Noncitizen immigrants are significantly more likely to report serious violent crimes than residents who are citizens, according to new data compiled by the Census Bureau for the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Fifty-nine percent of noncitizens responding to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) between 2017 and 2019 reported serious violent crimes they experienced to local law enforcement officials, compared to 49 percent of citizens, according to an analysis of the data by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).
Hispanic immigrants, both those who are citizens and noncitizens, are the most likely, at 65 percent, to report experiencing serious violent crimes, followed by all immigrants, citizen and noncitizen, at 61 percent, the survey also found.
When responses involving simple assaults are excluded, the results remain the same, with 64 percent of Hispanic immigrants, including citizens and noncitizens, say they reported being victims, compared to 48 percent for U.S.-born citizens. The figure for all noncitizens was 59 percent.
The survey follows approximately 2,700 individual respondents who must be 12 years of age or older over multiple years. Foreign-born immigrants make up approximately 14 percent of the U.S. population.
“This is the first truly representative sample of actual victims … it is basically the gold standard for measuring victimizations,” CIS Director of Research Steven Camarota said during a televised panel discussion on the analysis on Oct. 14.
The survey defined serious violent crime as felonies such as rape and assault but didn’t include murder. The NCVS didn’t ask crime victim respondents prior to 2017 whether they were citizens, so the present data analyzed by CIS is the first to reflect with a high confidence of accurately reflecting the actual views of immigrants on the issue.
Advocates of “sanctuary cities” such as San Francisco that shield illegal immigrants from federal law enforcement authorities, especially the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, have long argued that immigrants, especially those in the country illegally, are less likely to report crimes for fear of being deported.
Such claims first became prominent in the national immigration debate in 2008 when ICE began its 287G program that provided training to local police in immigration law and regulation, as well as delegated authority to enforce them, according to Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for CIS, during a virtual panel on the study on Oct. 14.
“That’s when we started seeing this argument being put forward as a concern. You began to hear immigration advocates claim that ‘well, look, immigrants are naturally more wary of police and therefore won’t report crimes because they were afraid of the police in their home countries,” she told the panel.
“So if local law enforcement agencies cooperate with ICE and share information, then there is going to be a chilling effect on crime reporting by immigrants and some would go so far as to claim crimes against immigrants would never be solved because they would not be reported.”
The chilling effect claim persisted even as law enforcement officials denied seeing evidence of it and a lack of credible academic research regarding the likelihood of immigrants reporting, Vaughan said. Even so, she said, the vast majority of local police agencies do cooperate with ICE.
Other findings from the CIS analysis include:
- Only about 1 percent of immigrant victims who didn’t report the crime in every category said that the reason they didn’t report it was because the police would be biased, would harass or cause them trouble, or because they were advised not to report it. These are the survey responses that are most likely to indicate a fear of deportation.
- More than 80 percent of all victimizations reported to police were reported by the victim or by a member of the victim’s household.
- Sixty-five percent of serious violent crimes against immigrant women were reported to police, as were 67 percent against noncitizen women, compared with 48 percent for native-born women.
- Among Hispanic noncitizens, a group that includes many illegal aliens, the reporting of serious and violent crimes generally matches or exceeds reporting of crimes against the native-born. If there were a major difference in crime reporting rates among illegal immigrants in particular, it would most likely show up in the reporting rates for this group, but the survey reveals no such meaningful difference.
- Property crimes (the most common type of crime) against immigrants are reported at rates similar to those against native-born victims—34 percent. Among noncitizens, the rate was 32 percent, which isn’t statistically different from the other groups.
- Considering all crime, including violent and property acts, the NCVS shows 39 percent of all immigrant victimizations and 38 percent of all noncitizen victimizations were reported to police, compared with 37 percent of all crimes against the native-born, indicating no statistically significant difference between reporting by the two groups.