Undocumented Immigration Not Linked to Drug, Alcohol Problems

Many old suitcases stand in an empty roomAlthough undocumented immigrants have certain risk factors for drug and alcohol abuse, undocumented immigration does not worsen drug and alcohol-related problems in the United States, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health. Instead, researchers found undocumented immigration correlated with a slight reduction in drug and alcohol crimes.

Politicians often raise concerns about a link between immigration—particularly undocumented immigration—and drug crime. Claims that illegal immigrants increase crime are becoming increasingly prevalent in the midst of a national opioid addiction epidemic, potentially furthering fears about the public health costs of undocumented immigration.

Data on Immigration and Drug-Related Crimes

The study tracked undocumented immigration rates from 1990-2014, then compared this data to four measures of drug and alcohol-related public health issues: drug-related arrests; arrests for driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol; drug overdose deaths, and DUI-related fatalities. The data came from a wide range of sources, including the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Underlying Cause of Death database.

The data showed no correlation between undocumented immigration and substance abuse problems. Instead, a 1% increase in undocumented immigration was associated with 42 fewer DUI arrests, 22 fewer drug arrests, and 0.64 fewer drug overdoses. Undocumented immigration neither increased nor decreased drunk driving fatalities.

Could Undocumented Immigration Reduce Substance Abuse Problems?

The study did not find that undocumented immigration directly lowers substance abuse issues. It also did not assess why undocumented immigration is associated with a statistical decrease in measures of substance abuse issues.

The study’s authors highlight the risk factors for substance abuse that many undocumented immigrants face. They tend to have lower levels of educational attainment and fewer financial resources, but despite these risk factors, immigrants tend to stay healthier and become involved in less crime. Researchers have dubbed this the “Latino paradox,” sometimes called the “healthy immigrant thesis.”


  1. Light, M. T., Miller, T., & Kelly, B. C. (2017). Undocumented immigration, drug problems, and driving under the influence in the United States, 1990-2014. American Journal of Public Health. doi:10.2105/ajph.2017.303884
  2. Undocumented immigration doesn’t worsen drug, alcohol problems in U.S., study indicates. (2017, August 1). Retrieved from http://news.wisc.edu/undocumented-immigration-doesnt-worsen-drug-alcohol-problems-in-u-s-study-indicates/

© Copyright 2017 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Jennifer

    August 3rd, 2017 at 1:42 PM

    Personally I think that thinking things like this could worsen the overall attitude many Americans already have about immigrants in general. They already try to perpetuate the myth that we are not a country built on the backs of immigrants. Any thing that can help them to demean this population even more is sure to be information that they will continually to filter out there.

  • Pablo

    August 6th, 2017 at 2:55 PM

    I do not at all believe that race or culture has anything to do with this
    that to me is just some people with very narrow minds looking for easy scapegoats.

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of GoodTherapy.org's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.