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Article

Frances Bernat

In the context of crime, victimization, and immigration in the United States, research shows that people are afraid of immigrants because they think immigrants are a threat to their safety and engage in many violent and property crimes. However, quantitative research has consistently shown that being foreign born is negatively associated with crime overall and is not significantly associated with committing either violent or property crime. If an undocumented immigrant is arrested for a criminal offense, it tends to be for a misdemeanor. Researchers suggest that undocumented immigrants may be less likely to engage in serious criminal offending behavior because they seek to earn money and not to draw attention to themselves. Additionally, immigrants who have access to social services are less likely to engage in crime than those who live in communities where such access is not available. Some emerging research has shown that communities with concentrated immigrant populations have less crime because these communities become revitalized. In regard to victimization, foreign-born victims of crime may not report their victimization because of fears that they will experience negative consequences if they contact the police or seek to avoid legal mechanisms to resolve disputes. Recently, concern about immigration and victimization has turned to refugees who are at risk of harm from traffickers, who warehouse them, threaten them, and abuse them physically with impunity. More research is needed on the relationship among immigration, offending, and victimization. The United States and other nations that focus on border security may be misplacing their efforts during global crises that result in forced migrations. Poverty and war, among other social conditions that would encourage a person to leave their homeland in search of a better life, should be addressed by governments when enforcing immigration laws and policy.

Article

Daniel L. Stageman

The gap between public perception of immigrant criminality and the research consensus on immigrants’ actual rates of criminal participation is persistent and cross-cultural. While the available evidence shows that immigrants worldwide tend to participate in criminal activity at rates slightly lower than the native-born, media and political discourse portraying immigrants as uniquely crime-prone remains a pervasive global phenomenon. This apparent disconnect is rooted in the dynamics of othering, or the tendency to dehumanize and criminalize identifiable out-groups. Given that most migration decisions are motivated by economic factors, othering is commonly used to justify subjecting immigrants to exploitative labor practices, with criminalization often serving as the rationale for excluding immigrants from full participation in the social contract. When considered in the context of social harm, immigrants’ relationship to crime and criminality becomes more complex, especially where migration decisions are forced or made under coercive circumstances involving ethnic cleansing, genocide, or other state crimes; many recent examples of these dynamics have rendered large numbers of migrants effectively stateless. Experiencing the direct or collateral effects of state crimes can, in turn, affect immigrants’ participation in a wide range of crime types, from status crimes such as prostitution or survival theft to terrorism and organized criminal activity such as drug trafficking or human trafficking. While there is no available research evidence indicating that immigrants participate in any given crime type at higher rates than the native-born, the dynamics of transnational criminal activity—reliant on multinational social networks, multilingual communication, and transportation across borders—favor immigrant participation, though such crimes are often facilitated by multinational corporations.