Do Immigrants Reduce Crime Rates In Urban Areas?

Murder rates are on the rise in a number of urban areas in the Northeast and one possible explanation being offered is that those metropolitan areas with the lowest immigrant population are more unstable. Murder rates in cities with higher immigrant populations seem to have remained relatively stable in recent years. While immigrant population is [...]

Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

Murder rates are on the rise in a number of urban areas in the Northeast and one possible explanation being offered is that those metropolitan areas with the lowest immigrant population are more unstable. Murder rates in cities with higher immigrant populations seem to have remained relatively stable in recent years. While immigrant population is offered as one explanation, officials point to other factors in a growing problem with murder rates in the Northeast.

PHILADELPHIA – Baltimore, Philadelphia and other cities in a bloodstained corridor along the East Coast are seeing a surge in killings, and one of the most provocative explanations offered by criminal-justice experts is this: not enough new immigrants.

The theory holds that waves of hardworking, ambitious immigrants reinvigorate desperately poor black and Hispanic neighborhoods and help keep crime down.

It is a theory that runs counter to the widely held notion that immigrants are a source of crime and disorder.

‘œNew York, Los Angeles, they’™re seeing massive immigration ‘” the transformation, really, of their cities from populations around the world,’ said Harvard sociologist Robert J. Sampson. ‘œThese are people selecting to go into a country to get ahead, so they’™re likely to be working hard and stay out of trouble.’

I think the argument has merit though it is always risky to generalize. Regardless, it isn’™t difficult to imagine that the fear of deportation or being apprehended by a justice system that one doesn’™t understand would offer some level of deterrence. Additionally, my own anecdotal experience suggests that many immigrants spend long hours working and they frequently have more than one job. That alone limits the time one might have to get into trouble. Lastly, it may also be safe to assume that immigrants view living in the U.S. as an opportunity and the means to a better life’¦and happy people are generally peaceful people.

In interviews with The Associated Press, homicide detectives, criminal justice experts and community activists point to a confluence of other possible factors.

Among them: a failure to adopt some of the innovative practices that have reduced violence in bigger cities; the availability of powerful guns; and a shift in emphasis toward preventing terrorism instead of ordinary street crime.

Others blame a resigned acceptance of ‘œquality-of-life’ crimes, such as running red lights and vandalism. Some law enforcement authorities argue that ignoring such crimes breeds disrespect and cynicism and leads to more serious offenses.

The last paragraph makes a lot of sense to me. When people are desensitized such that they view others as little more than annoyances or obstacles’¦rather than as fellow human beings with feelings, emotions, and families’¦it becomes easier to disregard human life. Anyone who has driven in traffic should understand the phenomenon whereby we think the worst of anyone who happens to cut us off or drive erratically’¦until we witness someone we know doing so and then realize that real people are in those vehicles and they don’™t always have bad intentions.

University of Pennsylvania criminologist Lawrence W. Sherman is a prime exponent of the theory that immigration exerts a moderating effect on crime among poor black men.

‘œCities that have heavily concentrated and segregated African-American poverty are the places that have increases in homicide,’ Sherman said. ‘œThe places that have lots of immigration tend not to have nearly as much segregation and isolation’ of poor blacks.

Sherman acknowledges the theory is evolving and unproven.

He said immigrants ‘œchange the spirit’ of a community and affect the way young black men in poor areas relate to each other.

The percentage of foreign-born residents is 11 percent in Philadelphia, compared with 22 percent in Chicago, 37 percent in New York and 40 percent in Los Angeles, according to 2005 census figures.

Alison Sprague, executive director of Victim/Witness Services of South Philadelphia, suggested there is some merit to the theory. Immigrants in Philadelphia tend to be crime victims rather than perpetrators, she said.

‘œI really do think the vast majority of people are trying to earn a living and support their families and stay under the radar,’ Sprague said. Illegal immigrants, especially, ‘œhave every motivation not to get involved in something.’

