Crime and Welfare: Two Myths of Immigration
Published: September 05, 2019
Two common myths in the United States about immigration are that more immigrants lead to more crime and more people on welfare. But a closer look reveals that these objections are misguided. In terms of crime, native-born Americans are far more likely to commit crimes than either legal or illegal immigrants. Moreover, federal government benefits are prohibited or delayed for illegal and legal immigrants.
- How do immigrants help a country’s economy?
- If immigrants are less likely to use federal benefits, why do people believe otherwise?
- Do you think immigrants are more likely to work than people born in that country? Why or why not?
Two of the most common objections to immigration in the United States are that more immigrants lead to more crime and more people on welfare.
But a closer look reveals that these objections are misguided.
On crime, native-born Americans are far more likely to commit crimes than either legal or illegal immigrants.
For every hundred thousand native-born Americans, fifteen hundred are incarcerated for breaking the law. Illegal immigrants are incarcerated at half that rate. And legal immigrants have rates one quarter that of native-born Americans.
One simple reason immigrants are less likely to commit crimes is that even legal immigrants face deportation if they break the law.
Other people claim that illegal immigrants use government assistance at higher rates than native-born Americans. But our social safety net is targeted mostly at the elderly—think Medicare and Social Security—and immigrants are relatively young people who’ve come to work.
In addition, illegal immigrants have been banned from receiving welfare benefits since 1996. And legal immigrants typically have to wait five years before they begin to qualify for federally-funded benefits.
There are undoubtedly many issues to consider in the debate on immigration. But concerns about increased crime and abuse of the social safety net have been exaggerated.