The recent news of refugees arriving in the U.S. has sparked a sharp divide amongst citizens who fear increasing crime rates. For generations refugees, immigrants, and asylum seekers have been easy scapegoats in regards to crime rates. Xenophobia, the irrational fear or dislike of people from other countries, seems to rear its ugly head when governments agree to take in people fleeing genocide and other human rights atrocities.
A report put out by the American Immigration Council (AIC) says that U.S. immigrants are much more likely to follow the law than their naturalized counterparts – regardless of race, religion, education, or socioeconomic class. The authors, Walter A. Ewing of the AIC and Ruben G. Rumbaut of UC Irvine, posit that the rhetoric used in this year’s presidential primary is unnecessary and completely false.
But anti-immigrant rhetoric has been a political tool used in the U.S. for centuries. It was especially harmful during World Wars I and II, when Italian, Irish, and Jewish immigrants and refugees were discriminated against, and in some cases, turned away after arriving in boats from Europe with no where to go.
We see similar cases today as immigrants from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and other Central and South American countries attempt to gain entry into the U.S.
Other studies have corroborated the findings in the AIC report. In 2007, Harvard sociologist, Robert J. Sampson, published a study showing an inverse relationship between crime rates and immigration – exactly the opposite of what some presidential primary candidates claim.