‘œThe second-tier cities have fewer economic possibilities for people,’ said Arlene Bell, a former prosecutor who now runs youth centers in Philadelphia. ‘œWhen there are no opportunities for kids growing up, no possibility of entering the work force ‘” particularly with their level of education ‘” they’™re left to their own devices.’

No doubt economic opportunity is a factor’¦and it may also explain why immigrants choose the locales they do. Cities with better economic conditions are apt to have more immigrants and cities suffering high unemployment are apt to have higher crime.

The fact that immigrants choose cities with more jobs and better economic conditions does suggest that their intentions and ambitions make them less inclined to criminal activities. In other words, they enter the U.S. believing they will have an opportunity to pursue their hopes and dreams.

Cities with high crime rates and blighted areas are likely inhabited by people who feel trapped by their economic status’¦people who are living generational poverty and have come to view their opportunities with little hope’¦making them more susceptible and inclined to crime. They simply have a much more negative perspective of their situation than their immigrant counterparts. Despite the fact that immigrants may also come from generational poverty and have experienced similar economic struggles, they have, by virtue of their efforts to enter the United States, demonstrated a more hopeful perspective and a compelling desire to improve their station in life.

I think that perspective may have a significant impact on how one behaves. No doubt hopeful people are more mindful of the pitfalls of crime and therefore make choices to avoid such behavior. People who feel hopeless simply begin to believe they have nothing to lose and are unable to see beyond the moment which makes them prone to bad behaviors.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Saturday, June 30th, 2007 by Richard Blair |

Fairness Doctrine – Sneaky Bastards Kill It Again

On several occasions, I’™ve discussed the late and lamented broadcast Fairness Doctrine that was ditched by the Reagan-controlled FCC back in 1986. Many people point to the demise of the Fairness Doctrine as one of the opening acts in dismantling American democracy. When the Fairness Doctrine was eliminated, there was no longer a [...]

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On several occasions, I’™ve discussed the late and lamented broadcast Fairness Doctrine that was ditched by the Reagan-controlled FCC back in 1986. Many people point to the demise of the Fairness Doctrine as one of the opening acts in dismantling American democracy. When the Fairness Doctrine was eliminated, there was no longer a need for broadcasters to truly balance the ideological slant of their networks.

During her freshman term in congress (interestingly enough, the year the Fairness Doctrine was repealed by the FCC), Louise Slaughter recognized the problem. As Slaughter recalled in a conversation with Bill Moyers in 2004:

BILL MOYERS: Tell me exactly what the fairness doctrine was.

LOUISE SLAUGHTER: Pretty much that you had an obligation to present two sides of an issue. There wasn’™t really an obligation to go out and hunt for somebody if something outrageous was said on a station that you owned, or television station. But if someone asked to come on to present an opposing view, they were allowed to do it. And the stations were obligated to do it. And most station owners that I’™ve talked to have said it wasn’™t onerous. They didn’™t find it all that difficult.

BILL MOYERS: What happened to the fairness doctrine? It was in effect for years. In the early ‘™80s the Federal Communications Commission decided to’¦

LOUISE SLAUGHTER: Do away with it the grounds, on the grounds that they said it was not a law. It was just a policy. Congress then sprang into action and passed a law putting it into a law that’¦

BILL MOYERS: They overrode the FCC?

LOUISE SLAUGHTER: They overrode the FCC. And I’™ll tell you that it was such an astonishing vote. I think it was three to one in the House, two to one in the Senate. Among the people voting for it were Jesse Helms, Newt Gingrich and others.

BILL MOYERS: To keep the fairness doctrine.

LOUISE SLAUGHTER: To keep the fairness doctrine and codify it into law. But President Reagan vetoed it. And I remember my party was in charge at the time, the Democratic party. And I went to the leadership. And I said, ‘œThis is outrageous. We’™ve got to try to override that veto.’

And they would not’¦

‘¦And I tried that one for six years and found out a few years ago that the broadcasters spent $11 million to kill that one amendment.

So, it’™s no surprise that yesterday, once again, the National Association of Broadcasters was crowing. In a provision that was inserted into a House bill amendment offered by GOP congressman Mike Pence (R-In), the GOP effectively once again killed the Fairness Doctrine. The amendment prohibits the FCC from spending any federal money on reinstating or enforcing the broadcast Fairness Doctrine, and it was passed – get this – by a 309 to 115 vote.

Speaker Pelosi, take note: one of your senior colleagues has been carrying the torch for fairness in media reporting for almost her entire congressional career. The Democratic Party had an aggressive agenda for the first 100 hours of the 110th Congress. Codifying the Fairness Doctrine needed to be an integral part of that first 100 hours – in fact, it should have been one of the first pieces of legislation pursued when the new congress convened.

Veto? Yeah, the Bush regime would have probably vetoed a stand alone piece of legislation on the Fairness Doctrine. Still, there are many, many reasons why it’™s vitally important to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, but none more so than the fact that anything else that a Democratic congress wants to do will be picked apart in a Clinton-esque fashion by the propaganda wing of the GOP, with limited opportunity for rebuttal by the Democratic Party.

Yet, the vote wasn’™t even close, because Pence snuck this amendment into a totally unrelated bill. As far as I can tell, there wasn’™t even debate on the issue.

If anyone thinks that the broadcast media which has been overrun by GOP talking heads is going to give a Democratic Party-controlled congress a fair shake, well, the swampland in Florida that I’™ve been trying to sell is still available at a bargain price.

Saturday, June 30th, 2007 by Richard Blair |

Ian Murphy is Hunter Thompson on Ritalin

OK, maybe that’™s both too harsh and too kind all at the same time. You be the judge. Murphy’™s essay is ‘œLet There Be Retards,’ and it’™s about a trip to the Creation Museum south of Cincinnati.

I find it very funny, and it should lighten your weekend. As for me, [...]

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

OK, maybe that’™s both too harsh and too kind all at the same time. You be the judge. Murphy’™s essay is ‘œLet There Be Retards,’ and it’™s about a trip to the Creation Museum south of Cincinnati.

I find it very funny, and it should lighten your weekend. As for me, I’™m out of here and headed for the shore. See you on Monday, folks!

Saturday, June 30th, 2007 by Richard Blair |

What Will Mr. Bush Do Now?

There are 18 months until we have a Democrat for a President, and George Bush is pretty much a lame duck. His approval ratings are at historic lows, and his most important policies, those concerning Iraq, have all failed miserably, needlessly spending American and Iraqi lives. And now, this week, Mr. Bush’™s immigration [...]

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

There are 18 months until we have a Democrat for a President, and George Bush is pretty much a lame duck. His approval ratings are at historic lows, and his most important policies, those concerning Iraq, have all failed miserably, needlessly spending American and Iraqi lives. And now, this week, Mr. Bush’™s immigration bill goes down the tubes. Oh, woe is he! What’™s he to do now? Ben Feller of the AP attempts to find an answer, and finds optimism at the White House.

Bush has about 18 months left. His opponents in Congress are emboldened. His public approval rating is dreary.

What he has left is the loudest microphone in town, veto authority and an agenda that remains relevant to the daily lives of millions of people.

Expect Bush to spend his time pushing energy legislation to promote alternative fuels, an education law that stands firm on standardized testing and health coverage for the uninsured.

‘œI think there are a lot of opportunities left this year, and next year, to get some important things done,’ said the president’™s counselor, Ed Gillespie. Both he and Sullivan and are among the new additions to Bush’™s staff, key advisers who will be counted on to infuse ideas and energy where the administration might otherwise be slumping toward the finish.

Bush will play some defense too, with warnings to veto any of the fundamental spending bills that go beyond his comfort zone, or come anywhere close to a tax increase.

