Immigration and Crime. Insights into the Brazilian Community Living in Newark, New Jersey

Bachelor Thesis, 2018

38 Pages, Grade: 10.0


Table of Contents



Neoclassical Economics Model
Dual Labor Market theory
New Economics of Migration theory
Criminal Records
Safer Communities
Newark, NJ


Motivating Factors
Self-Reported Criminal Record




Immigration and Crime: Insights into the Brazilian Community Living in Newark, NJ Demétrius Gonçalves Undergraduate Honors Thesis submitted to the Honors College at Rutgers University-Newark in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with Honors College distinction Newark, New Jersey

Keywords: Immigration, Newark, Brazilians, neoclassical model, dual labor market theory, new economics of migration theory, criminalization, crime, public safety.

Copyright 2018

Demétrius Gonçalves


I would like to acknowledge the help of Rutgers professors, Dr. Adubato and Dr. Duygulu, which guided me through every step of this incredible journey of completing the Senior Honors Thesis. It was definitely not an easy task as I thought at first, especially because of the many complications that came along the way in which delayed the final result. I would also like to thank Ms. Zorola and Dr. Murphy for being patient and doing their best to work with me in meeting each deadline. And last but not least, I would like to thank my family and especially my wife for all the support they gave me while in college. For pushing me all the time and making sure I always held my head up. Thank you.


In addition to the notable scientific research proving that immigrants do not bring crime into America, the present study provides insights into the Brazilian population living in the city of Newark, NJ one of the 200 metropolitan cities researched by Robert Adelman. Even though public thinking and political debate has permeated the image of a criminal immigrant, the city of Newark and its approximately 81 thousand immigrants, about 29 percent of the population, have experienced a significant drop in the city’s crime rates. This study points out that the Brazilian community living in the city of Newark are rarely involved with crimes, in fact their strong familial ties, cultural background and eagerness to work have potentially helped to lessen the crime rates in their neighborhoods.


"Every day, sanctuary cities release illegal immigrants, drug dealers, traffickers, and gang members back into our communities,” said President Trump at the Opioid Summit hosted by the White House on March 1, 2018. The relationship between immigration and crime has been debated for over decades, but it was not until recently that this idea started driving public policies; restricting visas, banning international entry, and strengthening border enforcement and now separating children from their families crossing the border illegally. But, it is irrefutable that immigration policies should be driven by data, empirical evidence, and foreign relations practices; not by a sociological myth that perceives every undocumented immigrant as a criminal individual.

Nonetheless, this notion that immigrants bring crime into America continue to spread and as of 2017, according to Gallup polls (Gallup, 2017), almost half of Americans agreed that immigrants make crimes worse. Thus, we decided to develop a study to contribute to the vast body of scientific research that proves otherwise. But, differently from most existing research, this present study will explore the phenomenon on micro level and provide insights into the undocumented Brazilian community living in the city of Newark, NJ. The research question and objective of this study is to answer the question whether does the undocumented Brazilian community living in Newark make crime rates worse?

We will analyze established books, official government reports, and series of scholarly written articles to lay a solid background to better understand this issue. In addition, we will introduce notable research from sociologists such as Bianca Bersani, from the University of Massachusetts and criminologists like Alex Piquero, from the University of Texas. We will also develop a thorough explanation as to why we decided to choose the Brazilian population as well as the city of Newark to perform our study; exploring the city's historical background as well the demographic characteristics of the Brazilian population.

We will focus on three major theories to establish a solid ground for this research. They are the Neoclassical Economics Model (Lewis, 1954), the Dual Labor Market Theory (Piore, 1979), and the New Economics of Migration Theory (Stak, 1984). All the above theories seek to explain some of the motivating factors behind international migration. The Neoclassical Model focuses on the individual choice and expectancy of a greater monetary return from the migration. On the other hand, the New Economics of Migration views migration as a household decision to maximize a family’s income. In contrast to both of these theories that are based on the individual choice and family’s choice we have the Dual Labor Market theory, a framework that sets its sights away from any rational choice and argues that international migration is caused by a permanent demand for immigrant labor caused by the economic structure of developed nations (Massey, et al., 1993).

