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The impact of illegal immigration and enforcement on border crime rates

  • Roberto Coronado
  • Pia M. Orrenius

Border crime rates lie consistently below the national average. In the 1990s, however, while there as a large decline in property-related crime along the U.S.-Mexico border, violent crime rates began to converge to the national average. At the same time, legal and illegal immigration from Mexico surged and border enforcement rose to unprecedented levels. In this paper, we investigate the relationship between border county crime rates, immigration and enforcement since the early 1990s. We find that while the volume of illegal immigration is not related to changes in property-related crime, there is a significant positive correlation with the incidence of violent crime. This is most likely due to extensive smuggling activity along the border. Border enforcement meanwhile is significantly negatively related to crime rates. The bad news is that the deterrent effect of the border patrol diminishes over this time period, and the net impact of more enforcement on border crime since the late 1990s is zero.

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File URL: http://www.dallasfed.org/assets/documents/research/papers/2003/wp0303.pdf
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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas in its series Working Papers with number 0303.

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Date of creation: 2003
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Handle: RePEc:fip:feddwp:03-03
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  1. Wayne A. Cornelius, 2001. "Death at the Border: Efficacy and Unintended Consequences of US Immigration Control Policy," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 27(4), pages 661-685.
  2. McCormick, Robert E & Tollison, Robert D, 1984. "Crime on the Court," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(2), pages 223-35, April.
  3. Eric D. Gould & Bruce A. Weinberg & David B. Mustard, 2002. "Crime Rates And Local Labor Market Opportunities In The United States: 1979-1997," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(1), pages 45-61, February.
  4. Levitt, Steven D, 1997. "Using Electoral Cycles in Police Hiring to Estimate the Effect of Police on Crime," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(3), pages 270-90, June.
  5. Kristin F. Butcher & Anne Morrison Piehl, 1997. "Recent Immigrants: Unexpected Implications for Crime and Incarceration," NBER Working Papers 6067, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Grogger, Jeff, 1998. "Market Wages and Youth Crime," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 16(4), pages 756-91, October.
  7. Ehrlich, Isaac & Brower, George D, 1987. "On the Issue of Causality in the Economic Model of Crime and Law Enforcement: Some Theoretical Considerations and Experimental Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(2), pages 99-106, May.
  8. Kristin F. Butcher & Anne Morrison Piehl, 1998. "Cross-city evidence on the relationship between immigration and crime," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 17(3), pages 457-493.
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