USA: Is There a Connection Between Undocumented Immigrants and Crime?

Spoiler – no:

A lot of research has shown that there’s no causal connection between immigration and crime in the United States. But after one such study was reported on jointly by The Marshall Project and The Upshot last year, readers had one major complaint: Many argued it wasunauthorized immigrants who increase crime, not immigrants over all.

An analysis derived from new data is now able to help address this question, suggesting that growth in illegal immigration does not lead to higher local crime rates.

In part because it’s hard to collect data on them, undocumented immigrants have been the subjects of few studies, including those related to crime. But the Pew Research Center recently released estimates of undocumented populations sorted by metro area, which The Marshall Project has compared with local crime rates published by the F.B.I. For the first time, there is an opportunity for a broader analysis of how unauthorized immigration might have affected crime rates since 2007.

A large majority of the areas recorded decreases in both violent and property crime between 2007 and 2016, consistent with a quarter-century decline in crime across the United States. The analysis found that crime went down at similar rates regardless of whether the undocumented population rose or fell. Areas with more unauthorized migration appeared to have larger drops in crime, although the difference was small and uncertain.

(Illegal immigration itself is either a civil violation or a misdemeanor, depending on whether someone overstayed a visa or crossed the border without authorization.)

Most types of crime had an almost flat trend line, indicating that changes in undocumented populations had little or no effect on crime in the various metro areas under survey. Murder was the only type of crime that appeared to show a rise, but again the difference was small and uncertain (effectively zero).

For undocumented immigrants, being arrested for any reason would mean facing eventual deportation — and for some a return to whatever danger or deprivation they’d sought to escape at home.

There is no exact count of unauthorized immigrants living in the United States. To create estimates, experts at Pew subtracted Department of Homeland Security counts of immigrants with legal status from the number of foreign-born people counted by the Census Bureau. Many organizations and agencies, including the D.H.S., use this residual estimation method; it is generally considered the best one available. As of 2016, there were an estimated 10.7 million undocumented immigrants nationwide, down a million and a half since 2007.

Jeffrey Passel, a Pew senior demographer, and his team estimated changes in undocumented populations for roughly 180 metropolitan areas between 2007 and 2016. For comparison, The Marshall Project calculated corresponding three-year averages of violent and property crime rates from the Uniform Crime Reporting program, and the change in those rates.

The results of the analysis resemble those of other studies on the relationship between undocumented immigration and crime. Last year, a report by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, found that unauthorized immigrants in Texas committed fewer crimes than their native-born counterparts. A state-level analysis in Criminology, an academic journal, found that undocumented immigration did not increase violent crime and was in fact associated with slight decreases in it. Another Cato study found that unauthorized immigrants are less likely to be incarcerated.

At the more local level, an analysis by Governing magazine reported that metropolitan areas with more undocumented residents had similar rates of violent crime, and significantly lower rates of property crime, than areas with smaller numbers of such residents in 2014. After controlling for multiple socioeconomic factors, the author of the analysis, Mike Maciag, found that for every 1 percentage point increase in an area’s population that was undocumented there were 94 fewer property crimes per 100,000 residents.

More research is underway about the potential effects of undocumented immigration on crime. Robert Adelman, a professor at the University at Buffalo, SUNY, whose group’s research The Marshall Project and The Upshot have previously documented, is leading a team to expand on the Governing analysis. Early results suggest unauthorized immigration has no effect on violent crime, and is associated with lower property crime, the same as Mr. Maciag found.

Preliminary findings indicate that other socioeconomic factors like unemployment rates, housing instability and measures of economic hardship all predict higher rates of different types of crime, while undocumented immigrant populations do not.

Many studies have established that immigrants commit crimes at consistently lower rates than native-born Americans. But a common concern is whether immigrants put pressure on native-born populations in any number of ways — for instance, by increasing job competition — that could indirectly lead to more crime and other negative impacts.

According to Mr. Adelman and his team, however, the impact of undocumented immigrants is probably similar to what the research indicates about immigrants over all: They tend to bring economic and cultural benefits to their communities. They typically come to America to find work, not to commit crimes, says Yulin Yang, a member of the team.

The data suggests that when it comes to crime, the difference between someone who is called a legal immigrant and an illegal one doesn’t seem to matter.

More Immigrants Are Giving Up and Leaving the US

Alejandra Garcia Zamarrón, a mother of three American citizens, had lived in the United States for nearly 20 years when a police officer pulled over the unregistered vehicle she was riding in.

Georgia was her home, the place where she’d lived for years and raised her family. But when she found herself locked in the Irwin County Detention Center, she had few options to stay. She’d been brought to the U.S. as a child, but her protected status as a childhood arrival had expired. And she had given a fake name and date of birth to the police officer who stopped her, a misdemeanor that put her at greater risk of deportation.

