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Data Disproves Right-Wing Talking Points About Migrant Crime

Many studies have shown that crime rates are lower among immigrants than among U.S.-born residents.

Former President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event at Greensboro Coliseum on March 2, 2024, in Greensboro, North Carolina.

As Republicans — including likely GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump — continue to push the racist belief that immigrants are bringing crime to the United States, a new analysis has shown that such claims are outright false.

In recent weeks, Trump and his Republican allies have latched on to the story of Laken Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student from Athens, Georgia, who was murdered late last month, allegedly by Jose Antonio Ibarra, a Venezuelan immigrant. Republicans have cited Riley’s death as proof that the U.S.’s already-restrictive and inhumane immigration laws must be stricter.

However, numerous studies showcase that undocumented immigrants are actually less likely to engage in crime, including violent crimes, than U.S. residents.

In response to far right claims about immigrants and crime, NBC News published an analysis of cities that have received an influx of migrants as part of Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s cruel media stunt to bus undocumented immigrants to Democrat-run cities across the country. (In at least one case, a 3-year-old child was denied medical attention while on a bus en route to Chicago and died as a result.)

According to the NBC News analysis, which examined 2024 data of cities where migrants were transported, crime levels have actually dropped in those cities from the previous year.

Graham Ousey, a professor of crime and sociology at the College of William & Mary, told NBC News in its report that Republicans’ claims about migrant crimes are false. “There’s no evidence for there being any relationship between somebody’s immigrant status and their involvement in crime,” Ousey said.

In response to the analysis, the Trump campaign peddled outlandish claims that the data was wrong — and that “Democrat [sic] cities purposefully do not document” crimes by immigrants “because they don’t want American citizens to know the truth.”

Such accusations are not only false — they also contradict data from Abbott’s own home state, which extensively tracks the immigration and citizenship status of individuals who are arrested.

A University of Wisconsin-Madison study that compares crime rates of undocumented immigrants and U.S.-born citizens residing in Texas, published in 2020, shows that U.S.-born residents are many times more likely to commit crimes than are undocumented immigrants.

The U.S.-born residents were more than two times more likely to commit violent crime and nearly two and a half times more likely to violate a drug law. U.S.-born residents were four times more likely to engage in property crime than immigrants were, and 2.52 times more likely to commit a homicide, according to the figures.

“Criminality among the undocumented is a paramount social science concern. Yet despite substantial public and political attention, extant research has established surprisingly few empirical findings on the criminological impact of undocumented immigration,” the report noted, adding that “undocumented immigrants have substantially lower rates of crime compared to both native U.S. citizens and legal immigrants.”

“These findings clearly run counter to some of the basic assumptions behind strict immigration enforcement strategies,” the study said.

Despite study after study refuting Republicans’ claims, it’s likely that Trump and his GOP adherents will continue to vilify undocumented people moving forward due to the fact that immigration is the top motivating issue among Republican voters.

Some polls also show that immigration is the most important issue among voters overall — however, those surveys did not include the option to pick “threats to democracy and extremism” in government as a more pressing concern. When that option is included, as it was in a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, it becomes the number one issue for voters (by far the top pick among Democrats and independent-leaning voters), with only Republicans choosing immigration as their most important issue.

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