Immigration Pessimism

A recent working paper from the Dallas Federal Reserve surveys research on immigration and its impact on public safety. From its conclusion (in-text citation removed):

The comprehensive 2015 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report on immigration integration concludes that the finding that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than U.S. natives “seems to apply to all racial and ethnic groups of immigrants, as well as applying over different decades and across varying historical contexts”. Unauthorized immigrants may be slightly more likely than legal immigrants to commit crimes, but they are still less likely than their U.S.-born peers to do so. Further, areas with more immigrants tend to have lower rates of violent and property crimes. In the face of such evidence, policies aimed at reducing the number of immigrants, including unauthorized immigrants, seem unlikely to reduce crime and increase public safety.

In my high school days, I was fervently in favor of a wall that spanned the border, restrictive annual immigration quotas, the mass-deportation of undocumented foreign nationals, and strict penalties on businesses who hired illegal immigrant labor. My senior project, a semester-long research project for my English and Government classes, was even titled something like, “The Negative Impact of Illegal Immigration on the Economy of the United States.”

I don’t recall using public safety as a justification, but if I had I certainly would’ve elected to ignore research like this (which abounds). In fact, though I did quite well in the end, grade-wise, my failure (or, perhaps more appropriately, dogmatic refusal) to consider contradictory evidence did lose me some points.

My views have since evolved significantly, in no small part because of empirical evidence. I’m even very sympathetic to (though perhaps not totally convinced by) arguments in favor of open borders, lately. Unfortunately, the reality is that most people tend not to change their minds when presented with evidence which contradicts their beliefs, so I’m less than optimistic about the prospect of immigration policy that I like being instituted anytime soon.

2 thoughts on “Immigration Pessimism

    1. Hi, Mary, thanks for your comment!

      Fortunately, data indicate that Muslim migrants are no more likely to commit crimes (terrorism being a crime) than are the native inhabitants of the countries to which they migrate. More to the point, there’s little evidence to suggest that terrorism is imported in any systematic way from Muslim-majority nations. In other words, even accounting for Islam the findings from the research referenced in the body of this post still hold.



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