Immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than natural-born Americans

A new report pushes back on Trump’s xenophobia.


Immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than natural-born Americans

A new report pushes back on Trump’s xenophobia.

Immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than natural-born Americans

A new report pushes back on Trump’s xenophobia.

President Donald Trump has long made clear that he is no friend to immigrants. Between calling Mexicans “rapists” and “bad hombres,” and fumbling through two attempts to ban travel from Muslim-majority nations that have not actually produced people who’ve attacked the U.S., Trump has been demonizing folks from other countries for at least as long as he’s been a politician.

A new report from the Washington-based research and advocacy center The Sentencing Project makes clear that the president’s fear-mongering is not based in fact.

The 18-page report, titled “Immigration and Public Safety,” concludes that “foreign-born residents of the United States commit crime less often than native-born citizens. Policies that further restrict immigration are therefore not effective crime-control strategies. These facts — supported by over 100 years of research — have been misrepresented both historically and in recent political debates.”

The data

Immigrants and crime: the facts


The percentage, over one year, of foreign-born 16-year-olds who committed crimes. The rate for U.S.-born teenagers is 25%.


The number of crimes per 100,000 people in the U.S. in 2014. In 1990 the number was 730 in 100,000. Rates have dropped dramatically.


The population of immigrants in the U.S. prison system. Immigrants make up 7% of the overall population in the U.S.


The percentage of non-citizen convictions related to immigration offenses. Violent crime offenses are just 2%.

The report pulled together data from several in-depth studies. Among the findings:

  • Immigrant teens are more law-abiding than their American-born counterparts. 17 percent of foreign-born 16-year-olds committed “delinquent or criminal behavior” over one year, while 25 percent of 16-year-old children of U.S.-born parents committed the same behaviors during the same time period.

  • As immigration in the U.S. steadily increased between 1990 and 2014, violent crime rates dramatically decreased. The number of foreign-born individuals living in the United States in 1990 was roughly 19.8 million (3.5 million of whom were undocumented), and there were 730 offenses per 100,000 residents. By the year 2014, when the foreign-born population had more than doubled, reaching 42.2 million people (including 11.1 million undocumented people), there were 362 offenses per 100,000 residents.

  • Non-citizens are underrepresented in the U.S. prison system: They make up 6 percent of the U.S. prison population and 7 percent of the total U.S. population.

  • In 2015, the overwhelming amount (66 percent) of the 29,166 criminal convictions for non-citizens were for immigration offenses. That was far more than drug offenses (24 percent), “other non-violent crime (8 percent),” and violent crime (2 percent).

  • The report also cites a study of more than 40,000 U.S. residents age 18 and over that demonstrated that foreign-born people were less likely than native-born Americans to have “engaged in violent or non-violent antisocial behaviors in their lifetimes, including harassment, assault, and acquiring multiple traffic violations, despite being more likely to have lower levels of income, less education, and reside in urban areas.”

  • The study also quotes police chiefs who believe that increasing enforcement of immigration laws undermines public safety. “We need to build trust with the immigrant community, Boston police chief William Evans said. “The last thing we want is for people to be afraid of us … They won’t report crimes, or help us in their communities if they [are] afraid of us.”

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