Why people believe undocumented immigrants cause more crime

Jun 07, 2012 By Paul Atkinson
ASU criminologist Xia Wang examined why people believe undocumented imnmigrants are responsible for more crime than they commit. Credit: Felipe Ruiz, College of Public Programs

(Phys.org) -- Xia Wang wanted to find out why so many Americans believe undocumented immigrants commit more crime. 

“The weight of evidence suggests that immigration is not related to more ,” said Wang, an assistant professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University. “But this body of scholarship doesn’t seem to affect the public’s perception. The public consistently perceives immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants, as criminal.”

To better understand why that perception exists, Wang used data from a poll of more than 1,000 people in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Texas. She applied the minority threat perspective, a theory that seeks to explain why minorities are treated differently by law enforcement. The results were published last month in an article that appeared online in the journal Criminology.

Wang found the belief that undocumented immigrants cause crime was due in part to the perceived of the immigrant community overall. 

“If somebody is perceiving undocumented immigrants as a larger proportion in the population, they are going to perceive undocumented immigrants at a higher level of criminal threat,” Wang said. “And what’s interesting is a lot of people have very distorted and exaggerated views of the population size of undocumented immigrants.”

The data show a large proportion of respondents estimated the undocumented population to be more than half of the overall foreign born population, far greater than recognized statistics. In 2011, the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey listed the U.S. immigrant population at 39.6 million, while the Pew Hispanic Center estimated 28%, or 11.2 million, were unauthorized immigrants.

“As for why people have very distorted, exaggerated views, what I found is that individual factors such as your level of education and your victimization experience shape your views,” said Wang. “It’s a bit surprising to me because I would think that people would form their perceptions of undocumented immigrant population size based on the conditions their neighborhood is in, such as the actual size of the immigrant population.”

Wang tested to see if the economic condition, or unemployment rate of respondents’ communities played a role in believing undocumented immigrants were more involved in crime.  It didn’t for the general population, but it did for the native born.

“Those neighborhood conditions don’t matter as much,” Wang said. “It is  largely the individual characteristics that shape people’s perceptions of undocumented immigrants population size and perceptions of undocumented immigrants as more criminal.”

Wang said that for criminologists her analysis shows the minority threat perspective could be applied to . For members of the public, she hoped it may lead them to ask why undocumented immigrants are perceived as causing more crime.

“They actually commit less crime than the native born. But why do we consistently believe they are more criminal?” asked Wang.  “We can ask ourselves and be more critical of our views.  Are we being reasonable?  Are we being rational?”

Explore further: Why are UK teenagers skipping school?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Mass illegal immigration violations reveals flaws in the law

Feb 09, 2011

Anyone who cares about the rule of law has to acknowledge that illegal immigration has serious social costs that cannot be casually dismissed, says immigration law expert Stephen Legomsky, JD, DPhil, the John S. Lehmann University ...

Recommended for you

Why are UK teenagers skipping school?

Dec 18, 2014

Analysis of the results of a large-scale survey reveals the extent of truancy in English secondary schools and sheds light on the mental health of the country's teens.

Fewer lectures, more group work

Dec 18, 2014

Professor Cees van der Vleuten from Maastricht University is a Visiting Professor at Wits University who believes that learning should be student centred.

How to teach all students to think critically

Dec 18, 2014

All first year students at the University of Technology Sydney could soon be required to take a compulsory maths course in an attempt to give them some numerical thinking skills. ...

User comments : 31

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Adrenaline
3.8 / 5 (20) Jun 07, 2012
Because being an "undocumented immigrant" is a crime itself.
TryingHarder
2.8 / 5 (13) Jun 07, 2012
Because being an "undocumented immigrant" is a crime itself.


