Monday, July 26, 2010

Immigrants and Crime: Time for a Sensible Debate

by Francis Fukuyama

Wall Street Journal
July 26, 2010

There is a widespread perception of a strong link between immigrants and crime. It is common to hear those who oppose immigration argue that the first act illegal immigrants commit on U.S. soil is to break the law—that is, our immigration laws—and that they are ipso facto criminals who will continue to disregard U.S. laws once in the country. Those making this argument are generally steadfastly opposed to any immigration reform that will provide the 10 million to 12 million illegals already in the country any path to citizenship, on the grounds that such an "amnesty" would reward law-breaking.

The association of immigrants with crime is strengthened by the weekly barrage of news about drug and gang violence in Mexico as the government of Mexican President Felipe Calderón seeks to crack down on that country's powerful drug mafias. And long before the Mexican drug war, Americans were threatened by Colombian cartels, Salvadoran street gangs, and other criminal groups from Latin America. Moreover, it is perfectly true that the simple fact of being an illegal immigrant induces one to break further laws: One is reluctant to buy mandated auto insurance, pay taxes, or register businesses for fear of deportation.