With regard to the issues of immigration and crime in the news, even a cursory review of the many articles continually linking the two elements reveals enormous societal concern. As will be seen in discussing three such recent articles, legislators are perpetually seeking ways to appease public fears, negotiate legal immigration, and address the factor of immigration as inevitably associated with a variety of crimes.
Not unexpectedly, the most common crime related to immigration is that of it being practiced illegally. The impact of other forms of crime linked with immigration notwithstanding, this seems to be a universal concern in the United States, as is exemplified by the article, “Some California Employers Eagerly Await Immigration Reform Bill” by Shan Li and Diana Marcum. California farmers and industrialists are fighting hard to ease immigration policies because, as the article asserts, the lack of legal immigrants translates to a crippling shortage of labor. The article makes it clear that the incentive here is not based on obtaining masses of workers willing to accept low wages; while low-paying industries rely on immigrant labor, so too do the construction and technology industries, and California’s economy as a whole demands immigrant labor (Li and Marcum, 2013). The problem, it seems, is attending to these commercial needs while also addressing public tides of feeling that insist on more strict procedures. The criminality element of undocumented immigrants generates resistance in itself, even as two-thirds of Americans favor allowing illegal workers already employed in the U.S. to gain citizenship (Li and Marcum, 2013). The new bill proposed for California, while reflecting vast support, may easily be defeated by conservative factions. Meanwhile – and ironically – California businesses are suffering because of illegal immigrant workers lost due to increased border patrols. Here, as may be seen elsewhere, crime exists within immigration despite changing public opinion. This specific criminality is reflected in “Immigrant Releases from Houston Area under Review” by Jeremy Roebuck (2013) which discusses the implications of released convicts in Texas. More exactly, the Houston article emphasizes the fact that, out of several thousand immigrant detainees in the Texas penal system recently released to ease budget pressures, many were held for no crime greater than illegal entry. Of the 240 Houston-area immigrants released, for example, half were charged with that crime only (Roebuck). The release measures have generated intense political and social conflict in Texas, according to the article, because Republican officials are deriding the releases as an unacceptable influx of hardened criminals into the mainstream population. There is here a blatant conflict of interests, and one seen in many immigration issues or policies; on one level, local authorities are more inclined to free illegal immigrants as the safest way of reducing the prison populations, while on another backlash arises from the same administrations forcing the budget actions. In all of this, the illegal immigrant exists between a criminal and non-criminal status. U.S. Immigration Director John Morton, facing a congressional inquiry into his ordering of the releases, affirmed that only 8 of the released immigrants had histories as violent offenders, all of whom have either been taken back into custody or evaluated as due for release (Roebuck, 2013). What dominates here, then, and by virtue of the congressional panel investigating, is how the government persists in criminalizing immigrants only because they enter the country illegally. Concerns over the criminality of being an illegal immigrant are by no means restricted to Mexicans. “Agency Stands Up for Immigrants’ Rights” by David Holthouse (2013) addresses both Russian immigration in Alaska and how violent criminality complicates existing problems. Stanislav Teodrovich, a Russian studying in Anchorage on a student visa, was arrested as an illegal immigrant after being shot in a road rage episode. He claims to have been placed in shackles while in jail, and only the intervention of the Alaska Immigration Justice Project (AIJP) enabled his release. Most notable in this article, however, is the criminality to which the Russian immigrants are subject to, according to the AIJP. Many remain in Alaska illegally because, unlike Mexican immigrants, deportation could translate to torture and imprisonment in their home nations. Immigrants from Africa to Eastern European countries seek asylum in Alaska to escape harsh conditions, and consequently will also seek illegal means of entry as a means of escaping dangers in their native lands. These immigrants, the AIJP claims, are then especially prone to being victims of all kinds of violent crime, notably sexual assault (Holthouse, 2013). While the three articles discussed do not address the drug-related crimes so often associated with immigration, they nonetheless indicate what may be termed a foundation of all immigrant criminality: the framework of illegality when legal status is prohibitive, and how the U.S. remains excessively wary in regard to all immigration. This being the case, it seems evident that real crime, in any number of forms, is more likely facilitated when these populations are so stigmatized and legally differentiated.
The ability to negotiate legal immigration has been rather daunting. There are more Americans that feel that illegal immigrants who are living in the U.S. should have the opportunity to become citizens than there are Americans who feel otherwise. For example, the article “Citizenship, Values, and Cultural Concerns: What Americans Want from Immigration Reform” (2013), states that “more than 6-in-10 (63%) Americans agree that the immigration system should deal with immigrants who are currently living in the U.S. illegally by allowing them a way to become citizens, provided they meet certain requirements” (n.p.). This shows us that many Americans are not afraid of what immigrants bring to our society. Many actually believe that illegal immigrants bring so much to their communities and society as a whole that it would actually hurt the United States to not have them here. The article “Citizenship, Values, and Cultural Concerns: What Americans Want from Immigration Reform” (2013) states this rather clearly in the following paragraph:
Americans generally perceive that immigrants are having more of an impact on American society as a whole than their own communities. Less than one-third (32%) of Americans say that immigrants today are changing their community a lot, compared to 46% of Americans who say immigrants today are changing American society a lot (n.p.).
