Immigrants: less criminal than native borns and essential

In the last few days I have seen two solid pieces of evidence emerge for my views on immigration. The first is research showing that immigrants are more law abiding than the native born (found via Unintended Consequences). The other is the experience of American towns which cracked down on illegal immigrants, only to rethink after seeing how damaging this could be to their economies (thanks to Brad De Long).

The two stories contrast wonderfully: the mayor of the town on which the second story focuses calls illegal immigrants “criminal aliens”, which nicely demonstrates the stereotypes debunked by the other study.

Anti-immigration types will try to claim that this is due to the difference between law abiding legal immigrants and law-breaking illegal immigrants. This, of course, immediately deprives them of a key argument for making immigration difficult: in fact it is an argument for making it easy (because you then meet economic needs with legal rather tha illegal immigrants).

My father ancestor’s immigrated to Sri Lanka by brute force, under the protection of the colonial policies of their homelands: a far worse act than merely slipping across a border (a victimless “crime”, if ever there was one). Once settled, they became a community that has made a positive contribution to the country far out of proportion to their numbers.

My mother’s ancestors were even more recent immigrants to Sri Lanka, making my parents are very much part of the self-selecting groups the paper of criminality discusses. Add to that my familly’s move to Britain and all that applies double to myself: I must be absolutely wonderful after generations of self-selection! In fact, that is not entirely true because my family never intended to settle in Britain, and I was the only one who choose to stay permanently (and even I am currently living in Sri Lanka), so we are a little different.

2 thoughts on “Immigrants: less criminal than native borns and essential

  1. Absolutely with you that immigration and emigration are to the benefit of humanity in general. See this tantalising blog that refers to a paper (I haven’t read yet) that apparently debunks the notion that emigration is bad for the ‘donor’ country. Allegedly emigration gives people aspirations, which boosts education, and because some stay behind the home economy benefits too.

  2. It is an interesting. I think it depends on the circumstances of a particular country (the paper only looks at one country). If, for example, people return with enhanced skills, or, (as you say) are motivated to study, there will be a gain.

    Another gain is the money sent back by emigrants. Migrant works do more than permanent emigrants, but both groups do send back solid cash.

    However there is a brain drain, and I have been thinking about other possible effects. For example, many poor countries are badly (and undemocratically) governed. The people who leave are often those who, if they stayed, might have made a difference.

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