September 13, 2022


Refugee "baggage" does not include inclination to crime (SORA HEO, SEPTEMBER 13, 2022, Niskanen Center)

In January 2017, President Trump signed Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Entry into the United States, an executive order dramatically reducing refugee resettlement. Referred to as the "travel ban" or "Muslim ban" by critics, the sudden policy change reversed decades of U.S. immigration policy. In part due to unfounded fears that refugees increase crime rates and pose a national security threat, the policy resulted in the lowest number of resettled refugees in a decade and a 65.6 percent decrease in resettlement from 2016 to 2017. 

The Trump Administration's rhetoric conflated immigration and crime and sparked a national shift away from supporting immigration. In a poll released this month, more than half of Americans claimed that there is an ongoing "invasion" at the Southern border, in tune with the national shift away from pro-immigration.

The presumption was that when a large number of refugees arrive in a region, crime rises in subsequent years, and placing limits on immigration would drastically decrease crime rates. In actuality, there was a null effect on crime rates in response to changes in refugee resettlement rates brought by the 2017 ban.

The association between crime and immigration is not new. In 2017, 45 percent of Americans agreed that immigrants exacerbate crime. Particularly within the GOP, the topic of immigration has served as key campaign fodder - 71 percent of Republicans believe that immigrants worsen crime rates, as opposed to 34 percent of Democrats. Given that refugees are painted in one light by the broader community - individuals escaping war, poverty, and persecution, Americans seem to expect they possess a relatively high inclination to commit violent crime.Despite a 65.6 percent drop in refugee resettlement, there was no visible effect on various types of crime, according to findings from a University of Cambridge study on the relationship between crime and refugee resettlement after the ban's implementation.

The study plots the relationship between 2015-2016 to 2017-2018 changes in refugee arrivals and present-day policy changes in crime rates along the blue regression line. If less refugee resettlement led to lower crime rates, we would witness a downward sloping regression line. Across both types of crimes (left versus right plots) and when measured in rates and logs (top versus bottom plots), there is no apparent correlation between the reduction in refugee arrivals due to the ban and subsequent changes in local crime rates. The findings suggest that crime rates would have been similar had refugee arrivals continued at pre-Executive Order levels.

Likewise, examining crime data from ten U.S. cities that received the most refugees relative to their population size between 2006-2015 reveal that rather than crime rising, nine out of ten cities became considerably safer.

Posted by at September 13, 2022 4:31 PM