The problem that many Americans have with illegal immigrants is that they cost the government and the American society a lot more money than many may think. The fiscal costs to have them in our country are very high compared to the difference in Americans. According to the article “Illegal Immigration: Costs, Crimes, and Related Problems” (2012), “in 2002 illegal-alien households imposed, in aggregate, costs exceeding $26 billion on the federal government while they paid $16 billion in federal taxes – thereby creating a net fiscal deficit of $10.4 billion per year at the federal level” (n.p.). Unfortunately, no matter the debt they cause the American society, many want to keep them here. Many companies are looking for reliable workers and these individuals have one of the strongest work ethics of any person as most of them are merely here trying to make a better life for their families. For example, Alan Gomez of USA Today (2012) states that “agricultural companies looking for reliable workers from Central and South America have worked with high-tech business leaders looking for computer engineers from China and India” (6). In all reality, more and more people within the American society are working together in order to provide a way for illegal immigrants to become citizens so that these companies don’t lose their hard-working employees (Gomez, 2012).
Finally, many believe that immigration leads to a variety of other crimes other than illegal immigration alone. In all reality, this is hard to determine. There are many studies that suggest that illegal immigrants commit fewer crimes than Americans while there are others that suggest that they commit more crimes. It is important to discuss both aspects for readers to make their own determinations. According to “Illegal Immigration: Costs, Crimes, and Related Problems” (2012), 95 percent of all homicide and two-thirds of all fugitive felony warrants were targeted at illegal aliens, and gangs (containing mostly illegal aliens) are responsible for “drug-distribution schemes, extortion, drive-by assassinations, assaults, and robberies” (n.p.). In addition, illegal aliens were responsible for at least 960,000 sexual offenses between 1999 and 2006 (“Illegal Immigration: Costs, Crimes, and Related Problems,” 2012). However, these statistics are based upon one study. Another study, done by Adrian Velazquez and Kimberly Kempf-Leonard (2010), states specific reasons why immigrants seem to commit certain crimes such as the fact that they do not have very much support from family or social networks, they do not understand the culture in which they live, the mimic specific behaviors that they see due to ignorance and not knowing any better, and due to routine acts (143). In addition, there are more and more gangs coming into the United States from other countries and the government is still attempting to do their best to combat this. They have strengthened law enforcement and the anti-gang laws in America. Yet, there are still glitches in the U.S. Removal Policy and this is what allows them back into the United States only to unify and become stronger (Temple, 2011). Yet, there are other studies and other professionals that state otherwise when speaking of the rate of crime committed by immigrants. Jack Levin, a criminologist at Northeastern University in El Paso, Texas states that if a person lives among a large population of illegal immigrants, he or she is most likely living in one of the country’s safest cities (Costantini, 2011). Levin also states that “immigrants are associated with much lower rates of crime and incarceration” (Costantini, 2011, n.p.). This is largely due to the fact that they spend most of their time trying to avoid drawing attention to themselves by authorities, according to Levin (Costantini, 2011). As stated, it is hard to determine which is actually true as there are many studies that are contradictory to each other. However, most American citizens are happy to have immigrants here in the United States as long as 5 basic values are adhered to. These include the following: “promoting national security (84%), keeping families together (84%), protecting the dignity of every person (82%), ensuring fairness to taxpayers (77%), and enforcing the rule of law (77%) (“Citizenship, Values, and Cultural Concerns: What Americans Want from Immigration Reform,” 2013, n.p.). In conclusion, crime has been around for many years and will continue to be for many more to come; however, many suspect that a lot of the crime deals with the immigration of illegal aliens or that these illegal aliens make up much of the crime rates in the United States. Yet, interestingly enough, most research finds this to be a very untrue statement. There is a specific amount of crime committed by illegal aliens as stated throughout this paper; however, they are not the majority of offenders in the United States. If the government was able to find better ways to negotiate legal immigration into the United States, many of these illegal aliens wouldn’t even have to commit the crimes they do by coming here illegally. As the research states, negotiating legal immigration into the United States for these individuals would not only help them, but would also help the U.S. government and many of the employment industries in the United States such as the farming, construction, and technology industries. It’s easy to feel that these individuals do not deserve a chance at the living that Americans are privileged to; however, it would be better to give them a chance as long as they are willing to follow the rules and laws of our government. In sum and most importantly, Senator Marco Rubio said it best when he made the following statement: “We owe it to the American people to get immigration reform right this time, so that future Congresses and future generations do not face the broken system we see today” (Miller, 2013, n.p.).
Citizenship, values, and cultural concerns: What Americans want from immigration reform. (2013, March 21). Retrieved from pulicreligion.org/research/2013/03/2013-religion-values-immigration-survey/
Costantini, C. (2011, November 15). Does immigration fuel crime? Without statistical consensus, rhetoric and fear reign in debate. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/15/immigration-crime-statistics_n_1089164.html
Gomez, A. (2012, December 10). In lobbyists’ sights: Immigration dollars start to flow as issue heads back to congress. USA Today, p. 6.
Holthouse, D. (2013, March 23). Agency stands up for immigrants’ rights. Anchorage Daily News. Retrieved from http://www.adn.com/2013/03/23/2837987/agency-stands-up-for-immigrants.html
Illegal immigration: Costs, crimes, & related problems. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/viewSubCategory.asp?id=196
Li, S., & Marcum, D. (2013, April 17). Some California employers eagerly await immigration reform bill. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from http://articles.latimes.com/2013/apr/17/business/la-fi-immigration-business-20130417
Miller, J. (2013, March 31). GOP warns against “haste” after immigration deal. CBS News
Roebuck, J. (2013, March 19). Immigrant releases from Houston area under review. The Houston Chronicle. Retrieved from http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/One-third-of-released-detainees-came-from-Texas-4368436.php
Temple, J. M. (2011). The merry-go-round of youth gangs: The failure of the U.S. immigration removal policy and the false outsourcing of crime. The Boston College Third World Law Journal, 193-215.
Velazquez, A., & Kempf-Leonard, K. (2010). Mexican immigration: Insiders’ views on crime, risks, and victimization. Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice, 8, 127-149. doi: 10.1080/15377931003761045