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Researchers say immigration does not influence upticks in crime rate

Courtesy Erin Heaney
Activists express their support for immigrants during a recent local rally. A study conducted by several academic partners including a UB professor finds no connection between immigration and rising crime rates.

Amidst the debate about immigration in the U.S., a recently-published report prepared by several research partners, including one from the University at Buffalo, challenges the claims that immigrants are a significant influence on the crime rate.

The study collected and analyzed four decades of data, from the years 1970 to 2010, collected by the U.S. Census Bureau and Federal Bureau of Investigation.

"Our research showed that there's just not this link," said Robert Adelman, professor of sociology at UB and the research paper's lead writer. "That whole literature shows there's not a strong link between immigration and crime."

Adelman acknowledged that some immigrants have committed crimes, but the research project concludes there is no widespread threat to national security by people arriving into the U.S. The research instead suggests that in may neighborhoods, immigrants have helped influence a decrease in crime. Adelman says other studies have found the same.

"All of these show that growth in immigration populations often lead to economic revitalization, population growth in areas, low rates of vacant and abandoned buildings, that kind of vitality that we want in our cities and our metropolitan areas," he said.

The study was conducted by partners from the University of Alabama, Kennesaw State, Georgia State and an independent scholar. The report is published in the latest issue of the Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice but Adelman says the data they used is also readily available to the public.

Late last month, President Donald Trump signed an executive order addressing undocumented immigrants. One of the items included in that order (Section 9b) was a required weekly listing of "criminal actions committed by aliens" as a means to "better inform the public regarding the public safety threats associated with sanctuary jurisdictions." 

"Let's look at the evidence," Adelman said. "Let's look at the data. The data here do not support the claim that there is a strong link between immigration and crime."

As the professor put it, policy should be based on evidence rather than ideology.