But first, by way of introduction....A University of California-Irvine study [pdf]* concluded that immigrants -- both legal and illegal -- actually have lower crime rates than any other segment of the U.S. population. The report flies in the face of hatred and invented negative stereotypes currently being fomented by the right-wing and its fringe elements such as the Minutemen.
According to the ACLU, the news reporter in the lead-in to the video story above is wrong; the federal law to which she refers actually amounts to only a suggested guideline with no attached legal consequences for non-adherence. The guiding principle upon which resolution of the the highlighted issue depends is the First Amendment to the United States Constitution regarding freedom of speech. The Reno, Nevada Police, where the incident occurred, agree. This leads to the question not even considered by the news team on the scene: According to law, who has actually committed a crime here?
A recent study, however, concluded that immigrants, both legal and illegal, are less likely to commit crimes or be incarcerated than native-born residents of the United States.
The study by University of California-Irvine sociologist Ruben G. Rumbaut and Immigration Policy Center researcher Walter A. Ewing found that for every ethnic group without exception, incarceration rates among young men are lowest for immigrants, even those with low levels of education. The researchers found this holds true for Mexican, Guatemalan and Salvadoran immigrants, who make up the bulk of the undocumented population.
"People who come here legally or illegally are risking everything. The last thing they want to do is run afoul of the law," said Angela Kelley, director of the Immigration Policy Center. The research organization published the study in July.
The study also found that during years when immigration soared, crime rates fell.
Despite the eye opening sociological report, the director of the Center for Immigration Studies that facilitated Rumbaut's research must have felt compelled to offer a placatory remark on behalf of his bigot fellow citizens:
Even so, whether illegal immigrants commit crime more or less than others isn't the point, said Steven Camarota, research director at the Center for Immigration Studies.
"It's not the propensity that concerns people," Camarota said. "It's the sense that someone who shouldn't even be in the country commits a serious crime. . . . That is what angers people."
On the surface, such a comment seems to take a shot at migrants by subtly -- and perhaps unconsciously -- discounting the value of the study and reaffirming the fear-based prejudices of an undereducated and authoritarian-minded segment of the electorate that remains impressionable and vulnerable to pandering from a renewed racist Republican "Southern Strategy" now being implemented for the 2008 national elections.
I feel that walking on eggshells around the issue -- such as in the case of Camarota's comment above -- could result in the watering down of the potential consciousness changing impact research like this can inspire.
Ironically, Dr Ruben Rumbaut's sociological work in the area of immigration suggests that the more misinformed -- and therefore ignorant -- the individual is on this important social issue, the more negative his/her attitudes tend to be concerning migrants and other minorities. Apologetics such as that of Steven Camarota's are counterproductive and serve the nefarious purpose of exploitation by race baiting Neoconservatives who could care less about social issues except for their potential to lend support to their dangerous foreign policy through partisan association.
[Not provided by The Arizona Republic]:
Rumbaut, Ruben G. & Ewing, Walter A., "The Myth of Immigrant Criminality and the Paradox of Assimilation: Incarceration Rates Among Native and Foreign Born Men." [PDF] Immigration Policy Center, a division of the American Immigrant Law Foundation; 2007. http://www.ailf.org
More extensive resources related to the Rumbaut & Ewing paper can be found at: IPC Special Report Resources, where the report is hosted on the web.