Immigrants less likely to commit crimes than U.S.-born In Thursday night's State of The Union, the murder of 22-year-old Laken Riley took center stage. The suspect is a migrant. Republicans say immigration leads to crime, but there's no evidence of that.

Immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than U.S.-born Americans, studies find

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During last night's State of the Union, the murder of Laken Riley took center stage. Riley was a 22-year-old student who was killed last month at the University of Georgia. The suspect in her murder is a Venezuelan migrant who officials say was illegally in the U.S. During the Republican rebuttal, Riley's murder was brought up by Alabama Senator Katie Britt.


KATIE BRITT: She was brutally murdered by one of the millions of illegal border-crossers President Biden chose to release into our homeland. Y'all, as a mom, I can't quit thinking about this. I mean, this could have been my daughter. This could have been yours.

SHAPIRO: NPR immigration correspondent Jasmine Garsd has been looking at the research about immigrants and crime. Jasmine, good to talk to you again.


SHAPIRO: What do the data show about crime rates among immigrant communities?

GARSD: So a lot of the research we have looks into incarceration because that's where immigration status data gets recorded. And some of the most extensive research comes from Stanford University, from economist Ran Abramitzky. He found that, since the 1960s, immigrants are 60% less likely to be incarcerated than U.S.-born Americans. And there's also state-level research that shows similar results. All this to say, as horrifying as the Laken Riley murder is, it is simply untrue that immigrants are more prone to commit crimes.

SHAPIRO: So that's the data on incarceration. What about crime overall?

GARSD: Recent investigations by The New York Times and The Marshall Project found that, between 2007 and 2016, there was no correlation between undocumented people and a rise in violent or property crime.

SHAPIRO: No correlation - does any of that research look into why immigrants are less likely to commit crimes?

GARSD: It does. The Stanford University study concluded that first-generation immigrants traditionally do better than U.S.-born men who didn't finish high school, which is the group most likely to be incarcerated in the U.S. You know, in my own reporting, spending time in immigrant communities, there's a very real fear of getting in trouble and deported, so people don't want to rock the boat.

SHAPIRO: You also spend a lot of time listening to people who are opposed to immigration. So how widespread is the false belief that there is a wave of immigrant crimes?

GARSD: I found that it's pretty widespread. You know, a few months ago, I was reporting on a migrant shelter functioning in New York, in Staten Island. And I went into a flower shop right by the shelter, and I spoke to the owner, Anthony Pagano.

ANTHONY PAGANO: How do you put migrants across from a elementary school, an all-girl high school and another public elementary school? You don't know who they are - criminal - you see all the crimes that are being committed by migrants.

GARSD: When I got back, I looked on the Staten Island Police Department's site. There had been no rise in rates for murder, rape or robbery.

SHAPIRO: Reporting there from NPR immigration correspondent Jasmine Garsd. Thanks so much.

GARSD: Thank you.

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