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Study: Immigrants Commit Less Crime Than Native Born Americans

Screengrab/The White House/YouTube

The Cato Institute found that undocumented immigrants are far less likely to be arrested for or convicted of crimes.

President Donald Trump has pushed the narrative that undocumented immigrants are often dangerous, highlighting the stories of Americans attacked or murdered by such persons on the campaign trail and even during his State of the Union address.

Shortly after assuming office, Trump signed an executive order mandating a weekly "comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens”, clearly sending the message that undocumented immigrants are to be feared.

But yet another study regarding the criminality of undocumented immigrants, this one from the libertarian Cato Institute, shows that the Trump administration's fear-mongering is grossly misguided.

The study found that unauthorized immigrants had a criminal conviction rate 56 percent below that of the native-born people, said Alex Nowrasteh, a Cato immigration analyst and the study’s author.

“And that tells us this is not a population that commits a lot of crime,” Nowrasteh said. “If it is true of Texas, it has got to be true in much of the United States."

And what of those who have immigrated legally?

Legal immigrants — a category that includes immigrants who became U.S. citizens — have even lower rates of criminal convictions, at 85 percent below the native-born, the study found. “Legal immigrants are much more law-abiding than virtually any other group in our society,” Nowrasteh said.

Immigrants are less likely to be arrested on criminal charges in the first place as well:

The study also found that the arrest rate for unauthorized immigrants was 40 percent below that of the native-born. The arrest rate for legal immigrants was 81 percent below that of native-born Americans. The arrest rate for all immigrants, regardless of legal status, was 65 percent below that of native-born U.S. citizens.

Nevertheless, crimes committed by undocumented immigrants have received outsized attention in recent years, used as justification for Trump's anti-immigration rhetoric and policy initiatives.

The report’s release comes as an immigration crackdown has become a signature issue for the administration of President Donald Trump. Trump and his allies frequently use crimes committed by immigrants in the U.S. without legal status to broadly position immigrants as dangerous.

In the report, Nowrasteh notes the tough executive order issued by Trump in his first week in office and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ attempts to withhold federal funds from local police departments that don’t cooperate with the Department of Homeland Security. “Underlying both actions is a belief that illegal immigrants are a significant source of crime,” Nowrasteh wrote.

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