Actually, no, that is another myth. Being undocumented is a civil offense not a crime.
ryggesogn2
2 / 5 (12) Jun 07, 2012
If an illegal alien has an accident and presents a false ID, the police let them go with a ticket and they never show up in court. (Wonder why?)
Depending upon the severity of the crime, local police let them go because ICE won't collect them and deport theme.
Terriva
3 / 5 (6) Jun 07, 2012
Such a migrants are more vulnerable to the offers of various drug dealers, illegal employers and similar opportunities.
tadchem
5 / 5 (4) Jun 07, 2012
This 'study' skirts the issue by analyzing the *perceptions* of people (using a flawed statistical method called 'polling') rather than addressing the *real* problem: Who is really committing these crimes and how can we stop them?
The focus of our work should be the protection of the lives and property of the innocent, not their opinons.
When I see a criminal selling poison on street corners, I really don't care where he/she was born or what papers have been issued.
Vendicar_Decarian
2.8 / 5 (13) Jun 07, 2012
How can't undocumented aliens NOT be committing more crimes when Conservative Propaganda groups and news outlets like Faux News and the Druge Report make it their business to report as many crimes committed by illegals as they possibly can?

It just don't make no sense dat illegals isn't criminalz.
Caliban
4.5 / 5 (8) Jun 07, 2012
The real crime is in what this research avoids addressing --which is a much different matter.

The real crime is that the vast majority of illegal immigration is caused by an illegal economy of tax evasion and worker exploitation, chiefly in the agricultural industries and unskilled/semi skilled labor markets.

If employers of undocumented/illegal immigrants were actively and relentlessly pursued by law enforcement and then prosecuted and harshly penalized for their crimes, the market for those workers would quickly dry up and the incentive to immigrate illegally would vanish.
ryggesogn2
3.1 / 5 (11) Jun 07, 2012
Maybe this is why:
"New data from the Arizona Department of Corrections shows that undocumented immigrants are increasingly over-represented in the state's prison population"
http://www.cbsnew...695.html
Caliban
2.5 / 5 (8) Jun 07, 2012
Maybe this is why:
"New data from the Arizona Department of Corrections shows that undocumented immigrants are increasingly over-represented in the state's prison population"
http://www.cbsnew...695.html


Well, riggsuckin'

If they are undocumented, then what the hell are they doing in Arizona's prisons? Why haven't they been deported? Don't those people in Arizona know they have a budget crisis? Could it be that imprisoning illegals is another fine way of siphoning up all those sweet, free taxpayer dollars? Are all those illegals earning a living from the drug trade and other street crime?

I don't suppose any of them are involved in illegal labor practices run by good ol' capitalist freemarketeers.

Oh, sorry --forgot we were only talking about "perceptions".
Shelgeyr
1.5 / 5 (8) Jun 07, 2012
"Because they do."

Because A = A.
dschlink
4.2 / 5 (5) Jun 07, 2012
From the article: "but accounted for only 7 percent of the state's overall population ... For example of all the prisoners serving time in Arizona state prisons for kidnapping, 40 percent were undocumented." 5.7 times as likely to not be a perception, but an observation.
CapitalismPrevails
3.3 / 5 (14) Jun 07, 2012
Actually, no, that is another myth. Being undocumented is a civil offense not a crime.


Actually, yes it is. Under Title 8 Section 1325 of the U.S. Code, "Improper Entry by Alien," a citizen of any country other than the U.S. who:

Enters or attempts to enter the United States at any time or place other than as designated by immigration officers;

Eludes examination or inspection by immigration officers;

Attempts to enter or obtains entry to the United States by a willfully false or misleading representation or the willful concealment of a material fact;

has infact committed a federal crime.
Deathclock
2.5 / 5 (12) Jun 07, 2012
yes, they do commit more crimes, but the system we have put in place causes that to occur. It's time we all stop blaming the people committing the crimes, because the people aren't going to change unless the influencing factors that lead them to commit the crimes changes. People are as predictable as numbers in an algebraic equation... if you want to get the variable on the other side simply divide by it... if you want to get the illegals on the other side of the fence just remove the incentive for coming here.
ryggesogn2
2.1 / 5 (14) Jun 07, 2012
People are as predictable as numbers in an algebraic equation.

Spoken like a good socialist.
If people were so predictable why do companies fail to stay in business predicting the customer needs or why do politicians lose elections if people are so predictable?

Why haven't they been deported?

