State News

Undocumented immigration linked to decrease in violent crime, UW study shows

As the public debate over the impact of undocumented immigration rages on, a new study from a UW-Madison professor shows a negative relationship between the contentious phenomenon and violent crime.

Image By: Maggie Liu

Undocumented immigration in the U.S. does not contribute to an increasing crime rate, according to a new study conducted by a UW-Madison professor.

In fact, the study from sociology professor Michael Light found that increases in undocumented immigration were associated with a heavy drop in violent crime.

“Since 1990, the undocumented immigrant population in the United States has tripled. It’s part of the largest wave of immigration the country has ever experienced,” Light said. “In that same time, the violent crime rate has halved.”

Light says his results may be partially explained by the socioeconomic factors that bring undocumented immigrants to the U.S.

“Immigrants are driven by pursuit of education and economic opportunities for themselves or their families,” Light said. “Moreover, migration — especially undocumented migration — requires a lot of motivation and planning. Those are characteristics that aren’t highly correlated with a high crime-prone disposition.”

Light’s study comes at a tumultuous time in the U.S. in regards to immigration, with President Donald Trump calling for the creation of a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico to keep out undocumented immigrants, who, according to Trump, bring “drugs and crime.”

Even though the debate has received significant publicity in recent years, little research has looked at crime’s relationship with undocumented communities specifically.

“This is one of those rare areas everyone is talking about, but the conversations are occurring in a vacuum of data,” Light said. “A lot of research has looked at immigration and crime, but most of those conversations have been limited to the overall foreign-born population or the Latino foreign-born population, not the undocumented population.”

With new data in hand, Light says his findings are straightforward.

“The direction of the relationship is fairly clear,” he said. “They’re all negative.”

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Cardinal.