The White House sees fiscal discipline as a winning issue, and a sound one, even if it’™s not headline material.

Let’™s see, Bush is going to try to salvage his legacy by first pushing alternative fuels, a topic that for forty years has been a progressive issue. Next he’™s going to trumpet a success with the No Child Left Behind authorization even though the bill will be severely watered down before it gets to his desk. Then he’™s promising health coverage for the uninsured, again a progressive issue. Perhaps Mr. Bush understands how much his conservative policies have doomed his legacy that he’™s adopting progressive issues to shore up his image for history?

It’™s that last bit that’™s really stupid. Mr. Bush is going to get tough on spending. Yeah, right. This is the guy who led our country to record deficits, and even now, when he claims to have turned a fiscal conservative page, he’™s just nominated as White House Budget Director Jim Nussle, the same guy responsible for all that deficit spending in the first years of the Bush Administration.

Nussle, an eight-term congressman who left the House last year to make an unsuccessful run for governor, was named Budget Committee Chairman in 2001, at the dawn of the Bush administration. During three of his six years at the helm, Congress did not pass a budget blueprint. Meanwhile, big spending increases and huge tax cuts sent the budget spinning from a $128 billion surplus in fiscal 2001 to a $248 billion deficit in 2006, with the red ink hitting an all-time high of $413 billion in 2004.

. . .

According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, the number of earmarks in House spending bills exploded under Republican control, from 3,000 in 1996 to 15,000 in 2005. Infuriated by what they say is GOP hypocrisy on the issue, Democrats have been digging through Nussle’™s old press releases for earmarks he sponsored.

They found plenty. As budget chief, Nussle secured tens of millions of dollars for Iowa roads, bridges and buses, as well as $500,000 for an addition and exhibit at the Grout Museum, a history and science museum in northeastern Iowa.

In 2005, Nussle tucked language into an emergency war spending bill that channeled $12 million to the Rock Island Arsenal for ‘œindustrial mobilization capacity.’ Inconvenient, Democrats say, considering that Bush lashed out at Democrats for adding ‘œpork projects’ to last month’™s emergency Iraq spending bill.

Mr. Bush is going to have a very long 18 months. Perhaps Cheney can help him find an undisclosed location or something.

What’™s really going on here is that the new White House advisors, including Ed Gillespie, have decided to do the same old, same old. They think saying it is so makes it so. So they are crowing about what the President will work on, they will encourage the President to continue to call insurgents in Iraq ‘œAl Qaeda,’ though it ain’™t so, and continue to rail against supposed Democrat spending. Facts be damned. But saying so does not make it so. The power of words don’™t have the power to create a new reality, and the Republicans, so intimately tied to the Radical Right Wing Christian Clerics, should know that fact ‘” the only one who creates with mere words is God himself.

Saturday, June 30th, 2007 by Richard Blair |

Murder Charges in Iraq

A couple US soldiers have been charged with premeditated murder in Iraq. Of course they are innocent until proven guilty, but I’™m not encouraged here by the notion that their fellow soldiers are the ones who turned Michael Hensley and Jorge Sandoval in. From the BBC:

The US military in Iraq has charged two [...]

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

A couple US soldiers have been charged with premeditated murder in Iraq. Of course they are innocent until proven guilty, but I’™m not encouraged here by the notion that their fellow soldiers are the ones who turned Michael Hensley and Jorge Sandoval in. From the BBC:

The US military in Iraq has charged two of its soldiers with the murder of three Iraqis between April and June in the Iskandariya area, south of Baghdad.

Both of the men are accused of premeditated murder and placing weapons beside the bodies of the dead, who were killed in three separate incidents.

Staff Sergeant Michael A Hensley is accused of three murders and Specialist Jorge G Sandoval of one.

Charges were brought after fellow soldiers alerted the authorities.

Both suspects, who are from the Alaskan-based 25th Infantry Division, are now being held in US custody in Kuwait. Spc Sandoval was detained while at home in Texas.

