Immigration and Public Safety

Report Author: 
Nazgol Ghandnoosh & Josh Rovner
Original Date of Publication: 
2017 Mar

Immigration and Public Safety

According to the authors of this report, the impact of immigration on crime rates in the United States is a "well-examined field of study" which has produced "a rigorous body of research."  After summarizing this research, the authors conclude that President Donald Trump "has made demonstrably false claims associating immigrants with criminality." The report covers research in three areas:  immigrant crime rates compared to native-born individuals, the relationship between rising immigration and falling crime rates in local communities, and incarceration rates in federal and state prisons. In the first area, the authors focus on adolescent and undocumented criminality, citing studies showing that "foreign-born youth...had among the lowest delinquency rates when compared to their peers" and that "immigrants - regardless of legal status - do not have higher crime rates than native-born citizens."  In the second area, the authors reference several studies that find a connection between increases in immigration and decreases in crime rates in cities and metropolitan areas, including one study that found a similar inverse relationship at the neighborhood level in Chicago. Finally, the authors disaggregate the U.S. prison population to explain the over-representation of non-citizens in the federal system, and their underrepresentation in the state. Although non-citizens are slightly underrepresented in U.S. prisons as a whole, they are greatly underrepresented in state prisons, where non-citizens make up only four percent of the population (of the 1.5 million people imprisoned in state and federal prisons, 87 percent are held in state institutions).  Within federal prisons, however, 22 percent are non-citizens, largely resulting from the criminalization of immigration violations since 2000 (66 percent of all federal sentences imposed in 2015 were for immigration violations).  The authors conclude that "false statements about immigrant criminality contribute to unfounded public fears that threaten the safety of immigrants and U.S. citizens."

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Ghandnoosh, N.  & Josh Rovner (2017). Immigration and Public Safety. The Sentencing Project. Available here:


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