The democrats need votes and refuse to deport.
Illegal aliens put a level 1 emergency room out of business in Tucson.
illegal labor practices run by good ol' capitalist freemarketeers.

Why won't the feds enforce the law?

BTW, states like AZ, AL, NC who attempt to enforce federal law are attacked by the Obama regime. States ARE obligated to respect and support all federal laws.
ryggesogn2
1.9 / 5 (9) Jun 07, 2012
"An estimated 19,000 of Californias convicts are illegal aliens, who cost the state approximately a billion dollars a year to incarcerate. "
http://www.washin...onvicts/

And this is in a state that provides sanctuary to illegal aliens.
Deathclock
2.5 / 5 (8) Jun 07, 2012
People are as predictable as numbers in an algebraic equation.

Spoken like a good socialist.
If people were so predictable why do companies fail to stay in business predicting the customer needs or why do politicians lose elections if people are so predictable?


I know you think you were making a good point... but you failed to realize that the simple answer to your question is:

Someone HAS to lose... that's how the system is designed, that's why some politicians lose the election they were trying for... because someone HAS TO.

Did you put any thought into that at all?
ODesign
5 / 5 (3) Jun 08, 2012
People are as predictable as numbers in an algebraic equation.

Spoken like a good socialist.
If people were so predictable why do companies fail to stay in business predicting the customer needs or why do politicians lose elections if people are so predictable?


because it takes more than the ability to predict people in the aggregate for a company to do well. Most companies can't predict their senior management behavior well enough to prevent short term incentives from overriding long term business fundamentals.
ryggesogn2
1.8 / 5 (5) Jun 08, 2012
Someone HAS to lose... that's how the system is designed,

In a socialist system this is true.
A free market system is win-win. As Adam Smith noted, it is self interest that motivates the butcher and baker to create products their customers WANT to purchase. The butcher values the money from his customer more than the meat he is selling so he trades the money for the meat. The customer values the meat more than the money. Both win in the exchange.
I know understanding how wealth is created is difficult for socialists.
Caliban
3 / 5 (2) Jun 08, 2012

I know understanding how wealth is created is difficult for socialists.


Au contraire, Komrade Swenson--

Generally at the expense of labor and environment. Do I win the prize for the correct answer?

It in no way qualifies as a conundrum.

milliondollarlegs
3.4 / 5 (5) Jun 08, 2012
I taught at a school with about 15% "illegal" students or students with "illegal" parents in Tucson. What I found is that they were the most respectful diligent kids in the class because they appreciated their circumstances a lot more than kids next to them who take their education for granted.

Also remember that committing a crime means instant deportation, so most illegal's keep out of trouble.
kaasinees
1.8 / 5 (5) Jun 08, 2012
illegals at school? you are an idiot.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (4) Jun 08, 2012

I know understanding how wealth is created is difficult for socialists.


Au contraire, Komrade Swenson--

Generally at the expense of labor and environment. Do I win the prize for the correct answer?

It in no way qualifies as a conundrum.


What expense?
If you want to eat you will need to kill something or dig some holes in the ground to plant some food. And you will have to LABOR to do so. No one is going to do it for you, unless you are good socialist and threaten their life. That the the beginning of wealth creation.
DaFranker
4 / 5 (4) Jun 08, 2012
What expense?
If you want to eat you will need to kill something or dig some holes in the ground to plant some food. And you will have to LABOR to do so. No one is going to do it for you, unless you are good socialist and threaten their life. That the the beginning of wealth creation.

Your propaganda and lack of open-mindedness is just as entertaining as it was the first time I read it. Have you ever actually studied economy within a non-capitalist context? Natural economy and history, maybe? Have you ever taken the time to read about socialism and communism and how they actually work?

In a future much nearer than you fear, the current capitalist system will fail by mathematical, social and economical necessity. Technology and automation will make the entire system obsolete at a very essential level, and you're going to be on the side that can't adjust, can't adapt. You're going to be on the only losing side, while everyone else wins by plowing forward. Good luck.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (4) Jun 08, 2012
t socialism and communism and how they actually work?

Yes. Millions of people die. That's how it works.
http://mises.org/...nts.aspx

Popper was motivated to create his falsification concept of science because of the failures of socialism.

