Examining the Relationship between Immigration Status and Criminal Involvement: Do Illegal Immigrants Commit More Crime?

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Student Contributions
August 2011
Lidia E. Nuño

A perceived link between illegal immigration and crime continues to exist. Citizens continue to believe that immigration creates crime and fear that as the immigrant population grows, their safety is jeopardized. 

Not much research in the field of criminology, however, has focused on examining this perceived relationship between immigration and crime. Those studies which have examined the relationship have mainly relied on official data to conduct their analysis. The purpose of this thesis is to examine the relationship between immigration and crime by examining self report data as well as some official data on immigration status and criminal involvement. More specifically, this thesis examines the relationship between immigration status and four different types of criminal involvement; property crimes, violent crimes, drug sales, and drug use. Data from a sample of 1,990 arrestees in the Maricopa County, Arizona, was used to conduct this analysis. This data was collected through the Arizona Arrestee Reporting Information Network over the course of a year. The results of the logistic regression models indicate that immigrants tend to commit less crime than U.S. citizens. Furthermore, illegal immigrants are significantly less likely than U.S. citizens to commit any of the four types of crimes, with the exception of powder cocaine use.