Immigrants and Crime: A Misfire in Dallas



In a new book, author A.K. Sandoval-Strausz asserts that immigration is revitalizing U.S. cities, making them “dynamic, stable and safe.”

In “Barrio America: How Latino Immigrants Saved the American City,” the Penn State University professor singles out Hispanic newcomers for bringing “character” and “authenticity” back to neglected neighborhoods, while providing a laboring class of “homebuilders, childcare workers, building maintenance staff and restaurant cooks, servers and busboys.”

But the enthused professor takes a bridge too far when he claims that America’s influx of immigrants yields lower crime rates.

Citing Dallas’s hardscrabble Oak Cliff district, Sandoval-Strausz declares that crime dropped as immigrants poured in over the past three decades. But did it?

In August (after “Barrio America” went to press) hoodline.com reported that crime in Oak Cliff was “up considerably.” A neighborhood rating site gives Oak Cliff a solid “F” on crime. Citywide, Dallas (where 24.4 percent of residents are immigrants vs. 13.4 percent nationally) is on track to record its highest homicide rate in a decade.

Earlier this year, FAIR debunked the oft-repeated but tendentious narrative that immigrants commit less crime. This week, the government reported that aliens were convicted of 5,149 criminal offenses in Fiscal 2019. Crimes ranged from illegal re-entry to drunken driving to murder.

It is the nature of crime to fluctuate over time, and for a variety of causes. Percentage shifts can appear dramatic when rates are calculated on a relatively small population base like Oak Cliff’s. All of which makes Sandoval-Strausz’s effervescent claims both ephemeral and misleading.

Meantime, he simply ignores hard data from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), which catalogued the arrests of 305,000 immigrants on criminal charges since 2011. That’s 100 arrests of criminal immigrants per day.

DPS did not break down its statewide tally by city, but the agency reported that 207,000 of the jailed immigrants were illegal aliens.

Numbers aside, the whole idea of using crime rates to make the claim that immigration is making us safer is absurd. It reduces crime victims to mere statistics.

If, for example, Dallas had a crime rate of 1,000 crimes per 100,000 residents, and the city added 100,000 new immigrants out of whom 900 committed crimes, the crime rate would go down. But there would be 900 additional crime victims. It’s small comfort to those victims that the crimes perpetrated against them actually contributed to the crime rate declining.

About Author

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Bob Dane, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)'s Executive Director, has been with FAIR since 2006. His deep belief is that immigration is the most transformational determinant of where we are heading as a nation and that our policies must be reformed in the public interest. Over many years on thousands of radio, TV and print interviews, Bob has made the case that unless immigration is regulated and sensibly reduced, it will be difficult for America to reduce unemployment, increase wages, improve health care and education and heighten national security. Prior to joining FAIR, Bob spent twenty years in network radio, marketing and communications after an earlier career in policy and budgeting within the Reagan Administration. Bob has a degree from George Mason University in Public Administration and Management.

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