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Latino Immigration Is Linked to a Reduction in Homicides

Don’t believe the scare stories, a new study warns.
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Protesters take part in a Solidarity Rally Against Deportation on March 9th, 2017, in New York City. (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

Protesters take part in a Solidarity Rally Against Deportation on March 9th, 2017, in New York City. (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

The Trump administration’s rhetoric has created the impression that illegal immigration increases crime. One of the president’s first executive orders directed the Department of Homeland Security to publish a weekly list of “criminal actions committed by aliens.”

Critics who assert President Donald Trump is merely pandering to prejudice point out that most research on the subject has found no such link. Now, a newly published study finds a major crime-related benefit from having new neighbors from south of the border.

“Latino immigration is generally associated with decrease in homicide victimization,” Purdue University sociologist Michael Light writes in the journal Social Science Research. His analysis finds this trend applies to “whites, blacks, and Hispanics, in both established and non-established immigrant destinations.”

Light analyzed immigration patterns and crime rates in 132 metropolitan areas across the United States. He analyzed data from a variety of sources, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Census Bureau. For each metropolis, he noted the proportion of the total population of an area that is foreign-born Latino, and how that figure changed between 1990 and 2010.

His key finding: “Recent increases in Latino immigrants are generally associated with reductions in homicide in both traditional and non-traditional immigrant destinations.”

Further analysis revealed that “Minorities have gained the most — in terms of reduction in homicide — from the most recent waves of Latino immigrants,” Light adds. This supports the theory “that the pro-social benefits of immigration are likely to be particularly acute in disadvantaged — and often racially segregated — areas.”

In such neighborhoods, he writes, immigrants typically “infuse much-needed business and social capital” into the local economy, “and strengthen community institutions that bolster informal social control.”

Light’s study looked solely at homicides, rather than the overall crime rate. While further research will be needed to determine if increased immigration also leads to decreases in other offenses, he notes that “homicide rates tend to strongly parallel trends in overall violent crime.”

Overall, the results “challenge the view that the trends of increased immigration and decreased violence are happenstance,” Light concludes. “To the contrary, the results support (the view) that immigration may have been a factor in explaining the broad reductions in violent crime since 1990.”

Feeling safer than you did a couple of decades ago? Perhaps you should thank an immigrant.