The Truth Behind Bars Debunking the myths behind the idea that all immigrants are criminals

Look just about anywhere and you can find news articles on another vandalized house of worship or someone being harassed because of how they look. But why? What causes this hate and stigma? Many people characterize immigrants as criminals and thieves but what’s the truth? Interestingly enough, research shows that immigrants are less likely to commit a crime than native US citizens. They are so unlikely to commit crimes that out of the 43 million (legal and illegal) immigrants living in the U.S, only 1.9 million have been convicted.

The Numbers

Data proves that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes and no solid evidence can hold up the ideas behind the accusation of immigrants being rapists or criminals. An article published by the New York Times titled, “Contrary to Trump’s Claims, Immigrants are Less Likely to Commit Crimes” cites an analysis of census data collected from 1980 to 2010 which looks at every immigrant in the U.S and found that “ Ages 18 to 49, immigrants are one-half to one-fifth as likely to be incarcerated as those born in the United States.” This data is alarming as it brings to light the fact that not only are the immigrants not more likely than native born citizens to be convicted, but they are far less likely to be put in jail in the first place! The Department of Homeland Security estimates that “1.9 million non citizens living in the United States - whether legally or illegally - have been convicted of criminal offenses and could be deported…With about 43 million foreign-born people living in the country, and about 11 million of them here illegally,” (to give context, the United States “Population Clock” provided for by the U.S government currently reads at 324,781,300, but numbers vary every second). According to the Prison Policy Initiative, the United States locks up more people than any other country. There are 2.3 million people locked up with another 4.7 million on parole. Every year, 641,000 people walk free of jails, but people go to jail over 11 million times a year! So what causes these assumptions? Turning to the mainstream media may just give you your answer.

Media Influences

Many people have come to think that immigrants are crime lords and up to no good, but why? Let’s talk about the elephant in the room, Donald Trump. Throughout the ceremony held to announce his presidency, he had some interesting things to say about immigrants. “When Mexico sends its people, their not sending their best,” “They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bring those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” After blatantly accusing a group of people of being rapists and drug pushers he adds, “And some, I assume, are good people.” It is these comments broadcasted to these big figures’ audience of millions that can shape the public's view. In Donald Trump’s executive order, he states that the majority of people entering the country illegally “present a significant threat to national security and public safety.” By not fact checking and just absorbing the opinions that are projected, you create a divide and prejudice against immigrants based off of false assumptions. But what kind of threat do they pose? In his first speech to Congress, Donald Trump explains that America is “in an environment of lawless chaos.” and the only way to bring success to the nation is to “restore integrity and the rule of law to our borders.” Trump adds that we should try to attract high skilled workers instead of the low skilled ones we have that contribute to the nation's problems. Perhaps we should try to target high skilled workers, but it is these “low skilled” workers that hold up the nation's economy by doing the jobs that no one else will. Much of the stigma around immigrants is fictitious and passed on by major influences in our country like public figures.

Horrendous Hate

As our country divides to take sides, chaos and violence erupts. Many people are now taking their ideas to the streets in a physical demonstrations of what they believe in. Many peaceful walks and protest on both sides of the debate have taken place but in some cases, savage acts of hatred are committed. A recent shooting at a bar confirms the fear that people are not afraid to do whatever it takes to keep people out. Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani were enjoying a drink at a local bar in Kansas when Adam W. Purinton began his assault. Purinton first questioned the two Indian immigrants about their legal status here in America. An interview with Madasani revealed he had asked what visas they were on and if they were legal or not. The New York Times states, “Both he and Mr. Kuchibhotla were educated in the United States and were working and living in the country legally.” He suggested they did not belong and for that he was thrown out. Shortly after, he returned with a gun and shot both men. Tragically, Mr. Kuchibhotla was fatally injured, fortunately, Mr. Madasani was able to recover. It wasn’t just these two men who got shot, a fellow costumer Ian Grillot was also shot at the scene when he attempted to catch and stop Purinton as he fled.

