What You Think About Immigrants & Minorities May Just Be Wrong

A common scene by people protesting
undocumented immigration
In the current rhetoric of the day regarding immigrants, policy and perception against immigrants is too often spun to say that they are people with high crime rates that make our country worse just by being here. This is and has been used against blacks in America as well. We are told that they bring and create crime to our society. It creates a perception for whites that they need to defend themselves. We have seen how this perception affects things from the actions of police (justifying use of force) to national policy meant to keep them our of the country.

But if you have seen or heard these arguments and leaned toward believing them, you might want to see some statistics for yourself and then form your own perception. Here is some help.

In general, public perception is skewed against immigrants. There are many myths about how they impact our nation that influence our interaction with them. Tolerance.org has a great  general mythbuster about immigrants such as the fact most come legally and that in the past pretty much anyone could enter legally, busting the argument that 'my ancestors came here legally why can't current immigrants?" I encourage you to read it all, but below follow some of my own findings. The Brookings Institution also has a great piece on the facts of immigration.

Violent Crime and Race

One of the most common arguments made to support negative opinions of minorities is that they are a bunch of criminals. Whether it be predominantly black neighborhoods or brown-skinned immigrants from impoverished countries, they all are made out to be innately crime-infested. Furthermore, the argument is often specifically that people of color perform an extraordinarily high rate of violent crime against whites, which creates an us vs. them - let's get them first - mentality.

Table of violent crimes of same vs. other race from
the BJS report
But, that is in fact far from, the case. The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), a department of the DOJ, in a report about Hispanic Victims and Offenders, finds an entirely different picture. In fact from 2012-15, "the rate of white-on-white violent crime (12.0 per 1,000) was about four times higher than black-on-white violent crime (3.1 per 1,000)." The Southern Poverty Law Center in reviewing these statistics goes further saying "This is consistent with previously collected data, including a National Crime Victim Survey in 2000 that showed that 73 percent of white violent crime victims were attacked by whites, and 80 percent of black victims were targeted by blacks." Looking at the BJS numbers, when you factor in that whites have 43% of all victimizations, and that 56% of those were white-on-white, you find that 24% of all violent crime is white-on-white, while black-on-white is 6% and less than 5% is hispanic-on-white of ALL violent crime. An even simpler number to look at is that "more than half (55%) of violent victimizations were committed by someone known to the victim." That directly points to a high chance of it being the same race, and also since not a stranger, not some random person in a poor neighborhood or an immigrant from another country.

A statistic commonly used to support the perception of crime rates is prison rates, and while it is true that whites are imprisoned far less than other races, that doesn't mean they are involved in less crimes. They are less likely to be arrested and charged and even far less likely if charged to be incarcerated. In a report by the Sentencing Project, it was found that "African Americans are incarcerated in state prisons at a rate that is 5.1 times the imprisonment of whites. In five states (Iowa, Minnesota, New Jersey, Vermont, and Wisconsin), the disparity is more than 10 to 1." and that these numbers aren't a true reflection of crime rate because of disparity at arrest. "For less serious crimes, authorities may exercise greater discretion at the point of arrest... and These factors might include forms of racial bias related to perceived racial threat." Furthermore, a U.S. Sentencing Commission completed a report from a survey of data which found that when black men on average receive a sentence almost 20 percent longer than white men who commit the same crime.

