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As immigration increases, violent crime falls or stays the same

Since his campaign, President Trump has alleged that immigrants are responsible for increasing crimes in the U.S. A recent report by The Marshall Project analyzed a study of immigration and crime in 200 cities dating to the 1980s, which found that violent crime rates have mainly fallen or stayed the same in areas where immigration has risen. Marshall Project reporter Anna Flagg joins Hari Sreenivasan.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    President Trump has frequently claimed that immigrants bring crime to America but researchers have looked at the data and come to some different conclusions on the connection between increased immigration and increased crime. The Marshall Project helped visualize the results and posted them last week. Anna Flagg is a reporter with The Marshall Project, joins us now to help break down the findings. It's called The 'Myth of the Criminal Immigrant.' Let's just walk through the general findings. What did you guys look at? What did you find?

  • ANNA FLAGG:

    As you said, Trump campaigned on the idea that immigrants are criminals that bring drugs and crime into America. And he's now using all that rhetoric to kind of push very harsh anti immigrant policies. And so the question is, do immigrants actually increase crime? And this study found no, they don't.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    What did it look at?

  • ANNA FLAGG:

    Well, the study and then the addition of The Marshall Project looked at 200 cities across the U.S. metropolitan area level data and we compared immigration rates with crime rates since 1980 and found that for a vast majority of areas immigration increased at the same time that violent crime decreased.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    So immigration was up, what a 108% according to this graph. But at the same time crime was down 36% and that's across all 200 cities?

  • ANNA FLAGG:

    That's nationally.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Right.

  • ANNA FLAGG:

    And then also for the individual cities in 136 out of 200 increases happened in immigration while decreases happened in crime.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    So about 70% of all of those cities and you can actually go through this crime by metro area. You can actually slide your mouse up and down and it looks like you can search and look on a city by city basis and compare how their immigration went up compared to how their violent crime went – whichever direction it went. In most of the cases you could see a bigger cluster of green lines because more of the cities than not actually had a decrease in crime rate. Right?

  • ANNA FLAGG:

    That's exactly right. We tried to present it in a way where people can see for themselves the the relationship or lack of relationship between immigration and crime and they can go and check their own city if they live in one of those areas and they can compare to other cities and see that these two things diverged immigration in a vast majority of areas went up while crime went down.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And you even broke it down so that you can search a particular city and then compare that to the number of assaults robberies and murders in that specific city over this past 30-40 years?

  • ANNA FLAGG:

    That's right. Because we wanted to also make sure that there wasn't a certain type of violent crime that was, in fact, correlated. And what we found was, you know, very similar like different types of crime were all going down, different types of violent crime, which is what we look at while immigration rates are going up.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Take a look at Oakland for example, that's a city that's been in the news recently, especially in terms of sanctuary cities and where their stance is. It looks like the population of immigrants has gone up 83%. The assaults are down 51%. Robberies are down 31%. Murders are down 51%. I also want to clarify this is just crime in general that isn't necessarily crime just committed by immigrants. Correct?

  • ANNA FLAGG:

    Right. Yeah that's what the study focused on. But other research has shown that a crime committed by immigrants on average is actually less than the native born population.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And what did the researchers control for, in terms of say for example there's usually a correlations between how well the economy is doing and what the crime rate is. When the economy goes south, people end up turning to desperate means, right/ Or when the economy goes south we actually saw fewer immigrants trying to illegally crossing into the border because there were just fewer jobs here.

  • ANNA FLAGG:

    Yeah. They control for a range of factors, socio-economic factors and they try to pick metro areas that varied both in geography and size like some places like New York or like massive places compared to like Muncie, much smaller than that. Places that are like, kind of more factory towns versus like massive urban hubs. So they really try to pick a diverse set of areas so that they could like pick out if there were actually like patterns within subsets of that and they were not able to find any correlation with immigration rates, you know or when they controlled for various socio-economic factors poverty levels things like that.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right. Well this is a fascinating amount of data that people can go in and play with themselves. Anna Flagg of The Marshall Project. Thanks so much for joining us.

  • ANNA FLAGG:

    Thank you for having me.

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