There’™s no gloating here. There will be no excuses, either. We’™re in a war begun on a series of lies and Mr. Bush is continuing those lies even today. Lies equal immorality in my view, and I am with the Radical Right Wing Christian Clerics on one thing, that rampant immorality in our society will only spread and harm people who wish to live moral lives. They argue that coarse and immoral media contaminates people, or, and very stupidly, that an immoral technology is at fault for the epidemic of Christians addicted to porn. I’™ll argue that lying and immoral leaders corrupt and contaminate oridnary people, and ordinary soldiers as well.

Saturday, June 30th, 2007 by Richard Blair |

Bush Touts Surge…Sunni’s Boycott Iraq Cabinet

Even if one assumes that the latest troop surge in Iraq has some merit (which I doubt), the prevailing issue remains that the various sectarian groups are no closer to crafting a workable government or ending their years of animosity. The latest example of this elephant in the room’¦one that the Bush administration can’™t or [...]

Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

Even if one assumes that the latest troop surge in Iraq has some merit (which I doubt), the prevailing issue remains that the various sectarian groups are no closer to crafting a workable government or ending their years of animosity. The latest example of this elephant in the room’¦one that the Bush administration can’™t or won’™t acknowledge’¦is the Sunni withdrawal from participation in the Iraqi cabinet.

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq’™s main Sunni Arab bloc said on Friday it was suspending its participation in cabinet because of legal steps being taken against one of its ministers, deepening the sectarian gulf between the country’™s politicians.

The Sunni Accordance Front has six cabinet posts and the move is a blow to Shi’™ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki at a time when he is under U.S. pressure to push through laws aimed at reconciling majority Shi’™ites and minority Sunni Arabs.

The bloc also suspended its participation in parliament a week ago over the ousting of speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, one of its members. The latest move effectively removes Sunni Arabs from the cabinet and parliament, leaving Shi’™ites and Kurds.

‘œWe have suspended our membership in the cabinet until the government puts an end to procedures being taken against Culture Minister Asaad Kamal Hashemi,’ the head of the bloc, Adnan al-Dulaimi, told Reuters by telephone from Amman.

While I have no way to judge whether the Sunni’™s were justified in their actions, if one thinks about our own government (one that American’™s often view as dysfunctional) and tries to imagine what similar event would elicit the withdrawal of a large block of high ranking politicians, I would speculate that it would be a far more egregious event. I draw the comparison to highlight the distance the Iraqi’™s must travel before they can be expected to have a functional government.

Until Iraq’™s sectarian groups place more value on establishing a consensus government than on settling scores or defending their cronies from legitimate scrutiny or sanction, there is little chance that they will succeed in implementing a security force. At the moment, one would be hard pressed to presume that the current security structure is anything more than an assemblage of soldiers and police officers that first and foremost honor their sectarian allegiances.

With an Iraqi security force well over 300,000 strong’¦in addition to the 160,000 U.S. troops’¦one would expect far more law and order and far less violence. Unfortunately, there are indications that the Iraqi security forces may simply be using their positions to further sectarian objectives. Whatever the case may be, security remains elusive.

Washington has been urging Iraq for months to pass major laws aimed at drawing Sunni Arabs more firmly into the political process. None of the drafts have reached parliament.

The laws deal with sharing revenues from Iraq’™s huge oil reserves more equitably, holding provincial elections and amending a ban on former members of Saddam Hussein’™s Baath party serving in the government and military.

U.S. President George W. Bush pleaded for patience for his Iraq strategy on Thursday as he scrambled to prevent further defections by fellow Republicans skeptical of his war strategy.

Perhaps I’™m just a pessimist but if the various groups in the Iraqi government are bickering over how to conduct investigations into possible wrongdoing by fellow members of the government, what are the chances they can reach agreement on the distribution of oil revenues or any other critical issues.