This story was published in partnership with Politico.

Zamarrón, 32, initially vowed to fight her removal to Mexico as long as she could. But as the months in detention dragged on, she changed her mind and asked for “voluntary departure,” which would allow her to leave the U.S. without a deportation on her record. “My family decided the best bet was for me to leave and fight from the outside,” Zamarrón said in a phone call from the detention center, before she returned to Mexico in November.

The number of immigrants who have applied for voluntary departure has soared since the election of Donald Trump, according to new Justice Department data obtained by The Marshall Project. In fiscal year 2018, the number of applications doubled from the previous year—rising much faster than the 17 percent increase in overall immigration cases, according to data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. The numbers show yet another way the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration is having an impact: More people are considering leaving the U.S., rather than being stuck in detention or taking on a lengthy legal battle with little hope of success.

Monthly applications for “voluntary departure”

Starting shortly after Donald Trump’s inauguration, more and more immigrants facing removal asked to leave the country rather than be deported. Last year, the number who asked immigration courts to be allowed to leave voluntarily more than doubled from the year before.

Last year, voluntary departure applications reached a seven-year high of 29,818 applications. In the Atlanta court, which hears cases of Irwin detainees like Zamarrón, the applications grew nearly seven times from 2016 to 2018.

The increase in applications for voluntary departure could be seen as a win for the Trump administration, which has made it a goal to get undocumented immigrants out of the country and reduce the looming backlog of immigration cases. Indeed, the Justice Department has published the growing number of voluntary departures alongside deportations as a sign of a “return to the rule of law” and that Trump’s approach is working. But it is also a sign of how broad immigration enforcement has become, sweeping up the criminals Trump talks about alongside parents like Zamarrón who have little to no criminal history, as voluntary departure is only open to immigrants without a serious record. When Mitt Romney once shared his plan to have people “self-deport,” he meant it as an alternative to ramping up enforcement power. But the recent spike in voluntary departure has come only with an increase in arrests and in detention.

An application for voluntary departure ultimately has to be approved by an immigration judge. The number of requests granted increased 50 percent in fiscal year 2017, according to data from the Justice Department. (Because not every case is resolved during the year it is filed, and judges can grant voluntary departure without a formal application, the annual total of voluntary departures has exceeded the number of applications.)

Under immigration law, voluntary departure is considered a kind of privilege. If you are deported, you have to wait years to apply for a visa to re-enter the United States, but those who leave voluntarily don’t have the same wait. And you don’t face serious prison time if you are caught without legal status in the U.S.

But voluntary departure is a last resort for many undocumented immigrants, because it means leaving their longtime homes and often their families in the United States without any clear prospect for returning. And those who take the option usually have to pay their own way. Those flights can cost thousands of dollars, because immigration officials require a special kind of ticket that can be changed at any time.

Several factors are probably responsible for the surge in the number of applications for voluntary departure, experts say. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has increasingly gone after immigrants who have no criminal backgrounds—those who are more likely to qualify for voluntary departure. Because of the growing backlog of immigration cases, judges and Department of Homeland Security attorneys may feel pressured to resolve cases quickly and offer voluntary departure instead of dragging out multiple appeals.

“I would definitely think that some of it might be related to judges trying to keep up with their production quotas,” said former immigration judge Paul Wickham Schmidt.

The Executive Office for Immigration Review—the Justice Department office in charge of immigration courts—declined to comment on the increase in applications. “Using metrics to evaluate performance is neither novel nor unique to EOIR,” spokesperson Kathryn Mattingly said in an email. “The purpose of implementing these metrics is to encourage efficient and effective case management while preserving immigration judge discretion and due process.”

ICE spokesperson Brendan Raedy said that many apply for voluntary departure so they don’t have to wait to apply to re-enter the country. “In addition, voluntary departure generally provides far more time to make necessary arrangements than for those who are ordered removed,” he wrote in an email.

Attorney Marty Rosenbluth, who represents clients in the immigration court at the Stewart Detention Center in Georgia, said more of his clients from Mexico are considering voluntary departure because of the danger involved in deportation. At Stewart, one of the country’s most remote detention centers, the number of applications last year was 19 times what it had been in 2016. “It’s largely a safety thing,” Rosenbluth said. In deportations, “ICE just dumps you at the border, and you’re on your own,” he said. If they’re granted voluntary departure, individuals are able to fly into Mexico City or closer to home.

Immigrants may also be increasingly aware of voluntary departure as an option, and of the slim chances of winning a case from detention. “Detainees talk to each other,” said Trina Realmuto, a directing attorney for the American Immigration Council, a pro-immigration nonprofit. “The one guy fighting his case is going to say, ‘I’ve been here a year and nobody wins.’ There are legal factors, and there’s human factors.”

While Alejandra Garcia Zamarrón has left for Mexico to avoid detention, her youngest daughter is still living in Georgia.

