Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Immigrants are unlikely criminals

It's amazing how research does little to dispel these stereotypes. -Dra. Valenzuela

Immigrants are unlikely criminals
Study: Native-borns commit more crimes
Daniel González
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 1, 2007 12:00 AM

The illegal immigrant who killed a Phoenix police officer last month had a lengthy criminal history, raising anew questions about the link between illegal immigrants and crime.

Erik Jovani Martinez, 22, had an extensive juvenile record that included assaults and auto thefts. He served time for auto theft and later was imprisoned for violating his probation. He was eventually deported, only to return and commit more crimes, ending with the fatal shooting of Officer Nick Erfle.

A recent study, however, concluded that immigrants, both legal and illegal, are less likely to commit crimes or be incarcerated than native-born residents of the United States.

The study by University of California-Irvine sociologist Ruben G. Rumbaut and Immigration Policy Center researcher Walter A. Ewing found that for every ethnic group without exception, incarceration rates among young men are lowest for immigrants, even those with low levels of education. The researchers found this holds true for Mexican, Guatemalan and Salvadoran immigrants, who make up the bulk of the undocumented population.

"People who come here legally or illegally are risking everything. The last thing they want to do is run afoul of the law," said Angela Kelley, director of the Immigration Policy Center. The research organization published the study in July.

The study also found that during years when immigration soared, crime rates fell.

Even so, whether illegal immigrants commit crime more or less than others isn't the point, said Steven Camarota, research director at the Center for Immigration Studies.

"It's not the propensity that concerns people," Camarota said. "It's the sense that someone who shouldn't even be in the country commits a serious crime. . . . That is what angers people."

Reach the reporter at daniel.gonzalez@arizonarepublic.com or (602) 444-8312.

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