Reiff: Immigrants Crime-Prone? Cop, Criminologist Say It Ain’t So

Do immigrants increase the crime rate?

It’s a widely held view in the politically charged debate over illegal immigration and sanctuary cities. But a UC Irvine criminologist says it’s an assumption unsupported by the facts. And a longtime Anaheim cop suggests immigrant crime is a non-issue in local law enforcement.

UC Irvine criminologist Charis Kubrin said on the “Inside OC with Rick Reiff” public affairs program that hundreds of studies over the past 15 years have all reached the same conclusion: “Immigrants are less crime-prone than the native population” and “immigration to an area causes crime to go down rather than up.”

Retired Anaheim police Capt. Joe Vargas, who joined Kubrin in a discussion about the rising crime rate, said that in years of attending international chief of police conferences the problem of immigration “was never discussed.”

“We talked about gangs, we talked about drug trafficking, we even talked about dysfunctional family homes being a major cause of crime. Never was it immigrants,” Vargas said.

Kubrin lamented that her and colleagues’ findings “have not made their way into the public imagination. … You will hear people say left, right and center that immigrants are crime-prone, they are causing our crime rates to go up, right? The (presidential) executive orders we are seeing now reflect that assumption, and it is not true.”

Vargas said crackdowns on illegal immigration make it tougher for local law enforcement to keep communities safe:

“The challenge for the police executives in our cities is the fact that they have large immigrant communities and they have to connect with those communities … It creates a huge problem when, let’s say, ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) shows up and is rounding up people and asks for local assistance, and with the social media today … the next thing you’ve got the entire neighborhood surrounding them, and now what do the local police do when they say, ‘Well, we’re not working with Immigration,’ but now we have to protect them and help them? It puts us into a bit of a tough spot.

“Plus, many people like myself … how many of our Hispanic officers are direct descendants from illegal immigrants? And now … people are saying, ‘We want you to go out and pick up people that look like your mom and dad and your aunts and uncles.’”

Kubrin and Vargas also agreed that while gang violence remains a big concern, it is not as much a scourge as in the recent past.

“The 1990s were ridiculous,” Vargas said. “I was a patrol officer and a supervisor during that era and it was routine to get four or five shootings in a single weekend. We’re light years away from that. But that doesn’t mean squat to the person who’s a victim of a gang-related crime.”

Kubrin and Vargas differed on the best way to reduce citizen-cop confrontations.

“What I think these cases raise is the question of what can be done in police departments and in police community relations, community is part of that, in order to minimize these incidents happening?” Kubrin said.

“What happened to compliance?” Vargas asked. “The number one way to reduce police use of force across the country is compliance.”

The discussion, second of two parts, is airing this week on PBS SoCal and Cox. Show times are here The show can also be viewed on You Tube.

Part one of the discussion is also on YouTube, as is the post-show Open Mic segment.

Opinions expressed in editorials belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.

Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue or others please contact Voice of OC Involvement Editor Theresa Sears at

  • verifiedsane

    “Plus, many people like myself … how many of our Hispanic officers are
    direct descendants from illegal immigrants? And now … people are saying,
    ‘We want you to go out and pick up people that look like your mom and
    dad and your aunts and uncles.’” – If officers have direct bias & conflict of interest while ignoring criminal practices and/or refusing to enforce the law – they should be fired….Period!

    The key word missing from the slanted conclusions drawn and the title of this opinion piece is the word “illegal” immigrant. You can’t correctly indemnify or draw any substantive conclusions if you ignore the “elephant” in the room. This is purely a leftist open borders propaganda piece and nothing more….

    • LFOldTimer

      Can you believe the crazy logic and nonsense justifications they come up with to turn a blind eye illegal immigration, Verified? Especially coming from purported CONSERVATIVES!!! HAH!

      It’s a blatant disregard for one of the sacred principles that is the backbone of our justice system, namely “Equality Under the Law”.

      If they don’t like the immigration laws they should attempt to change the immigration laws like the author-i-tays tell common citizens who violate laws that they think are unfair, yet have their feet held to the fire anyway.

      We’re supposed to live in a civilized society. Not in a 3rd world junta that operates based on selective enforcement of laws depending on who the violator happens to be or represent.

  • LFOldTimer

    Hey Rick, then why are about 30% of the inmates in California jails illegal aliens?

    The fact that they either entered the US illegally or overstayed their visas by definition makes them criminals. And the stats show that those who willfully break the laws are much more likely to repeatedly break the laws. A small segment of society are responsible for most of the crimes. Why do you think the recidivism rates are so high for those who have done time in the slammer? But Kubrin and Vargas didn’t tell you these things, did they? 😉

    This is all common sense. I would expect a smart man like you to see through the fog and figure it out on your own.

    Did it ever occur to you that the people you quote may have biases? Or do you believe whatever people tell you? Just because someone wears a badge does make his or her opinion sacrosanct? lol. See Mike Carona.

    Oh, and the opinion that illegal aliens won’t come forward to report crimes is another phony excuse. What a bizarre rationalization to turn a blind eye to these foreign criminals. Why don’t the cops do the same for other classes of criminals? Like drunk drivers, shoplifters, car thieves, drug dealers, those with traffic warrants, vandals, etc??? If they come forward and the cops run their names and DOB’s and locate a warrant they get hooked up and transported to lock up. So why not give them passes too so that they aren’t afraid to come out of the shadows and report crimes??? ha.

    Come on, Rick. Let’s look at the problem objectively. Shall we?