Zamarrón’s request for voluntary departure came as a surprise to her legal team. “She had been saying for months and months, ‘I’m going to fight this,’” said attorney Laura Rivera of the Southern Poverty Law Center, who worked on Zamarrón’s case. “It speaks to the desperation of people in detention that they’d be trying to sign up in droves for this thing that actually causes them to be removed. They’ve got to be thinking that there’s no way out.”

Before she returned to Mexico, Zamarrón said she was driven by the need to have more contact with her family than she was able to have in detention. “When I come out I’ll be able to have more communication with them, FaceTime with them,” she said. “I didn’t want to wait. I’m ready to see my baby’s face.” From Mexico, she recently video-called into her 13-year-old daughter’s baptism. She hopes to apply for a U-Visa as a victim of domestic violence and sexual assault, and at the very least, have her 17-year old son petition to bring her to the United States after he turns 21.

Zamarrón said many of the women she was detained with were also considering voluntary departure. “They’re tired of living in here, of dealing with ICE, dealing with guards, dealing with the injustice … They give up. They’d rather be deported than fight for their case,” she said. “We’re not criminals, we just don’t have options.”

Source: More Immigrants Are Giving Up and Leaving the US

Why We Bear Witness: Speaking Uncomfortable Truths About Immigration

Good series of individual stories behind the numbers:

Of all the questions I get asked every day, the one that crystallizes just how simplistic and uninformed the conversation about immigration is this: “Why can’t you just get legal?”

You ask what you don’t know. When it comes to immigration, most Americans I’ve met across the country—online and offline, from people calling for my deportation to people who want me to stay—don’t know a whole lot. Even journalists who cover the issue struggle to report and frame it outside a largely partisan, pro/anti-immigrant lens, too often using loaded language (“amnesty,” “anchor babies,” “chain migration”) that limits knowledge rather than expands it.

The search for genuine dialogue—the need for complexity and nuance—is manifested to great effect in We Are Witnesses: Becoming an American. With this video series, The Marshall Project has carefully curated a selection of stories that demonstrate the multiple dimensions of what we refer to singularly as “immigration.” The straight-to-camera testimonies don’t fit the typical legal vs. illegal binary that characterizes much of the discourse. The stories they tell are not laden with “talking points” that signal deference to any ideology. They tell truths that challenge and illuminate our understanding of how we got to where we are.

Teofilo Chavez, an undocumented minor from Honduras.

A 14-year-old in Honduras swam across rivers in search of a better life. He learned that when Border Patrol catches a minor, they don’t return them to where they came from—they help them look for their relatives in the United States. “So, I started looking for the Border Patrol,” Teofilo Chavez says. “I basically gave myself to them.”

Born in South Korea, Youngmin Lo arrived in the United States on a student visa. He lost his legal status when he started working to support himself. “You’re not supposed to work on a student visa. Once you lose your status, it’s done,” said Lo, who has been undocumented for 12 years. Asian immigrants—arriving at airports, not at the southern border—constitute a growing undocumented population. An estimated one out of seven Asian immigrants is here illegally.

Alena Sandimirova couldn’t be herself in Russia, where lesbianism is akin to pedophilia. She dreamed of living in the United States and managed to obtain a visa to move here. When the visa expired, she decided to stay illegally before realizing she could apply for asylum. “The heaviest weight fell from my shoulders,” she said, recalling the moment she became an American citizen. “I can breathe, fully.”

Fleeing political persecution, the Villacis-Guerrero family—Juan, Liany, and their twin daughters—left Colombia, where Liany’s family was targeted for being active in politics. Her father was kidnapped and she feared for her daughters’ security. The twins qualified for the Deferred Action and Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which provides a two-year temporary reprieve from deportation. But after a routine annual check-in with immigration officers, Juan was detained and then deported. Liany was deported, too. “They built all of this for us,” says one of the twins. “Now, they have to go.”

No matter how many times I am asked, “Why don’t you just get in line?” I can only respond one way: For most of us, there is no line.

I’ve spent my life grappling with the dominant narratives that have defined immigration since arriving in the United States in 1993. Born in the Philippines, I was sent by my mother to live with her parents, both legal immigrants who became naturalized citizens, in Mountain View, California, when I was 12. I discovered that I was “illegal”—that’s what the media called us and still calls us—when I tried to get a driver’s license at age 16. My grandfather explained that he couldn’t find a way to bring me here legally, so he saved up $4,500, a huge sum for a security guard who lived paycheck to paycheck, to pay a smuggler who got me fake papers. Since that realization 21 years ago, I have been living in some kind of purgatory, subjected to rules I didn’t create, my circumstances limited by documents I do not have and laws that many Americans, who had the luck of being born into American citizenship, struggle to articulate. Telling my story—insisting on its specificity to illuminate what is universal—has been a source of liberation.