Srinivas Kuchibhotla (L) Adam W. Purinton (m) Alok Madasani (R)

The White House published a statement calling the shooting “an act of racially motivated hatred.” Adam W. Purinton was charged with “ Premeditated first-degree murder and two counts of attempted premeditated first degree murder.” There is no place in America for this kind of behavior. It should never be allowed for a group of people to be subject to the torment and abuse that these men were. America in its entirety needs to become more accepting and aware of the people around them. There is no just reason for harming someone all because you don’t want them there.

Looking Ahead

What lays ahead for the illegal immigrants of America? With Donald Trump, America’s newly elected president, there is not much certainty. On multiple occasions, he has switched his stance on illegal immigrants and how they will be handled in the years to come. An article published by The New York Times titled, “Trump Seesaws on Legal Status for Undocumented Immigrants” recounts Trump’s statements and feelings regarding illegal immigrants. “Hours before the speech, Mr Trump told reporters that ‘the time is right for an immigration bill as long as there is compromise on both sides.’ But he only made a glancing reference to that assertion as he faced lawmakers, raising skepticism about whether he is truly shifting away from his aggressive policies toward people who are in the country illegally.” This means that at first, to the press he claimed we could reach an agreement on deportation if both parties work together. Then, when he spoke to the Congress, he triggered outrage as he decided to revisit the ideas that won him so many votes in the first place.

Donald Trump addressing Congress at his first joint session.

His voters and opposition are both unsure if he will soften his stance or continue to follow his plans to deport illegal immigrants. Trump was able to gain the support of many who haven’t voted in the recent past by giving them a voice. One of his most infamous plans is to build a wall. Trump has promised to build a big, “beautiful wall” to keep illegal immigrants out. Now that Trump is changing his tone on many things, some of former supporters are against what his is trying to do in office. Jeff Sessions, an Attorney General and Stephan Miller who once worked for Sessions is now one of Trump’s “top policy advisers and his chief speechwriter.” They are both against legalizing illegal immigrants. If they can talk Trump out of his newest change in opinion, then they may be able to deport the illegal immigrants. If not, they will be faced with one of their largest fears for the future, legalizing millions of illegal immigrants. No one can say for sure what the future entails for illegal immigrants but it could go either way for the illegal immigrants.

Ready for Respect

Political figures influence many in the world, a “fact” ( true or false ) can spread like wildfire. The unjustified discrimination against the immigrant population is outdated and incredibly offensive. Not to mention the fact that being treated differently because of where you came from or what you look like can be debilitating and crush someone's confidence. The damage is done, anyone subject to harassment brought on by their origin will feel that judgement. Srinivas Kuchibhotla will never be able to experience life again because someone felt that he shouldn't be in America. Now, it is up to the whole world to become more open to foreigners settling where they live. There are things you can do as well, think before you speak and be mindful of the things you say to someone. The more you do this, the more you can contribute to a better world, you can be a positive change.

Glossary

Incarcerated: To be imprisoned

Premeditated first-degree murder: A planned, intentional murder

Attorney General: Someone who represents the United States in legal matters

Debilitating: To make weak

Works Cited

Burns, Alexander. "Choice Words From Donald Trump, Presidential Candidate." The New York Times. The New York Times, 16 June 2015. Web.

Pérez-Peña, Richard. "Contrary to Trump’s Claims, Immigrants Are Less Likely to Commit Crimes." The New York Times. The New York Times, 26 Jan. 2017. Web.

Shear, Michael D. "Trump Seesaws on Legal Status for Undocumented Immigrants." The New York Times. The New York Times, 1 Mar. 2017. Web.

Stack, Liam. "F.B.I. Investigating Kansas Shooting of Indian Men as Hate Crime." The New York Times. The New York Times, 28 Feb. 2017. Web.

Wagner, Peter, and Bernadette Rabuy. "Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2017." Prison Policy Initiative. N.p., 14 Mar. 2017. Web

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