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UB study finds no apparent link between crime and undocumented immigrants

Erin Heaney
Activists express their support for immigrants during a local rally.

There is no connection between undocumented immigrants and crime. That is the conclusion of a new report from a University at Buffalo team.

There are a lot of people who believe that immigrants bring crime, a belief that goes back many years and for many different ethnic groups. The UB researchers looked at 154 communities across the country, including Erie and Niagara counties, and used information on an estimated 11 million-12 million immigrants without legal status.

Sociology Department Chair Robert Adelman said there is really good data on those immigrants and the FBI has crime statistics going back to the middle of the last century. Adelman said the researchers used this information to take a snapshot of the overlay of crime and immigration.

"There's really fascinating stories about individuals and individual families about their stories and their histories of coming to the United States," he said. "Again, we're focused on sort of these community-level variables and factors and interested in how they affect the larger crime outcomes that we study, these crime rates."

Adelman said there does not appear to be any difference in violent crime rates between undocumented immigrants and the larger society, and there actually may be less property crime in those areas of immigration.

"Part of what we were really interested in doing was comparing these estimates of the undocumented populations and we found it doesn't matter which way you do those estimations, the results are the same: that, on average, where there's more undocumented immigrants, there's less property crime and then there's no relationship to violent crime," he said.

Adelman's hope is that the larger conversations about these debates "are informed by science."

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