Numerous studies by independent researchers and government commissions over the past 100 years repeatedly and consistently have found that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes or be behind bars than the native-born.
The political debate over undocumented immigrants in the United States has largely ignored the plight of undocumented children who, for the most part, have grown up and received much of their primary and secondary education in this country. A new report from the Immigration Policy Center by Roberto Gonzales, Wasted Talent and Broken Dreams: The Lost Potential of Undocumented Students, makes clear that without a means to legalize their status, these children are seldom able to go on to college, cannot work legally in the United States, and therefore cannot put their educations to good use. Moreover, at any time, they can be deported to countries they barely know (www.ailf.org/ipc/infocus/WastedTalent.pdf). This wasted talent imposes financial and emotional costs not only on undocumented students themselves, but on the U.S. economy and U.S. society as a whole.
A new 2008 National Survey of Latinos by the Pew Hispanic Center reveals disturbing new evidence that Latinos – U.S. citizens as well as legal immigrants and undocumented immigrants—are feeling the effects of the immigration debate gone ugly. Regardless of immigration status, Latinos are feeling anxious and discriminated against amid sanctioned public immigrant-bashing and stepped-up immigration enforcement measures.
According to new estimates from the Pew Hispanic Center, the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States did not increase between 2007 and 2008, and may actually have fallen. These findings should come as no surprise given the current state of the economy.
September 17th is Citizenship Day—a day to recognize and celebrate all of the immigrants who have chosen to integrate fully and become U.S. citizens. While some fear that demographic shifts threaten American identity, research and experience have shown that today’s immigrants integrate into American society just like generations of immigrants before them. Citizenship Day is a time to celebrate the many immigrants who have taken a step toward full integration and participation in U.S. civic life.
Anti-immigrant activists and politicians are fond of relying upon anecdotes to support their oft-repeated claim that immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants, are dangerous criminals. This mythical claim is usually based on rhetorical sleight of hand in which individual stories of heinous crimes committed by immigrants are presented as “proof” that we must restrict immigration or “get tough” on the undocumented in order to save the lives of U.S. citizens. While these kinds of arguments are emotionally powerful, they are intellectually dishonest. There is no doubt that dangerous criminals must be punished, and that immigrants who are dangerous criminals should not be allowed to enter the United States or should be deported if they already are here. But harsh immigration policies are not effective in fighting crime because—as numerous studies over the past 100 years have shown—immigrants are less likely to commit crimes or be behind bars than the native-born, and high rates of immigration are not associated with higher rates of crime. This holds true for both legal immigrants and the undocumented, regardless of their country of origin or level of education.
Critics of H.R. 5882, a bill that would would allow visas that have gone unused due to bureaucratic delays to be "recaptured" and issued to family- or employment-based legal immigrants, claim it will needlesly create new visas. The fact is that "recapturing" lost visas would not authorize any new green cards; it would allow the government to issue green cards that Congress has already authorized.