May 12, 2011
Arrival of the Fittest: Canada’s crime rate is dropping as immigration increases. Is there a connection?
May 12, 2011
LATE LAST SUMMER, the MV Sun Sea, a small Thai cargo ship, entered Canadian waters off the British Columbia coast, where it was intercepted by the navy and the RCMP. Crowded on board were 492 Tamils, including women and children. The vessel’s arrival was not unexpected; in fact, the government had been monitoring its journey for months and had intelligence that it was smuggling refugees from Sri Lanka. Canada has been a popular destination for people fleeing the ravages of the twenty-six-year civil war and a 2004 tsunami: there are now 20,000 Sri Lankans here, and more coming all the time.
A few days before the Sun Sea reached the coast, public safety minister Vic Toews was in Toronto giving a luncheon speech on national security to the Economic Club of Canada and announced, “I can assure you that we are concerned about who is on that ship and why they might be coming to Canada.” He was referring to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, known as the Tamil Tigers, which has been banned in Canada as a terrorist organization. The previous year, when a rusty ship called the Ocean Lady carrying seventy-six Tamil men arrived off the coast of Vancouver Island, the government arrested the passengers and held them for months, alleging that a third of them were Tamil Tigers sent to infiltrate Canada and set up operations here. (No evidence was ever found to support that claim, and they’ve since been released. All are pursuing refugee claims.)
That the point person was Toews, and not Jason Kenney, the minister of citizenship, immigration, and multiculturalism, was telling. It framed the Sun Sea situation as a potential danger to the public, and prompted a swift response. The passengers were put into detention (nearly sixty of them remain there, and in March two were ordered to be deported because of ties to the Tigers). The government also introduced Bill C-49, which would allow officials to detain smuggled migrants for one year, and bar them from applying for permanent residence and sponsoring family members for five years.
The public was unsympathetic. In a column for the Sun chain of newspapers, conservative author Ezra Levant referred to the refugees as “gatecrashers” who were exploiting the country’s largesse. “Taxpaying, law-abiding Canadian citizens don’t even get free dental care, in case you’d forgotten,” he wrote. Meanwhile, an Angus Reid poll revealed that 46 percent of Canadians believed immigration was having a negative effect on the country. When asked specifically about the Tamil refugees, 50 percent wanted to deport them back to Sri Lanka.
This may seem like a surprising turn for a country that is particularly supportive of diversity. After all, we’re an officially bilingual nation of immigrants; 20 percent of us are foreign born, and only aboriginal people, who make up a small fraction of the population, can legitimately claim to be from here. Last year, Canada had its highest rate of immigration in over fifty years, with more than 280,000 people being granted permanent resident status. And according to a recent international survey, Canada is one of the best nations in the world at integrating immigrants, scoring high marks for educational and job opportunities, as well as for anti-discrimination and equality policies.
Yet the suspicions about the Tamils echo previous spasms of anti-immigrant animus, like the Chinese head tax and the internment of Germans, Austro-Hungarians, Turks, Bulgarians, and Japanese Canadians during the two world wars. And the Tamils’ arrival by boat recalls two other particularly ugly moments in this history: in 1914, a Japanese freighter carrying some 400 passengers, mainly Sikhs from India, landed in Vancouver but was denied permission to enter Canada. The ship returned to India, where twenty passengers were killed after they disembarked. Twenty-five years later, the MS St. Louis, carrying over 900 Jews fleeing the Nazis, was turned away by Canada, the US, and Cuba. Back in Europe, nearly a third of those passengers would die in the Holocaust.
In times of social upheaval and economic hardship, immigrants are a convenient scapegoat, accused of bringing with them an element of deviance and criminality: they upset the social order, the line goes, steal our jobs and our property, and ruin our neighbourhoods. This would seem to be one of those times. In the US, anti-immigrant rhetoric has spawned nutty excesses, like the Minutemen militia group that is building a fence along the Mexican border, and the recent, McCarthy-esque congressional hearings on the “radicalization” of American Muslims. In Canada, there has been a general, albeit less extreme, souring toward immigrants, as well. In 2007, a Léger poll determined that one-third of Quebecers believed that their society was threatened by non-Christian newcomers, and nearly 60 percent wanted immigrants to follow a “code of conduct” akin to the ham-fisted code de vie infamously mandated by the village of Hérouxville. A year after that, in Calgary, MP Lee Richardson told a reporter that people who have grown up in a different culture “don’t have the same respect for authority or people’s person or property… Talk to the police. Look at who is committing these crimes. They’re not the kid who grew up next door.” Richardson later retracted his comments, but they appear to reflect the popular view. An international survey of public attitudes about immigration published in 2009 found that while Canadians have positive feelings overall about immigrants, more than half blame illegal migrants for driving up crime.
