Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Native born more crime prone than immigrants.

In the past I’ve dealt with the Big Lie that immigrants are a drain on the social welfare system in the United States. Lots of nationalists and Right-wingers claim that illegals have to be rounded up to end this drain. In reality the illegals pay more into the system than they collect.

Some of these conservatives argue that they favor more legal immigration but oppose only illegal immigration. I find that odd because the legal immigrants qualify for the very programs they want cut while illegal immigrants don’t qualify for most assistance. Consistency in their argument ought to mean they would make legal immigration difficult not illegal immigration.

Studies indicate that illegal immigrants are actually highly taxed in relation to the services they receive. They aren’t living off welfare they are subsidising it.

Another argument the nationalists make is that illegal immigrants are criminally prone. They do this by citing various news stories about an illegal immigrant who has committed a crime. What does that prove? Actually nothing. There is a list floating around about the sex crimes of Republicans. With millions of Republicans it is a relatively easy list to compile. But that doesn’t mean Republicans are necessarily kinkier than other political groups. Maybe they are, but that list is not evidence.

What you would need is a scientific poll of the sexual habits of people. And I doubt you would find them kinkier. If anything I would think Democrats would be kinkier only because they would tend to attract more young people and young people are a bit more likely to experiment sexually than old folks. Once you adjust for the age differences I would suspect that a lot of the difference would disappear.

A proper study might look at who is incarcerated for sex crimes. It might then adjust for other factors like income, age, etc., and see if Republicans are disproportionately involved. I don’t know what they would find but this is the process one would need to go through to have anything meaningful to say about the topic. A list of names is actually quite useless.

Ditto for these reports on the crimes of illegal immigrants.

A recent study (pdf) actually looked at the crime rates of immigrants in the United States. They acknowledge that many people fear immigrants will add to the underclass problem. Of course fearing something doesn’t make it real -- but don’t tell Al Gore. Krisitn Butcher and Anne Piehl, authors of the study describe the common perception that immigrants “have low average levels of education, very low average wages, and many are young, male and Hispanic.”

Many of these immigrants work in poorly paying professions. And it is assumed that if one is earning low wages one is more inclined to criminal activity. Now, how does one measure crime among a group of people? It is not particularly useful to simply ask them. You look at the incarceration rates of the individuals. If illegal immigrants commit more crimes then a higher percentage of the prison population would be illegals. Incarceration is actually a good measure. For that reason some anti-immigration groups float bogus statistics making such a claim.

But the nativists have problems because “immigrants have very low rates of institutionalization compared to the native-born. Their relative rates of institutionalization have fallen over the last three decades.” That’s inconvenient if you’re one of the immigrant bashing nationalists.

More interestingly this is true across all ethnic groups. A native born resident of the United States was five times more likely to be in prison than an immigrant and that is with adjusting for population numbers. This is even true for the most criminally prone group around: young males. The data shows “nearly four percent of young men in institutions were immigrant while 17 percent of the general population (of young men) was immigrant.”

Another recent study came to a similar conclusion looking at incarceration rates. The Immigration Policy Center at the University of California, Irvine used 2000 census data to investigate the matter. Prof. Ruben Rumbaut, author of the study, found that 3.5 percent of American-born men, between the ages of 19 and 39, were incarcerated in 2000. But for men of the same group who were foreign born the number was .07 percent. Native born men were five times more likely to be in jail.

Rumbaut also points out something that ought to be obvious. “Even as the undocumented population has doubled to 12 million since 1994, the violent crime rate in the United States has declined 34.2 percent and the property crime rate has fallen 26.4 percent.”

It has been known for years that the number of “illegal” immigrants has been increasing. It has also been known that U.S. crime rates have been dropping. If “illegals” are more crime prone, and if their percentage in the population has been increasing, then one would expect crime rates to increase not decline. This could be false if the crime rate among native born Americans has dropped considerably with immigrants taking up the difference. But if that were the case the incarceration rates should reflect it and they don’t.

Do I expect facts to change the minds of these people? Not really. It is said you can’t reason a man out of a position that he wasn’t reasoned into. Based on the actual incarceration rates in U.S. prisons it would appear that if one wants to lower crime then deporting the native born is actually more likely to work. I suggest the nativists go back to the drawing board. Better yet they should drop the phony excuses and justifications for their position and simply admit the truth. "Deport them. We don't like them."