While the Bush administration attempts to focus the American public on the need for the latest surge in U.S. troops, I’™m of the opinion that the surge’™s success or failure is irrelevant so long as Iraq doesn’™t have a functional government. In the last four years we have heard a litany of explanations and excuses for the lack of progress.

I fear that this latest surge and the associated campaign to persuade American’™s to stay the course will only be followed by an admission that Iraq simply lacks the wherewithal and the will to step in and assume responsibility for the country’™s security.

I hope I’™m wrong but in the end I’™m awfully thankful that I’™m not George Bush or a supporter of his Iraq strategy. If my instincts are right, and the situation goes from bad to worse, the president and his apologists are in for an even rougher period of voter unrest. When that happens, look for many of the remaining Republican members of congress to jump ship.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Friday, June 29th, 2007 by Richard Blair |

“It Didn’t Work” Says Bush

That’™s what Mr. Bush said about the defeat of the immigration bill he had fought for for several years. Once again, he won’™t take responsibility, using a passive construction when he should instead step forward and admit reality. There are reasons the immigration bill didn’™t pass, and it takes little to figure those [...]

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

That’™s what Mr. Bush said about the defeat of the immigration bill he had fought for for several years. Once again, he won’™t take responsibility, using a passive construction when he should instead step forward and admit reality. There are reasons the immigration bill didn’™t pass, and it takes little to figure those out.

The Washington Times blames the steadfastness of the young Republican Senators for the defeat of the bill, or that Mitch McConnell wouldn’™t himself stand up for immigration reform. Hey, they even imply that an irrational fear of Ted Kennedy is behind the opposition to the bill. (Kennedy joined Bush on Bush’™s only two accomplishments in the last seven years, the Prescription Drug bill and NCLB, both of which are ugly, flawed projects.) So who is to blame? The young Republicans in the senate? Mitch McConnell? Ted Kennedy? Or George Bush?

I’™ll go for Bush. He’™s squandered every bit of moral authority he may have kept and nurtured after 9/11. He’™s squandered that authority with distinctly immoral stands involving renditions, Gitmo, illegal eavesdropping, exposing CIA agents, etc. To push through an immigration bill against the xenophobic and nativist movements in both the Republican and Democratic Parties, Bush needed moral authority. He doesn’™t have it, he ain’™t going to win.

The immigration reform initiative will stand as Mr. Bush’™s last failed chance at a legacy. Oops, I forgot. Bush has a legacy, and that is of damaging our country more than any President in history. He needn’™t worry. The Bush legacy will occupy the next four or five Presidents, who will be forced into heavy lifting in order to repair our country and its reputation.

Friday, June 29th, 2007 by Richard Blair |

Coordinated Attack Kills 5 U.S. Soldiers in Iraq

Five more U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq. In the four-plus years that the Bush regime has occupied Iraq, there’™s never been a calendar quarter where U.S. deaths exceeded 100 in each month of the quarter – until now.

As U.S. lawmakers prepare for a two week 4th of July holiday, and as Iraqi lawmakers [...]

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Five more U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq. In the four-plus years that the Bush regime has occupied Iraq, there’™s never been a calendar quarter where U.S. deaths exceeded 100 in each month of the quarter – until now.

As U.S. lawmakers prepare for a two week 4th of July holiday, and as Iraqi lawmakers prepare for two months of vacation, the carnage continues unabated. And no one in either governing body appears to have the will or the way or the politically moral fortitude to say, ‘œENOUGH!!’.

The U.S. has less than 200,000 military personnel in the country. The ‘œinsurgents’ in Iraq apparently have unlimited resources in terms of manpower, weaponry, popular support, and (perhaps most importantly) time.

It doesn’™t take a math major to figure this thing out anymore. Complete U.S. withdrawal is no longer a matter of how, but of when. There is no ‘œwinning’ this thing.

I am almost despondent that wiser minds than my own can’™t seem to figure this out.

Friday, June 29th, 2007 by Richard Blair |
Category: Iraq