MALDEF

Immigrants Make El Paso Safe

On July 6, 2009, Reason.com reported that El Paso, a city that borders the violent Ciudad Juarez, is one of America’s safest big cities. In addition to El Paso neighboring a city with over 2,500 homicides in the last 18 months, El Paso’s:

Poverty rate was a shade over 27 percent, more than twice the nation average. Median household income was $35, 600, well below the national average of $48,000. El Paso is three-quarters Hispanic, and more than a quarter of its residents are foreign-born.

Given all the variables of what would make up a fearsome city, El Paso stands 3rd in lowest crime-ranking in a city with a population of 500,000 or more. Criminologists accredit this phenomenon to the large immigrant population that makes up most of El Paso. Jack Levin, a criminologist at Northeastern University in Massachusetts reports:

If you want to find a safe city, first determine the size of the immigrant population. If the immigration community represents a large portion of the population, you’re likely in one of the country’s safer cites.

This directly refutes the continuous news talk from anti-immigration pundits who use scare-tactics to perpetuate myths and criminalize immigrants. Further disassembling the myths of immigration, scholars who focus on this exact issue sent a letter (pdf) to President Bush and Congressional leaders stating:

Numerous studies by independent researchers and government commissions over the past 100 years repeatedly and consistently have found that, in fact, immigrants are less likely to commit crimes or to be behind bars than are the native-born. This is true for the nation as a whole, as well as for cities with large immigrant populations.

El Paso has embraced their immigrant population, which contributes to why it has continued to be one of the safest places in the country. The city fought, and lost, the prevention of the border fence within its boundaries. They have also opposed federal attempts to enlist police for immigration enforcement. El Paso Mayor John Cook stated:

Most people in Washington really don’t understand life on the border. They don’t understand our philosophy here that the border joins us together, it doesn’t separate us

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund