Although 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.
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.”
- 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
- 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/
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