges were filed against first generation immigrants who make up 7.8% of the population – a rate of overrepresentaion of 1.7. Unfortunately, no data is available on sexual crime that is broken down by ethnic background.
In 2010, a spokesperson for the Oslo Police Department stated that every case of assault rapes in Oslo in the years 2007, 2008 and 2009 was committed by a non-Western immigrant. When only perpetrators in the solved cases were counted, it was found that four of the victims in the 16 unsolved cases described the perpetrator as being of White (not necessarily Norwegian) ethnicity.
A 2011 report by the Oslo Police District shows that of the 131 individuals charged with the 152 rapes in which the perpetrator could be identified, 45.8% were of African, Middle Eastern or Asian origin while 54.2% were of Norwegian, other European or American origin. In the cases of "assault rape", i.e. rape aggravated by physical violence, a category that included 6 of the 152 cases and 5 of the 131 identified individuals, the 5 identified individuals were of African, Middle Eastern or Asian origin. In the cases of assault rape where the individual responsible was not identified and the police relied on the description provided by the victim, 8 of the perpetrators were of African/dark-skinned appearance, 4 were Western/light/Nordic and 4 had an Asian appearance.
A 2008 study finds that the rates of crimes committed by immigrants are substantially higher than nationals. The study finds that "the arrival of immigrants has resulted in a lack of progress in the reduction of offences against property and in a minor increase in the number of offences against Collective Security (i.e. drugs and trafficking). In the case of nationals, their contribution to the increase in the crime rate is primarily concentrated in offences against persons." By controlling for socioeconomic and demographic factors, the gap between immigrants and natives is reduced but not fully. The authors also find "that a higher proportions of American, non-UE European, and African immigrants tend to widen the crime differential, the effect being larger for the latter ones". The same paper provides supports for the notion that labour market conditions impact the relationship between crime and immigration. Cultural differences were also statistically detected. This study has been criticized for not using strong instruments for identifying causality: the "instruments (lagged values of the covariates and measures of the service share of GDP in a province) are not convincing in dealing with the endogeneity of migrant location choice."
Spanish National Statistics Institute (INE) published a study that analyzes records in the Register of Convicted in 2008. The data show that immigrants are overrepresented in the crime statistics: 70% of all crimes were committed by Spaniards and 30% by foreigners. Foreigners make up 15% of the population.
In Switzerland, 69.7% of the prison population did not have Swiss citizenship, compared to 22.1% of total resident population (as of 2008). The figure of arrests by residence status is not usually made public. In 1997, when there were for the first time more foreigners than Swiss among the convicts under criminal law (out of a fraction of 20.6% of the total population at the time), a special report was compiled by the Federal Department of Justice and Police (published in 2001) which for the year 1998 found an arrest rate per 1000 adult population of 2.3 for Swiss citizens, 4.2 for legally resident aliens and 32 for asylum seekers. 21% of arrests made concerned individuals with no residence status, who were thus either sans papiers or "crime tourists" without any permanent residence in Switzerland.
A 2016 study found that asylum seekers exposed to conflict during childhood were far more prone to violent crimes than co-national asylum seekers who were not exposed to conflict. The conflict exposed cohorts have a higher propensity to target victims from their own nationality. However, offering labor market access to the asylum seekers eliminates the entire effect of conflict exposure on crime propensity.
In 2010, a statistic was published which listed delinquency by nationality (based on 2009 data). To avoid distortions due to demographic structure, only the male population aged between 18 and 34 was considered for each group. From the study, it became clear that crime rate is highly correlated on the country of origin of the various migrant groups. Thus, immigrants from Germany, France and Austria had a significantly lower crime rate than Swiss citizens (60% to 80%), while immigrants from Angola, Nigeria and Algeria had a crime rate of above 600% of that of Swiss population. In between these extremes were immigrants from Former Yugoslavia, with crime rates of between 210% and 300% of the Swiss value.
