Source:  Q&A Guide on Arizona’s New Immigration Law, Immigration Policy Center, June 2010

SB 1070 and CRIME

Q: Didn’t the state legislature need to do something about the crime caused by illegal immigration in Arizona?

A: Despite the claims that SB 1070 was needed to fight crime in the state, Arizona’s crime rate has been falling for years.

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, the rates for both property crime and violent crime (including murder, assault, and rape) have been falling in Arizona in recent years.3

The violent crime rate fell from 512 per 100,000 people in 2005 to 447 per 100,000 people in 2008, the last year for which data is available.

The property crime rate fell from 5,850 per 100,000 people in 2005 to 4,291 per 100,000 people in 2008.

�Rates for murder, aggravated assault, and rape in particular have clearly fallen in recent years.

Q: Don’t illegal immigrants cause crime?

A: Unauthorized immigration is not associated with higher crime rates.

Although the unauthorized immigrant population doubled to about 12 million from 1994 to 2004, data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics indicates that the violent crime rate in the United States declined by 35.1 percent during this time and the property crime rate fell by 25.0 percent.4

The decline in crime rates was not just national, but also occurred in border cities and other cities with large immigrant populations such as San Diego, El Paso, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Miami.5

Q: But surely there is a rise in border crime related to illegal immigration?

A: Border cities are not necessarily prone to higher crime due simply to their location. As a story in Reason Magazine describes, El Paso, Texas—which is a relatively poor and heavily Latino city that is home to many unauthorized immigrants—is among the safest big cities in the United States, even though it is next door to the violence‐ridden Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez.6

Q: What about the kidnappings in Phoenix that have received so much media attention?

A: There are serious issues relating to human trafficking that need to be addressed, but SB 1070 won’t stop the kind of kidnappings going on today. Most of these kidnappings are occurring among members of criminal gangs that smuggle drugs, guns, and unauthorized immigrants—or are targeting unauthorized immigrants who are in the process of being smuggled.

A May 2010 report by the Rocky Mountain Information Network notes that “Phoenix ranks only behind Mexico City in the number of kidnappings, most if not all of which are tied to drug cartels in Mexico.” Moreover, “undocumented aliens are held against their will by human smugglers and traffickers at ‘drop house’ locations throughout Phoenix and surrounding cities.”7

In explaining the large number of kidnappings which have occurred in the Phoenix area, police Sgt. Tommy Thompson told The Arizona Republic in July 2009: “We’re talking about drop houses where people who have used coyotes to get into the country may be held for ransom. And we’re talking about the kidnapping of smugglers and associates. I have no fear that my kids or grandkids will be victims.”8

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