U.S. Census Figures Refute Johnson’s Accusation of Crime Among Immigrants
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U.S. Census Figures Refute Johnson’s Accusation of Crime Among Immigrants

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Immigrants arriving at Ellis Island aboard the tender Machigonne in New York, Aug. 21, 1923. (Underwood Archives/Getty Images)

Congressman Celler Presents Convincing Argument Based on Statistics (Jewish Daily Bulletin)

Crime among immigrants is no greater than among natives. relatively in point of numbers, if Census Bureau figures are properly evaluated and interpreted, Representative Celler, of Brooklyn, N. Y., said in a letter to Richard Washburn Child, acting chairman of the Washington Conference on Prevention of Crime which has just been made public. His statement was in response to a letter of Representative Johnson, of Wash., chairman of the House Committee on Immigration, regarding aliens.

“All right-thinking people desire to reduce crime among aliens as well as among natives.” Mr. Celler said. The letter continues:

“Of course, all agree that criminal aliens should not be permitted to enter the United States, and it is well that in your deliberations and studies, crime be considered along with the subject of immigration. It is hoped, however, that scant consideration will be given to opinions of men who have axes to grind. I am sure it were better to consult real students on the subject of crime and immigration.

“Noted sociologists and criminologists are agreed that it is highly unfair and misleading to proclaim that the foreign-born have a greater number of criminals (guilty of misdemeanors and felonies) in their midst than their proportion of the total population should allow. For example, Dr. Edwin H. Sutherland, Professor of Sociology, University of Illinois, points out that the Census Report of 1910 on prisoners shows that for the entire United States the number of alien white persons committed as prisoners may have been twice as large in proportion to their entire population as for the native-born whites, but Dr. Sutherland goes on to say that this is very misleading if taken as it stands. He showed that almost all immigrants are adults, and that in 1910 only 57 per cent, of the foreign born were under 15 years of age, as contrasted with 36.6 per cent, of the native-born whites.

“If the adult offenders alone are compared in proportion to the population in each group 15 years of age and over, the foreign born whites had only 1.3 times as many commitments as native born whites. In the second place, almost all immigrants settle in the cities and cities have higher rates than the rural districts for arrests, convictions and commitments. It is possible, therefore, that the immigrants have higher rates than the rural districts because they live in cities rather than because they are immigrants.

“The conclusion has been justified that the foreign born in cities have lower rates than the native born for arrests, convictions and commitments. The Immigration Commission of 1910 came to that conclusion from a study of the statistics of several cities and Miss Edith Abbott proved it for Chicago in 1913. It has recently been demonstrated beyond a doubt that for all parts of the States of New York and Massachusetts that in proportion to the population, 15 years of age and over, the foreign born whites have lower rates than the native born whites. It is evident that the native born generally have higher rates, varying from almost the same to almost twice as high as the foreign born.

“Dr. Sutherland goes on to say that when it comes to the more serious crimes, the situation is the same. The Census Report shows that for crimes of felonious homicide, burglary, robbery, rape, etc., the native born have more proportional commitments than the foreign born, over 15 years of age.

“When the two groups are compared for identical urban districts, the foreign born generally have lower rates than the native born, for felonies as well as misdemeanors. Adult native born whites in Chicago in 1920 had 1.09 times as many arrests for felonies and 2.2 times as many arrests for misdemeanors as the adult foreign born.

“I simply desire to point out, primarily, that if the Census figures are properly evaluated and properly interpreted, crime among our foreigners is, at least, not greater than the amount, to which their numbers entitle them.”

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