Even the Swedes refute socialism:
"Where are the left-wing intellectuals to challenge this new order? They have disappeared. The old socialist research organizations have closed down. The Center for Labor Market Studies was a state institution that generated propaganda, not research, and the government closed it. The Trade Union Confederation had a sophisticated research institute, which it eliminated for not being sufficiently political. "
http://www.bloomb...ion.html
Vendicar_Decarian
not rated yet Jun 09, 2012
Libertarian Party Platform: Immigration

We hold that human rights should not be denied or abridged on the basis of nationality. We condemn massive roundups of Hispanic Americans and others by the federal government in its hunt for individuals not possessing required government documents. We strongly oppose all measures that punish employers who hire undocumented workers. Such measures repress free enterprise, harass workers, and systematically discourage employers from hiring Hispanics.

Cont...
Vendicar_Decarian
3 / 5 (2) Jun 09, 2012
We welcome all refugees to our country and condemn the efforts of U.S. officials to create a new "Berlin Wall" which would keep them captive. We condemn the U.S. government's policy of barring those refugees from our country and preventing Americans from assisting their passage to help them escape tyranny or improve their economic prospects.

Undocumented non-citizens should not be denied the fundamental freedom to labor and to move about unmolested. Furthermore, immigration must not be restricted for reasons of race, religion, political creed, age, or sexual preference.

Cont...
Vendicar_Decarian
3 / 5 (2) Jun 09, 2012
We therefore call for the elimination of all restrictions on immigration, the abolition of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Border Patrol, and a declaration of full amnesty for all people who have entered the country illegally. We oppose government welfare and resettlement payments to non-citizens just as we oppose government welfare payments to all other persons.

From the Libertarian Party Platform.
Caliban
5 / 5 (3) Jun 09, 2012

HAHAHAHAHAHA...

All that fluff, for the sole purpose of sounding resolute and Patriotic, while at the same time revealing the ACTUAL agenda:

Dismantle the Federal Government(-especially) -and why not State and Local, too?

And:

Undocumented non-citizens should not be denied the fundamental freedom to labor and to move about unmolested.


And in no time at all, we would all possess the same freedoms as the undocumented --the freedom to be sexually and economically exploited, freedom from healthcare, freedom from safe food, freedom from clean air and water, freedom from education, freedom from political voice, freedom from retirement, freedom from money, freedom from property, and the most important freedom of all: to be "free" of all freedoms except freedom from labor.

Unless you have the whip hand, of course.

Thanks, Vendicar, for posting that.

I couldn't resist highlighting the essential parts.

Vendicar_Decarian
5 / 5 (2) Jun 09, 2012
Know the enemy.
wealthychef
5 / 5 (2) Jun 10, 2012
Someone HAS to lose... that's how the system is designed,

In a socialist system this is true.
A free market system is win-win. As Adam Smith noted, it is self interest that motivates the butcher and baker to create products their customers WANT to purchase. The butcher values the money from his customer more than the meat he is selling so he trades the money for the meat. The customer values the meat more than the money. Both win in the exchange.
I know understanding how wealth is created is difficult for socialists.

The free market is only a win-win if the information in the market is freely available to all. Due to insider trading, political corruption, and old-boy networking, our market is not a free market.
Vendicar_Decarian
5 / 5 (2) Jun 10, 2012
It isn't just information, it is all manner of trade.

"The free market is only a win-win if the information in the market is freely available to all." - wealthychief

Can you trade on the stock market? Probably. Can you trade after hours like the big brokerage firms can? Nope.

Do you have the resources to trade on 1/100th of a cent margins and do so millions of times per day? Nope.

Do people have time to work their day job and also monitor the stock market for ripe times to trade? Nope.

Do you even have accurate information?

Most large corporations have a PR system that is set up to lie to the world and lie even to their own employees.

Consider the PR firms who employ the Heritage Foundation (libertarian) to promote the idea that smoking is a "lifestyle choice that children should think about."

Without adequate socialization through regulation, a market will become toxic and entirely anti-social.

You know, like billboard ads showing models pissing themselves in public.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.