It’s clear that many people in the US and other countries believe that immigration increases the levels of criminal activity in destination countries and an Italian economist set out to see if those fears are justified or are unfounded. The results of that study were recently published in the peer-reviewed American Economic Review (2017, 107(1): 138–168) and the February 3, 2017 issue of Science Magazine, a peer-reviewed journal published by The American Association for the Advancement of Science (the US equivalent of the British journal Nature) under the title, “Want lower Crime?

Legalize immigrants.”

Fear mongering

Transatlantic Trends, a recent survey of citizens in Europe and North Americans found that a majority (more than half) of the respondents worry that “immigration will increase crime in our society.” Just as many are concerned that it will affect their pocket books by forcing countries to raise taxes to deal with the immigrants.

But only 30% of those surveyed expressed worries that immigrants will take jobs from the “native born.”

Of those surveyed, there was an important distinction made between “legal” and “irregular” immigrants, with many thinking that the illegal or irregular immigrants are the troublemakers rather than the legal immigrants. That makes considerable sense since the illegal immigrants are often young men, less well educated than legal immigrants (and therefore unlikely to find jobs), and, merely by being illegal immigrants, they have shown a disrespect for laws of other countries, that is, they are already prima-facie (on the face of it) lawbreakers simply because of their irregular immigrant status (that crime wasn’t considered one of the “serious crimes” cited in the study.

Italian study

Although the study was specifically conducted in and about Italy, it is likely that the findings would apply to every other Western-style democracy. The Italian Ministry of Interior reported in 2007 that 80% of all immigrants accused of serious crimes were committed by "irregular" immigrants.

Italy is a particularly suitable country for this study because of the unusual way Italy grants legal status.

Unlike the US and many other countries, the primary way to become a legal immigrant is to first be an irregular immigrant, then prove your worth to society by obtaining a work-related resident permit which is sponsored by their employer.

The “clicking” in study title (“Clicking on heaven’s Door, …”) refers to the “click days” (mouse clicks) during which employers must submit applications online beginning at 8 a.m.

- causing the most enthusiastic employers to be online and applying first to keep their employees because quotas are filled based on a first come, first served basis. The study used criminal records of all those applicants sponsored on the click days in December 2007 for receiving a permit in 2008. 610,000 applied that year and a comparison of crime rates before and after applying and getting or not getting in under the quota as measured to a one-hundredth of a second difference in the application time.

The details are available online in the actual study, but essentially the results were that those young men who received work permits and therefore went from irregular status to becoming legal residents committed far fewer serious crimes after getting approval.

The actual numbers showed the serious crimes committed by this group was cut in half.

US immigrants

The US currently has no such program for becoming a legal resident but the study backs up those liberals who contend that creating a pathway to citizenship or just legal status would reduce overall crime among the estimated 11.5 million illegal immigrants, a number which has been declining for several years but which is still almost equal to the number of legal or EAD card holders (Employment Authorization Document or EAD Form I-765) issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS.)