We will understand the criminal history of the country and how the foreign population has impacted it by exploring articles such as the Criminalization of Immigration in the United States by Ewing & Daniel Martinez (2015). In addition, we will describe the relationship of one the most comprehensive studies in the field, led by the sociologist Robert Adelman, to our own research. Essentially, demonstrating that Newark was among one of the 200 metropolitan cities researched on Robert’s study.

The present research is focused on the city of Newark because the city provides a snapshot that paints the bigger picture of what happened in America. While the population of immigrants was increasing, the crime rates were dropping. According to the U.S. Census of 2010-2014, the city is the most populous in the state of New Jersey. Historically, Newark is known for its violent crimes, but more recently for its cultural revival and significant drop on the crime rates (Rojas, 2017). The flow of immigrants has gone from 12.5% in 1990 to 17.5% in 2000 according to Janice Fine, a professor of labor studies, immigration and employment relations at Rutgers University.

The number of immigrants continued to grow, according to the U.S. Census 2010-2014 (United States Census Bureau) Newark has approximately 81,187 immigrants living in the city, about 29 percent of its population. A large component of this population is of Brazilian origin, according to the Immigration Policy Institute the number of Brazilian immigrants continue to grow in Newark, the latest census reported there were approximately 10,000 Brazilians living there. Nevertheless, the flow of Brazilian immigrants is a substantial factor for the city of Newark not only because of their numbers and how they have changed the demographic scenery of the city but also because of their unique characteristics. When compared to the total foreign-born population in the United States, Brazilian immigrants are less likely to be limited in English proficiency, they have higher educational attainment and income, and have lower poverty rates (Immigration Policy Institute , 2016). Such data is very relevant to our studies and helped us to develop our hypothesis.

Is the undocumented Brazilian community living in Newark making the crime rates worse? Based on the findings from this project we were able to hypothesize that the undocumented Brazilian immigrants living in the city of Newark are rarely involved with crimes, therefore they do not make crime worse, in fact this study points out the opposite. To investigate such topic and test our hypothesis we established the increase in the population of the Brazilian community as the independent variable for our study and crime rates along with all its elements as the dependent variable.

Based on existing research, we concluded that the best way to test the hypothesis was to understand what the dependent variables of this study are and what are the elements affecting them: the demographics of our participants, the motivating factors that boost these individuals to migrate to the United States, and most importantly their criminal history. We utilized these dependent variables to categorize our research and to develop a questionnaire. Finally, we designed a series of 16 questions to perform the study. At first our participants answered questions pertaining to their demographic background, secondly, we asked questions to understand what motivated them to migrate to America and lastly we asked them about their criminal history.

It is important to note that we controlled our study to the micro level by limiting the questionnaire to the undocumented Brazilian immigrants who are residing in the city of Newark, NJ. This way we were able to provide insights about the Brazilian community and conclude as hypothesized that they are rarely involved with crimes; in fact, their strong familial ties, cultural background and eagerness to work have potentially helped to lessen the crime rates in their neighborhoods.


The following literature has been gathered from established books, official government reports, and series of scholarly written articles to discuss why the relationship between criminality and the presence of undocumented immigrants is invalid, even though public thinking and political debate permeates otherwise. Books like (Smuggling and trafficing in Human Beings, 2007), articles such as (Theories of International Migration: A Review and Appraisal, 1993) and (Immigration and Public Safety , 2017) will serve as capstones to develop the relationship between international immigration theories and public safety as well as to identify the motivating factors that brought the 11 million undocumented immigrants to the United States (Here's the Reality About Immigrants in the United States, 2017), most of whom have overstayed their visas or been smuggled across the American and Mexican border (Yee, Davis, & Patel, 2017). There is a vast body of research to explain international migration, its geographic justification and the socio-economic ramifications of the phenomenon. For the purposes of this research, we will focus on three major theories to establish a solid ground for this research. These theories include the oldest, best-known, and more applicable theories on international migration.

They are the Neoclassical Economics Model (Lewis, 1954), the Dual Labor Market Theory (Piore, 1979), and the New Economics of Migration Theory (Stak, 1984). After we illustrate each one of these theories in detail we will introduce notable research from criminologists, sociologists, economists, and scholars such as Bersani (University of Massachusetts) and Piquero (University of Texas). Finally, in order to explain the rationale behind the development of our micro research, we will dive into the historic background as well as the demographic characteristics of the city of Newark, NJ.

