Steve Chapman

A 2007 report by the Immigration Policy Center noted that "for every ethnic group, without exception, incarceration rates among young men are lowest for immigrants, even those who are the least educated. This holds true especially for the Mexicans, Salvadorans and Guatemalans who make up the bulk of the undocumented population."

Harvard sociologist Robert Sampson, who has focused his research on Chicago neighborhoods, documents that felonious behavior is less common among Mexican-Americans, who constitute the biggest share of Latinos, than among whites. Second and third generation Latinos, contrary to what you might expect, fall into more crime than immigrants. But Sampson says that overall, "Mexican-American rates of violence are very similar to whites."

The phenomenon is so evident that it was even recognized in a recent article in The American Conservative -- a magazine founded by the lusty nativist ("we're gonna lose our country") Patrick Buchanan. It was written by Ron Unz, who made some enemies among Latinos by pushing a California ballot initiative to sharply limit bilingual education in public schools, but who knows better than to regard Latinos as the enemy.

Unz points out that in the five most heavily Hispanic cities in the country, violent crime is "10 percent below the national urban average and the homicide rate 40 percent lower." In Los Angeles, which is half Hispanic and easily accessible to those sneaking over the southern border, the murder rate has plummeted to levels unseen since the tranquil years of the early 1960s.

This is not really hard to understand. Today, as ever, most foreigners who make the sacrifice of leaving home and starting over in a strange land do so not to mug grandmothers or molest children, but to find work that will give them a better life. Coming here illegally does not alter that basic motivation.

In other words, they want to become full-fledged Americans, and they're succeeding. Is there something scary about that?

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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