When carried over to immigrants specifically, who we we are told by the President are a bunch of murderers and drug dealers, we see that in fact they have less crime than American citizens and that most drugs come in at legal crossings at port of calls, not by immigrants. Business Insider shows through numerous reports, that areas, especially cities, who see an influx of immigrants see a decrease in violent crime including a study published in February by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, that "found that native-born residents were most likely to commit and be convicted of crimes, while unauthorized immigrants saw a conviction rate that was about 50% lower." And as far as drugs, according to the Arizona Daily Star at Tucson.com, "CBP statistics show 81 percent of the 265,500 pounds of hard drugs caught at the U.S.-Mexico border from fiscal year 2012 to fiscal year 2016 were stopped by customs officers at ports of entry, rather than by Border Patrol agents working in the desert and wilderness between ports." It's common sense really, if you were a smuggler, betting on someone to traverse the swaths of Mexico, the border, then the terrain of states like AZ and TX to deliver drugs worth thousands to millions is not a likely prospect. Most drugs are brought in by vehicle at the border, or lately more likely, coming from China via air passengers, or simply via International mail as The Heritage Foundation points out.

Immigrants and the Economy (Jobs)

Besides our lives and money via crime, the other thing we are told immigrants are stealing is our jobs, and that they are ruining our economy somehow, draining our welfare and causing extensive governmental funds to care for them. Actually, immigrants do not negatively affect our economy or jobs, they has a positive impact. They contribute to the economy, they can't take benefits as blamed since they have no Social Security Number, and they actually create jobs for citizens.

A baseline statistic that is thrown about, with no numbers behind it, is that they cost more to support than they contribute. But this is simply not true. A PBS article on 4 myths about immigrants & the economy points out that while "first-generation immigrants do indeed cost the government more than native-born Americans" (about $1,600 per person annually), second generation immigrants are “among the strongest fiscal and economic contributors in the U.S.,” contributing about $1,700 per person per year compared to all other native-born Americans who contribute an average of $1,300 per year. That is a 23% higher contribution by the children of immigrants to all other American citizens.

As far as benefits and the safety net, only 9 million immigrants could meet the definition of those that can qualify, but in many cases they don't qualify because their income is too high, plus many that could take them won't because of the stigma. So in the end only a small number take benefits, people who are qualified to get them. But even then, any costs associated to immigrants is offset by the fact that they pay an estimated $11.6 Billion, BILLION, in taxes whether payroll, property or sales.

Besides their cost to the government (and in turn us via taxes?), the number one argument is that they take jobs from American citizens. They may take up 17% of the workplace, but the jobs they are likely to be in positions that American workers don't want. From farms to the service industry to our very homes as child and elderly care, they do jobs that many won't take. As PBS points out, "A study from the bipartisan research organization New American Economy found immigrants were 15 percent more likely to work unusual hours than similar U.S.-born workers. They are also more likely to be employed in dangerous jobs, according to data from the American Community Survey and Bureau of Statistics."

The Tolerance.org article points out that "Two trends—better education and an aging population—have resulted in a decrease in the number of workers born in the United States who are willing or available to take low-paying jobs." and that "the U.S. civilian workforce included 8 million unauthorized immigrants in 2014, which accounts for only 5 percent of the entire workforce."

Immigrants contrigute to the ecomony in general, by being employees and consumers, per the Brookings Instirution  "immigrants enhance the productive capacity of the U.S. economy. One estimate suggests that the total annual contribution of... unauthorized immigrants is estimated to be about 2.6 percent of GDP."

Our nation has a problem with low birth rate, and adding immigrants is one way to keep our nation from falling in population. Less people means less workers, and less workers means less taxes and less contributions to Social Security and other benefits.

Put simply, we need immigrants to keep our economy, our government, going.

A Nation of Immigrants

Whether they came 'legally', or undocumented, our nation was formed by immigrants. Unless you are a Native American, your ancestors came from somewhere else and immigrated here. Many came through proper channels, but many, many came here undocumented and had to navigate how to live in our country as such. Throughout our history, different racial or national groups have encountered skepticism from American citizens (Germans, Japanese, the Irish), and in the end despite our treatment of them they integrate to some manner and become good, productive citizens whose cultures' we accept and even celebrate. As usual, history seems to be repeating itself, with American citizens treating those who want to join us with scorn and contempt. If only we could look past the rhetoric of a few, to see what value they can add to our society, and accept them more readily and quickly into our nation.


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