Neoclassical Economics Model

The neoclassical model addresses two levels of factors, the micro or personal level where migration is explained as a form of investment in human capital (Sjaastad, 1962). One of the most important factors in the micro-level is the wage differences between the sending and receiving countries. According to Todaro (1969) people choose to move to where they can be most productive and expect greater monetary prospects. Individuals go through a cost-benefit calculation to decide whether they can expect a positive net return from migrating to a more developed country or not (Borjas, 1990). At the macro level, it occurs as a mechanism to balance the world’s economic resources, according to Arthur Lewis (1954) international migration is caused by geographic differences in the supply of and demand for labor, developed countries look to fill the demand of their economy by recruiting workers from abroad (Zhang, 2007). According to this theory the flow of migration will fluctuates based of the country’s economy and its labor market (Lewis, 1954).

Dual Labor Market theory

This theory was developed by Michael Pore (1979) and it differentiates from the neoclassical model because it illustrates international migration to be intrinsically connected to the demands of modern industrial societies. Cities like New York and Los Angeles are known for their contrast of labor. On one end, there are plenty of high-skilled, high pay and steady jobs while on the other end there are the jobs that nobody wants - low pay, unstable, long hours and unskilled jobs (Massey, et al., 1993). Native born Americans tend to occupy the first segment of this bifurcated labor force. Therefore, creating an inescapable and structural problem because the second segment cannot be filled without immigrant labor-force. It would be easy to fix these problems if employers would simply raise the wages at the second segment. But, they cannot do that, because wages do not reflect the conditions of supply and demand. They reflect social status, prestige, and social qualities. Thus, if an employer raises the wage of a waitress because of the shortage of entry-level workers, it would create a conflict with the cooks of the restaurant. Immigrants satisfy this need; they fill the second segment and keep the economy steady (Piore, 1979).

New Economics of Migration theory

This theory challenges both Dual Labor Market theory and the Neoclassical Models because it explains migration as a collective act, not as an individual choice nor as a market necessity but as a way to maximize a family’s income (Massey, et al., 1993). According to Oded Stark (1986) families’ goals are to minimize the risks and recuperate from market’s failures. According to his theory, if the employment conditions and the local labor in the sending country are negatively correlated to the economic conditions of the family, the household will meet in a consensus and agree to send a member of the family to a more developed country. Households send workers abroad not only to improve income in absolute terms but also in relative terms to other households, the immigrants become an insurance policy for the aging parents and the other family members (Zhang, 2007).

In addition to these theories that justify migration, it is important for this study to illustrate contrary to what has been President Donald Trump's claim about immigrants (Wang, 2017.) Based on empirical scientific research we will establish that immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than native-born citizens and that higher levels of immigration may have contributed to the historic drop in crime rates and finally that immigration law enforcement undermines public safety.

Criminal Records

The American Immigration Council (The Criminalization of Immigration in the United States , 2015) found that foreign-born individuals are involved in crime at significantly lower rates than native-born American. They are less likely to engage in violent or non-violent anti-social behavior, including harassment, assault, and acquiring multiple traffic violations. They performed a study and surveyed more than 40,000 U.S. residents aged 18 years and older (Vaugh, Salas-Wright, DeLisi, & Maynard, 2014). In addition, surveys of over 20,000 adolescents found that foreign-born had the lowest level of delinquency when it comes to acts such as stealing, damaging property, or selling drugs (Fox, Katz, & White, 2010). These differences continue to be significant when illegal immigrants were researched. An examination of 2010 Census data revealed that the groups who make up the mass of the undocumented population have significantly lower incarceration rates than similarly situated native-born (Ewing & Daniel Martinez, 2015). The Migration Policy Institute has estimate that 820,000 of the 11 million undocumented immigrants have been convicted of a crime, less than 3 percent (Yee, Davis, & Patel, 2017).

Based on national and local level data Rumbaut (2006) found that incarceration rates among the native born was four times greater than the incarceration rates among the foreign-born. In addition, (Butcher & Piehl, 1988) found that immigrant men and women were less criminally active than native-born in regard to self-reported crime, being stopped by the police, being charged with a crime, and having contact with a criminal agency. Yet scholars point out that there may be a problem with the scientific record presented this far. Research such as the one conducted by Butcher and Piehl (1988) rely on self-reported survey data. The authors ask individuals to respond to questions regarding their criminal record, such as if they've stolen goods, been arrested before, or have hurt someone. Scholars point out the possibility of the answers to be responded inaccurately due to incentive to lie. However, the LA Times (Piquero, 2017) exhausted this possibility by researching a large sample of adolescents' offenders and finding no evidence supporting the idea that immigrants are especially prone to hide their criminal behavior. Over the seven years of the study, immigrants accurately self-reported their arrest. Therefore, concluding that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the United States (Piquero, 2017).

