A Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence led by the University of Maryland

A consortium of researchers dedicated to improving the understanding of the human causes and consequences of terrorism

Migration, Crime, and Victimization

Migration, Crime, and Victimization


The relationship between migration, crime, and victimization is a controversial issue that has received considerable attention from academics, media pundits, and politicians. This chapter discusses the extant literature and summarizes its major research findings. It must be noted though that some matters – in particular measurement-related issues – remain unresolved. Researchers must determine, for instance, if they wish to study legal migrants, illegal immigrants, or both. The term “migrant” may be operationalized by researcher and nations as “foreign-born” (very difficult to define, e.g., counting or not counting naturalized citizens as migrants) or noncitizens (counting native-born noncitizens as migrants). These differences make it difficult to compare studies and arrive at general conclusions, since different measurement decisions could lead to contradictory results. These difficulties are exacerbated of course when researchers examine migration cross-nationally.

In this chapter, we examine current understandings as to whether migration leads to increases in criminal offending, victimization, or both. Under this conception, migration is the independent variable – the cause – and crime is the dependent variable – the effect. We would be remiss if we did not note that the reverse occurs, unfortunately, all too often. Numerous persons migrate to host countries to flee harsh living conditions, war crimes, and other human right violations occurring in their country of origin. In other instances, criminal syndicates deceive or kidnap vulnerable individuals and transfer them to the host country to work in servitude or to be sexually abused (Aronowitz, 2009). In these cases, crime is the independent variable – the cause – and migration is the dependent variable – the effect.

Publication Information

Full Citation: 

Belli, Roberta, Joshua D. Freilich, and Graeme Newman. 2019. "Migration, Crime, and Victimization." In International and Transnational Crime and Justice, ed. Mangai Natarajan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 240-244https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=lang_en&id=4saVDwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PA240&dq=%22joshua+D.+Freilich%22&ots=BCbuuEMmVH&sig=gdCDFNw487H-tAGkrxCEhwuLKNI#v=onepage&q=%22joshua%20D.%20Freilich%22&f=false

Publication URL: 
Visit Website

Additional Info

Research Area: