Immigrants Not Clogging Sioux Falls Jail; Research Shows No Foreign-Born Crime Wave

Amidst the wreckage of that Sioux Falls paper (which will now be run from Fort Collins, Colorado), Jonathan Ellis reports that foreign-born inmates make up just a tiny bit more of the Minnehaha County Jail population than of the general population:

The number of foreign-born inmates booked in the Minnehaha County Jail is up slightly so far in 2016, but that number is consistent with the total population of foreign born residents in Sioux Falls, according to data analyzed by Argus Leader Media.

Foreign-born bookings are on pace to hit 8 percent this year. Between 2011 and 2015 the rate varied between 6.5 percent and 7.7 percent.

…In Sioux Falls, at least, that doesn’t appear to be the case. Overall, the bookings are consistent with the overall percentage of foreign-born residents living in Sioux Falls, which the U.S. Census Bureau estimated at 7.13 percent in 2014.

“I wouldn’t have expected anything different,” said Jeff Gromer, the warden of the Minnehaha County Jail [Jonathan Ellis, “Foreign-Born Inmates Clogging Jails? Not Here,” that Sioux Falls/Fort Collins paper, 2016.10.25].

Ellis cites University of Massachusetts sociology prof Bianca Bersani, who says the nativist impulse doesn’t square with the data:

“…[E]very time we have increasing waves of immigrants coming into the country, anxiety about what that group is bringing to the U.S. is always there.”

That anxiety is unfounded, the research shows. First-generation immigrants—who are born outside the United States—are much less likely to commit crimes than are their American-born counterparts. And those who do commit crimes are much quicker to “desist,” or return to a life of lawful behavior.

“They’re offending at much lower rates than anyone would be expecting,” Bersani said. Researchers are not sure why this is so, though one theory is that the harsh immigration consequences of a criminal conviction serve as a deterrent

The crime rate increases sharply among the next generation—individuals born in the United States who have at least one foreign-born parent. Even so, the incidence of crime among this group is no higher than among the children of native-born Americans [“UMass Boston Prof: Stereotype of “Criminal Immigrant” Doesn’t Hold Up,” UMass Boston News, 2013.11.20].

The conservative Cato Institute finds Bersani rigorous enough to cite. Cato notes that more recent research from Bersani and Alex Piquero shows “no systematic difference between the self-reported and official criminal and arrest histories” of immigrants, strengthening the case that reported immigrant crime rates are reliable and not lower than real rates due to immigrants keeping quiet.

Cato cites another researcher who “finds no association between immigrant population size and increased violent crime” but “a small but statistically significant association between unauthorized immigrant population size and arrests for drug offenses.” Cato concludes, “The evidence of low immigrant criminality continues to grow.”

Some research indicates some immigrant groups, especially in other countries, exhibit higher crime rates. University of Alberta professor Sandra M. Bucerius says those higher rates may spring from the host society’s failure to make those immigrant groups feel at home:

“We also know,” she said, “that those groups always experience social, economic and/or political exclusion higher than the average. This does not imply that all immigrants who are socially excluded become criminals. Yet, exclusion and discrimination seem to be a risk factor” [Krishnadev Kalamur, “Are Immigrants Prone to Crime and Terrorism?The Atlantic, 2016.06.15].

Hmm… exclude people, discriminate against them, scream “Radical!” at them, and they may have a tougher time fitting in and feeling like they have a stake in the community.

Maybe Al Novstrup and Donald Trump should take notes. Al Novstrup displayed his anti-immigrant slant at the only joint District 3 candidate forum he deigned to attend last month (See refugee question at 43:30, my response at 44:55, Al’s response at 48:30. and my rebuttal at 53:00.) Contrary to Novstrup’s and Trump’s false fears, research shows that immigrants generally do not increase our crime rates, and our ability to welcome immigrants as neighbors and fellow citizens helps prevent any such increase.


8 Responses to Immigrants Not Clogging Sioux Falls Jail; Research Shows No Foreign-Born Crime Wave

  1. Porter Lansing

    Fort Collins? A good portion of my high school class live in Fort Collins (and Boulder) and comprise a fine cadre of lawyers, University professors and business professionals. Speaking of newspapers, have any in SoDak reported the results of the national upper elementary, middle and high school mock vote in SoDak?

  2. (Porter, you’re going to get me off topic! Clinton wins kids 52–35—I’m looking for state-by-state results.)

  3. (Oh! SD kids go Trump, but only 46%–42%; Clinton carries Colorado 59%–28%.)

  4. Porter Lansing

    That’s a very significant number in SoDak. Clinton won the national popular vote, 47 percent to 41 percent for Trump, as well as the Electoral Vote and key swing states Arizona, Florida and North Carolina. Nationally, Clinton won 365 out of 538 Electoral College votes as well as key swing states including Arizona, Florida and North Carolina.
    Trump won 173 Electoral College votes, while other candidates, including Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein, won 12 percent.

  5. Oh boy, the “local” state newspapers FSD, RAP – run from out of state swirl around the drain. No wonder the local state politicians can, and apparently do, get away with murder.

  6. When the Trumpists are delegitimizing the mainstream press to excuse their clinging to Breitbart nightmares, journalists must all the more urgently do their duty to inform. Ellis’s article challenging anti-immigrant paranoia with facts does that duty.

  7. Porter Lansing

    If you have a group that is rare and a group that is prevalent, if the same percentage of people in both groups engage in a negative behavior, you’re going to notice it more in the rare group because they stand out more. And you will think you see a correlation between race and negativity when there is none. It’s called illusory correlation. – Neil Strauss “Why We’re Living In The Era Of Fear”

  8. Good point, Porter! We remember things that stand out from what we consider “normal”.