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When Donald Trump announced he was running for president in 2015, he launched into a disgusting rant about undocumented immigrants from Mexico, accusing them of the most heinous behaviors.

"They are not our friend, believe me," he said. "They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."

Trump's speech was a powerful and disturbing example of the undying myth that immigrants commit more crime than native-born Americans. This belief helps people rationalize their racist attitudes and gives them a reason to scapegoat immigrant communities for a variety of social ills.


Study after study shows that the idea that immigrants, even the undocumented, commit more crimes than the native-born population is just that: a myth.

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The University of California at Davis recently released a far-reaching study that explains why deporting undocumented immigrants has no real effect on crime rates.

The study focused on a program called Secure Communities, which was founded during the George W. Bush administration and eventually canceled under Barack Obama in 2014. It was re-instituted in 2017 when Donald Trump took office.

The program increased data-sharing between Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and local police departments with the ultimate goal of increasing deportations.

U.S. Immigration and Customs / Flickr

The study looked into over a thousand communities that enacted the program, comparing the level of crime before and after its inception. The study found that there was no corresponding drop in crime, even in the cities that deported the most people.

These numbers held true for both violent and property crime.

"A large majority of people who are deported through Secure Communities ... don't have convictions for serious crimes," Randy Capp, director of research for U.S. programs at the Migration Policy Institute, told Mic.

Capp says the most common crimes committed by undocumented people are drunk driving and small-scale drug possession and that "deportations of people who actually have been convicted of much more serious crimes are a really small share of the total." Therefore, the program "doesn't have that great an impact on overall crime."

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The University of Davis study just confirms what we've known for a long time. A 2017 study on the incarceration rates of native-born Americans versus immigrants arrived at the same results.

In the context of crime, victimization, and immigration in the United States, research shows that people are afraid of immigrants because they think immigrants are a threat to their safety and engage in many violent and property crimes. However, quantitative research has consistently shown that being foreign born is negatively associated with crime overall and is not significantly associated with committing either violent or property crime. If an undocumented immigrant is arrested for a criminal offense, it tends to be for a misdemeanor.

A landmark study by Alex Nowresh from the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute found that undocumented immigrants in Texas actually commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans by a large margin.

He examined incarceration rates in Texas and found that in 2015, the rate of convictions per 100,000 undocumented immigrants was 16% lower than that of the native-born. It also found that undocumented people were 56% less likely to be convicted of homicide than a native-born American in Texas.

If Americans could simply wake up and realize that immigrants, whether documented or not, aren't a crime threat, it'd help create the open and accepting society we all deserve.

It would also help stop the war on immigrants that tears apart families while allowing law enforcement agencies to focus their resources on the real sources of crime.