The 2005 report by the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention studying 4.4 million Swedes between the ages of 15 and 51 during the period 1997-2001 found that 58.9% of crime suspects were born to two Swedish parents (74.5% of total population), 10.4% of those born to one Swedish parent (9.3% of total population), 5.2% of those born to two foreign parents (3.2% of total population), and 25% of foreign-born individuals (13.1% of total population). The report found that male immigrants were four times more likely to be investigated for lethal violence and robbery than ethnic Swedes. In addition, male immigrants were three times more likely to be investigated for violent assault, and five times more likely to be investigated for sex crimes. Immigrants from Africa and Southern and Western Asian were more likely to be charged of a crime than individuals born to two Swedish parents by a factor of 4.5 and 3.5 respectively. The report is based on statistics for those "suspected" of offences, but Stina Holmberg of the Council for Crime Prevention said that there was "little difference" in the statistics for those suspected of crimes and those actually convicted. "Slightly under 60 percent of the almost 1,520,000 offences... registered during the period covered by the study can be attributed to persons who were born in Sweden to two Swedish-born parents," it said. A 2006 government report however suggests that immigrants face discrimination by law enforcement, which could lead to meaningful differences between those suspected of crimes and those actually convicted. A 2008 report by the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention finds evidence of discrimination towards individuals of foreign descent in the Swedish judicial system. The 2005 report finds that immigrants who entered Sweden during early childhood have lower crime rates than other immigrants. By taking account of socioeconomic factors (gender, age, education and income), the crime rate gap between immigrants and natives decreases.
A 1996 report by the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention determined that between 1985 and 1989 individuals born in Iraq, North Africa (Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia),Africa (excluding Uganda and the North African countries), other Middle East (Jordan, Palestine, Syria), Iran and Eastern Europe (Romania, Bulgaria) were convicted of rape at rates 20, 23, 17, 9, 10 and 18 greater than individuals born in Sweden respectively. Both the 1996 and 2005 reports have been criticized for using insufficient controls for socioeconomic factors.
A 2013 study found that both first- and second-generation immigrants have a higher rate of suspected offences than indigenous Swedes. While first-generation immigrants have the highest offender rate, the offenders have the lowest average number of offenses, which indicates that there is a high rate of low-rate offending (many suspected offenders with only one single registered offense). The rate of chronic offending (offenders suspected of several offenses) is higher among indigenous Swedes than first-generation immigrants. Second-generation immigrants have higher rates of chronic offending than first-generation immigrants but lower total offender rates.
A study using more comprehensive socioeconomic factors than the 1996 and 2005 reports found that "for males, we are able to explain between half and three-quarters of the gap in crime by reference to parental socio-economic resources and neighbourhood segregation. For females, we can explain even more, sometimes the entire gap." The authors furthermore found "that culture is unlikely to be a strong cause of crime among immigrants".
On 30 June 2013 there were 10,786 prisoners from 160 different countries in the jails of England and Wales. Poland, Jamaica and the Irish Republic formed the highest percentage of foreign nationals in UK prisons. In total, foreigners represented 13% of the prison population, whereas foreign nationals are 13% of the total population in England and Wales. During the 2000s, there was an 111% increase of foreign nationals in UK prisons. According to one study, "there is little evidence to support the theory that the foreign national prison population continues to grow because foreign nationals are more likely to commit crime than are British citizens or more likely to commit crime of a serious nature". The increase may partly be due to the disproportionate number of convicted for drug offences; crimes associated with illegal immigration (fraud and forgery of government documents, and immigration offences); ineffective deportation provisions; and a lack of viable options to custody (which affects bail and sentencing decision making).
Research has found no evidence of an average causal impact of immigration on crime. One study based on evidence from England and Wales in the 2000s found no evidence of an average causal impact of immigration on crime in England and Wales,. No causal impact and no immigrant differences in the likelihood of being arrested were found for London, which saw large immigration changes. A study of two large waves of immigration to the UK (the late 1990s/early 2000s asylum seekers and the post-2004 inflow from EU accession countries) found that the "first wave led to a modest but significant rise in property crime, while the second wave had a small negative impact. There was no effect on violent crime; arrest rates were not different, and changes in crime cannot be ascribed to crimes against immigrants. The findings are consistent with the notion that differences in labor market opportunities of different migrant groups shape their potential impact on crime." A 2013 study found "that crime is significantly lower in those neighborhoods with sizeable immigrant population shares" and that "the crime reducing effect is substantially enhanced if the enclave is composed of immigrants from the same ethnic background." A 2014 study of property crimes based on the Crime and Justice Survey (CJS) of 2003, (a national representative survey where respondents in England and Wales were asked questions regarding their criminal activities), after taking into account the under-reporting of crimes, even found that "immigrants who are located in London and black immigrants are significantly less criminally active than their native counterparts". Another 2014 study found that "areas that have witnessed the greatest percentage of recent immigrants arriving since 2004 have not witnessed higher levels of robbery, violence, or sex offending" but have "experienced higher levels of drug offenses."