Safer Communities

Again, contrary to what has shaped public thinking and created many warnings and much anxiety among the American people, immigrants make communities rather safer than more dangerous (Brown & Stepler, 2013). Their strong familial ties, political participation, orientation to the justice system, and economic impact help lower the crime rate in their communities (Ousey & Kubrin, 2000). In fact, the wave of immigrants in recent decades has coincided with a significant drop in criminality. The journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice (2017) has recently published an article where researchers analyzed the Federal Census Bureau of investigation crime data across 200 metropolitan areas from 1970 to 2010. After controlling for age, level of unemployment, labor structures and other important factors, research found a reduction of almost five violent crimes per 100,000 residents for every 1 percent increase in the foreign-born population. Robert Adelman found that in 1990 there were 730 offenses per 100,000 residents when the population of foreign-born individuals was roughly around the 20 million individuals. His research also found that around mid-1990 began to fall and by 2014 it was half of its 1990 level, at 362 offenses per 100,000 residents. By that year, the foreign population had more than doubled, reaching nearly 42.2 million people, including 11.1 millions of unauthorized immigrants (Adelman, Reid, Markle, & Weiss, 2017).

Graham Ousey and Charis Kubrin (Immigration and Crime: Assessing a Contentious Issues, 2017) also contributed to the body of research that proves immigration to lessen crime in metropolitan areas, they found that homicide and property crimes were fewer in cities with larger immigrant population than in cities with smaller immigrant population. Another study found that people living in Chicago where there are 40% of immigrants are 80% less likely to experience violence than people living in cities with no immigrants (Ousey & Kubrin, 2017). It is important to note however, that these trends are not proven to be definitive in causation. But, they do establish a critical fact about immigrants and public safety. While crime rates have fallen the population of foreign-born has increased dramatically (Ghandnoosh & Rovner, 2017).

Newark, NJ

Newark was among one of the 200 metropolitan cities researched by Robert Adelman, where in a large-scale collaboration with four universities they compared immigration rates with crime rates (Adelman, Reid, Markle, & Weiss, 2017). The city is the most populous in the state of New Jersey, according to the U.S. Census 2010-2014 American Community Survey. Newark has 81,187 immigrants living in the city, about 29 percent of its population. Because of the city’s European background, the Portuguese have significantly occupied one of the top places amongst the large group of illegal immigrants in the city. In 1995, there were 30,000 Portuguese Americans living in Newark. By 2000, Census data showed 15,801 residents of Portuguese ancestry, with 5,805 of Brazilian ancestry. According to the American Community Survey, the scenario started to change between 2009 and 2013 and the number of Portuguese residents had dropped to 13,068, and the Brazilian population had increased to 10,091.

Historically violent crimes have been a notable circumstance in the city of Newark. In 1996, Time magazine ranked Newark as "The Most Dangerous City in the Nation. The high crime rates in the city tracks violent offenses such as rape, murder and non-negligent manslaughter, armed robbery, and aggravated assault. The New York Times published an article in 2009 (Newark Murder Rate Dropped 30 Percent in 2008) noting a substantial change in the city. The homicide rates in the city has varied since the mid-1980s, between a high of 117 in 1985 to as low as 67 homicides in 2008 (Schweber, 2009). While crime was decreasing in the city the population of immigrants was growing fast, according to Janice Fine, a professor of labor studies, immigration and employment relations at Rutgers University, the flow of immigrants in New Jersey went from 12.5 percent in 1990 to 17.5 percent in 2000 to about 22 percent in 2013.


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Immigration and Crime. Insights into the Brazilian Community Living in Newark, New Jersey
Rutgers The State University of New Jersey - Newark  (School of Criminal Justice)
Honor's Thesis
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
#immigration, #crime, #newark, neoclassical model, criminalization, public safety
Quote paper
Demetrius Goncalves (Author), 2018, Immigration and Crime. Insights into the Brazilian Community Living in Newark, New Jersey, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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