In that vein, I saw my own story reflected in the stories captured in this video series. The trauma of family separation. The need to create a home for yourself even if you don’t feel at home. The resilience that is a central part of becoming American, whatever “American” may mean to you.

The videos play as a kind of a fugue, playing off each other, composing a melody amidst the dissonance. After watching Lee Wang, a journalist-turned-immigration lawyer, explain how long-time permanent legal residents are dragged into the deportation system, we meet Jose Molina, who has lived in the United States since he was a year old. He’s a legal permanent resident who in the late 1990s was locked up for three years after being convicted of assault. Years later, as his wife, daughter, and son looked on, he was detained and faced deportation. “When ICE came to my door, I just couldn’t believe it,” Molina says. “I’m a permanent resident. I’m not undocumented. They handcuffed me at my home.”

As I watched David Ward, a former Border Patrol agent, talk about how immigration is “continually being exploited by people that just can’t follow the law,” I hoped he would watch the video of Paul Schmidt, a former immigration judge who interpreted the laws, deciding the fate of many immigrants and refugees. “There’s no doubt about the fact that I’ve made mistakes,” says Schmidt, who served from 2003 to 2016. “I probably have sent some people home that I should have allowed to stay, and I probably have allowed some people to stay that maybe weren’t telling me the whole truth, but I couldn’t figure it out.”

Together, this video series accomplishes a task we have largely avoided: having an uncomfortable but truthful conversation about immigration. James Baldwin, who often described himself as a “witness,” said that “nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

Let us face it, together.

Jose Antonio Vargas, the founder of Define American, is the author of “Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen.” For the release of We Are Witnesses: Becoming An American, The Marshall Project asked Vargas to reflect on how the film series explores the immigrant experience in America, including his own.

Source: Why We Bear Witness: Speaking Uncomfortable Truths About Immigration

Killings of Blacks by Whites Are Far More Likely to Be Ruled ‘Justifiable’ – The New York Times

Impressive large scale study with disturbing conclusions:

When a white person kills a black man in America, the killer often faces no legal consequences.

In one in six of these killings, there is no criminal sanction, according to a new Marshall Project examination of 400,000 homicides committed by civilians between 1980 and 2014. That rate is far higher than ones for homicides involving other combinations of races.

In almost 17 percent of cases when a black man was killed by a non-Hispanic white civilian over the last three decades, the killing was categorized as justifiable, which is the term used when a police officer or a civilian kills someone committing a crime or in self-defense. Over all, the police classify fewer than 2 percent of homicides committed by civilians as justifiable.

The disparity persists across different cities, ages, weapons and relationships between killer and victim.

To understand the gaps, The Marshall Project obtained dozens of data sets from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and examined various combinations of killer and victim. Two types of “justifiable homicide” are noted: “felon killed by private citizen” or “felon killed by police officer.” (In a bit of circular logic, the person killed is presumptively classified as a felon, since the homicide could be justified only if a life was threatened, which is a crime.)

The data were processed to standardize key variables and exclude more than 200,000 cases that lacked essential information or were homicides by the police. The resulting data detail the circumstances of each death: any weapons used; information on the killer’s and victim’s race, age, ethnicity and sex; and how police investigators classify each type of killing (“brawl due to the influence of alcohol,” “sniper attack” or “lover’s triangle,” for example).

Little large-scale research has examined the role of race in “justifiable” homicides that do not involve the police. The data examined by The Marshall Project are more comprehensive and cover a longer time period than other research into the question, much of which has focused oncontroversial Stand Your Ground laws.

In the United States, the law of self-defense allows civilians to use deadly force in cases where they have a reasonable belief force is necessary to defend themselves or others. How that is construed varies from state to state, but the question often depends on what the killer believed when pulling the trigger.

“If there are factors — even if they’re stereotypes — that lead the defender to believe he’s in danger, that factors in, whether it’s a righteous cause or not,” said Mitch Vilos, a Utah defense lawyer, gun rights advocate and the author of “Self-Defense Laws of All 50 States.”

Self-defense decisions by regular people, much like those involving the police, are made quickly and with imperfect information. As a result, a homicide can be ruled self-defense when the killer faced no actual threat but had a reasonable belief he or she did.

That is where irrational fear can come into play. The police, prosecutors and juries may be apt to give killers the benefit of the doubt in situations when they were faced with someone who seemed “dangerous.”

“Tell me that it doesn’t factor in if the person is black when they’re approaching the suspect,” Mr. Vilos said. “It contributes to the decision to pull the trigger because of the fear associated with the stereotype.

“Right or wrong, that’s what’s happening, in my opinion.”

The vast majority of killings of whites are committed by other whites, contrary to some folk wisdom, and the overwhelming majority of killings of blacks is by other blacks.