It was reported in 2007 that more than one-fifth of solved crimes in London was committed by immigrants. Around a third of all solved, reported sex offences and a half of all solved, reported frauds in the capital were carried out by non-British citizens. A 2008 study found that the crime rate of Eastern European immigrants was the same as that of the indigenous population.
A 2014 study found that immigration reduced the crime rate in Canada: "new immigrants do not have a significant impact on property crime rates, but as they stay longer, more established immigrants actually decrease property crime rates significantly."
A majority of studies in the U.S. have found lower crime rates among immigrants than among non-immigrants, and that higher concentrations of immigrants are associated with lower crime rates. Some research even suggests that increases in immigration may partly explain the reduction in the U.S. crime rate. A 2005 study showed that immigration to large U.S. metropolitan areas does not increase, and in some cases decreases, crime rates there. A 2009 study found that recent immigration was not associated with homicide in Austin, Texas. The low crime rates of immigrants to the United States despite having lower levels of education, lower levels of income and residing in urban areas (factors that should lead to higher crime rates) may be due to lower rates of antisocial behavior among immigrants. A 2015 study found that Mexican immigration to the United States was associated with an increase in aggravated assaults and a decrease in property crimes. A 2016 study finds no link between immigrant populations and violent crime, although there is a small but significant association between undocumented immigrants and drug-related crime.
Research finds that Secure Communities, an immigration enforcement program which led to a quarter of a million of detentions (when the study was published; November 2014), had no observable impact on the crime rate. A 2015 study found that the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, which legalized almost 3 million immigrants, led to "decreases in crime of 3-5 percent, primarily due to decline in property crimes, equivalent to 120,000-180,000 fewer violent and property crimes committed each year due to legalization". According to one study, sanctuary cities - which adopt policies designed to not prosecute people solely for being an illegal alien - have no statistically meaningful effect on crime.
One of the first political analyses in the U.S. of the relationship between immigration and crime was performed in the beginning of the 20th century by the Dillingham Commission, which found a relationship especially for immigrants from non-Northern European countries, resulting in the sweeping 1920s immigration reduction acts, including the Emergency Quota Act of 1921, which favored immigration from northern and western Europe. Recent research is skeptical of the conclusion drawn by the Dillingham Commission. One study finds that "major government commissions on immigration and crime in the early twentieth century relied on evidence that suffered from aggregation bias and the absence of accurate population data, which led them to present partial and sometimes misleading views of the immigrant-native criminality comparison. With improved data and methods, we find that in 1904, prison commitment rates for more serious crimes were quite similar by nativity for all ages except ages 18 and 19, for which the commitment rate for immigrants was higher than for the native-born. By 1930, immigrants were less likely than natives to be committed to prisons at all ages 20 and older, but this advantage disappears when one looks at commitments for violent offenses."
For the early twentieth century, one study found that immigrants had "quite similar" imprisonment rates for major crimes as natives in 1904 but lower for major crimes (except violent offenses; the rate was similar) in 1930. Contemporary commissions used dubious data and interpreted it in questionable ways.
The alleged link between immigration and criminality has been a longstanding meme in Australian history with many of the original immigrants being convicts. During the 1950s and 1960s, the majority of emigrants to the country arrived from Italy and Greece, and were shortly afterwards associated with local crime. This culminated in the "Greek conspiracy case" of the 1970s, when Greek physicians were accused of defrauding the Medibank system. The police were later found to have conducted investigations improperly, and the doctors were eventually cleared of all charges. After the demise of the White Australia policy restricting non-European immigration, the first large settler communities from Asia emerged. This development was accompanied by a moral panic regarding a potential spike in criminal activity by the Triads and similar organizations. In 1978, the erstwhile weekly The National Times also reported on involvement in the local drug trade by Calabrian Italian, Turkish, Lebanese and Chinese dealers.
Discourse surrounding immigrant crime reached a head in the late 1990s. The fatal stabbing of a Korean teenager in Punchbowl in October 1998 followed by a drive-by shooting of the Lakemba police station prompted then New South Wales Premier Bob Carr and NSW Police Commissioner Peter Ryan to blame the incidents on Lebanese gangs. Spurred on by the War on Terror, immigrant identities became increasingly criminalized in the popular Sydney media. By the mid-2000s and the outbreak of the Cronulla riots, sensationalist broadcast and tabloid media representations had reinforced existing stereotypes of immigrant communities as criminal entities and ethnic enclaves as violent and dangerous areas.
The only reliable statistics on immigrant crime in Australia are based on imprisonment rates by place of birth. As of 1999, this data indicated that immigrants from Vietnam (2.7 per 1,000 of population), Lebanon (1.6) and New Zealand (1.6) were over-represented within the national criminal justice system. Compared to the Australian-born (1), immigrants from Italy (0.6), the United Kingdom (0.6), Ireland (0.6) and Greece (0.5) were under-represented.
In the late 2000s, following a series of arrests in Melbourne on terrorism-related charges, Australian security officials expressed concerns of possible attacks by Al-Qaeda-affiliated extremists from North Africa. Victoria Police department officers also claimed in 2012 that Sudanese and Somali immigrants were around five times more likely to commit crimes than other state residents. Internal police figures asserted that the rate of offending in the Sudanese community was 7109.1 per 100,000 individuals, whereas it was said to be 6141.8 per 100,000 for Somalis, and 1301.0 per 100,000 for the wider Victoria community. Robbery and assault were alleged to have been the most common types of crime committed by the Sudanese and Somali residents, with assault purported to represent 29.5% and 24.3% of all offences, respectively. However, the overall proportion of crime in the state said to have been committed by members of the Sudanese community was only 0.92 percent, while it was reportedly 0.35 percent for Somali residents. The police also stated that individuals arrested and charged might have been falsely claiming to belong to each community, and that it was meeting with local representatives as part of a civic engagement strategy.
In 2010, six applicants brought charges of impropriety against several members of the Victorian Police, the Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police, and the State of Victoria in the Melbourne areas of Flemington and Kensington. The ensuing Haile-Michael v Konstantinidis case alleged various forms of mistreatment by the public officials in violation of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975. In March 2012, an order of discovery was made, whereby established statistician Ian Gordon of the University of Melbourne independently analysed Victorian Police LEAP data from Flemington and North Melbourne (2005-2008). The report concluded that residents from Africa were two and a half times more likely to be subjected to an arbitrary "stop and search" than their numbers in the area would suggest is appropriate. Although the justification provided for such disproportionate policing measures was over-representation in local crime statistics, the study found that the same police LEAP data in reality showed that male immigrants from Africa on average committed substantially less crime than male immigrants from other backgrounds. Despite this, the latter alleged male offenders were observed to be 8.5 times more likely not to be the subject of a police "field contact". The case was eventually settled on 18 February 2013, with a landmark agreement that the Victoria Police would publicly review its "field contact" and training processes. The inquiry is expected to help police identify areas where discrimination in the criminal justice system has the potential to or does occur; implement institutional reforms as pre-emptive measures in terms of training, policy and practice; predicate changes on international law enforcement best practices; ammeliorate the local police's interactions with new immigrants and ethnic minorities, as well as with the Aboriginal community; and serve as a benchmark for proper conduct vis-a-vis other police departments throughout the country.
Perception of immigrant criminality
Research suggests that people overestimate the relationship between immigration and criminality. A 2016 study of Belgium found that living in an ethnically diverse community lead to a greater fear of crime, unrelated to the actual crime rate. A 2015 study found that the increase in immigration flows into western European countries that took place in the 2000s did "not affect crime victimization, but it is associated with an increase in the fear of crime, the latter being consistently and positively correlated with the natives’ unfavourable attitude toward immigrants."
A study of the long-run effects of the 9/11 terrorist attacks found that the post-9/11 increase in hate crimes against Muslims decreased assimilation by Muslim immigrants. Controlling for relevant factors, the authors found that "Muslim immigrants living in states with the sharpest increase in hate crimes also exhibit: greater chances of marrying within their own ethnic group; higher fertility; lower female labour force participation; and lower English proﬁciency."
States that experience terrorist acts on their own soil or against their own citizens are more likely to adopt stricter restrictions on asylum recognition. Individuals who believe that African Americans and Hispanics are more prone to violence are more likely to support capital punishment.
The Dillingham Commission singled out immigrants from Southern Europe for their involvement in violent crime (even though the data did not support its conclusions). The Commission's overall findings provided the rationale for sweeping 1920s immigration reduction acts, including the Emergency Quota Act of 1921, which favored immigration from northern and western Europe by restricting the annual number of immigrants from any given country to 3 percent of the total number of people from that country living in the United States in 1910. The movement for immigration restriction that the Dillingham Commission helped to stimulate culminated in the National Origins Formula, part of the Immigration Act of 1924, which capped national immigration at 150,000 annually and completely barred immigration from Asia.
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