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Dangerous assimilation

Matt Zalaznick
Vail CO, Colorado

The most ironic findings in a new study about immigrants and crime are not the statistics that show newcomers legal and illegal are less likely to get in trouble with the law than American-born citizens.

The study for the Immigration Policy Center found that male immigrants only become more likely to go to jail the longer they are in the U.S. The researchers also said the sons and grandsons of immigrants commit more crimes than the first generation.

“The children and grandchildren of many immigrants ” as well as many immigrants themselves the longer they live in the United States ” become subject to economic and social forces, such as higher rates of family disintegration and drug and alcohol addiction,” says the study, “The Myth of Immigrant Criminality and the Paradox of Assimilation” by professors Ruben G. Rumbaut and Walter A. Ewing.

But even these more deviant children of immigrants go to jail less often than the native born. The study found that 3.5 percent of native-born men age 18 to 39 are behind bars. That’s five times higher than the 0.7 percent of foreign-born men of the same age who are incarcerated, the study says.

“The risk of incarceration is higher not only for the children of immigrants, but for immigrants themselves the longer they have resided in the United States. However, even immigrants who had resided in the United States for 16-plus years were far less likely to be incarcerated than their native-born counterparts,” the study said.

The anti-immigration brigades will continue to wage their terror campaign. They’ll keep trying to frighten Americans about this seething mob of immigrants that refuses to assimilate; that’s hellbent on ruining American society by speaking Spanish, demanding health care, attending school and eating burritos. But the study seems to show immigrants have plenty to fear from us natives.

“Data from the census and other sources show that for every ethnic group without exception, incarceration rates among young men are lowest for immigrants, even those who are the least educated. This holds true especially for the Mexicans, Salvadorans, and Guatemalans who make up the bulk of the undocumented population,” the study says.

The costs of assimilation, in other words, can be dire.

So what’s wrong with American society that, despite the higher standard of living, it turns immigrants to lives of crime? Is our abundance just too tantalizing for some?

Maybe the anti-immigrant squads are worried that if Mexicans keep coming CNN will reduce its round-the-clock coverage of Anna Nicole Smith’s corpse. Does the anti-immigrant mob takes pride in these tawdry, oh-so-American stories?

Maybe, but I think the send-’em-home hordes are confused. They’re looking for somebody to blame for a society that has, in the era of W., betrayed many of its greatest principals, such as offering newcomers better lives, blending cultures, equal rights.

They don’t realize it’s them and their xenophobia, and not the immigrants, who are eroding these values. But foreigners, throughout history, have always made outstanding scapegoats for whatever ails panicky natives.

“The problem of crime in the United States is not ’caused’ or even aggravated by immigrants, regardless of their legal status. But the misperception that the opposite is true persists among policymakers, the media, and the general public,” the study says.

Our society might benefit from a little invading, or perhaps the immigrants can remind the Berlin Wall set what makes America great.

This study can be found at http://www.ailf.org/ipc/special_report/pr_feb07.html.

Assistant Managing Editor Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 748-2926, or mzalaznick@vaildaily.com.


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