What few have bothered to ask is whether there’s any merit to this belief. There have certainly been signs that they should. In Arizona, where a new law makes the failure to carry immigration documents a crime and gives the police broad powers to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally — an infraction sometimes called “walking while Hispanic” — crime levels have actually dropped with the concurrent influx of Mexicans. In fact, the violence of Mexico’s drug war doesn’t seem to have travelled north with immigrants: crime rates in US towns along the country’s 3,200-kilometre southern border are down. In Canada, an overall drop in crime has paralleled the upsurge in non-European immigration since Pierre Trudeau championed multiculturalism in the 1970s. Half of Toronto’s population now consists of those born outside Canada; notably, the city’s crime rate has dropped by 50 percent since 1991, and is significantly lower than that of the country as a whole. Could it be that immigrants are making us all safer?
WHEN THE VIOLENT CRIME rate in the US began to fall, sharply and consistently, in the 1990s, a handful of criminologists and sociologists there started investigating a possible connection to the rising tide of immigration. Two early studies that tracked crime in dozens of metropolitan areas discovered that cities with the highest increase in immigration also had the largest decrease in violent crime; there was possibly a causal relationship, but it wasn’t clear what it was. One of the first researchers to begin to connect the dots was Harvard sociologist Robert J. Sampson.
About a decade ago, he and his colleagues looked at violent acts committed over an eight-year period by some 3,000 men and women in 180 neighbourhoods in Chicago, a diverse city with a considerable population of Hispanic immigrants. What they found was that Mexican Americans were far less likely to be violent than African Americans or whites. When all variables were accounted for it became clear that this was in large part because a quarter of the subjects were born outside the US and more than half lived in communities where the majority of residents were also of Mexican heritage. Overall, first generation immigrants of any background were 45 percent less likely to commit violent acts than third generation Americans, and living in a neighbourhood with a large concentration of immigrants of any nationality was associated with lower levels of violence. In a nutshell, immigration protected these Chicago communities against violent behaviour.
While Canada has experienced both a similar drop in crime rates and an escalation in immigration, less research has been conducted here on the subject. In a serendipitous turn of events, however, a University of Toronto study initiated more than thirty years ago provides some of the most convincing evidence to support the theory that more immigration equals less crime. In 1976, John Hagan, now a professor of sociology and law at both U of T and Northwestern University in Chicago, surveyed a group of 835 teenagers at four high schools in a region west of Toronto, near Pearson International Airport. (The community has never been named, to protect residents’ anonymity.) He asked them about their families, their attitudes toward education, what they did when they hung out with their friends, and the kind of trouble they got into. Did they smoke pot? Get into fights? Ever steal a car and take it for a joyride?
At the time, Hagan, who has since become one of the most prominent experts on immigration and crime, wasn’t looking into the issue of immigration at all. His interest was in youth delinquency, and such school-based studies were dominant during this period. The site he chose for his research, however, was about to undergo a radical demographic transformation. When his U of T colleagues Ronit Dinovitzer, a professor of sociology and law, and Ron Levi, a professor of criminology, returned in 1999 to repeat the survey, the community had become what they call “a global edge city” — taking the name from Joel Garreau’s groundbreaking 1991 book, Edge City, about emerging suburban economic power centres — with a high proportion of visible minorities, mainly South Asian, black, Filipino, and Chinese. Of Dinovitzer and Levi’s 900 respondents, a full 66 percent were from immigrant, non-European backgrounds (up from 10 percent in the original group), and it was upon seeing this diversity that the researchers realized they had more than just a study on youth delinquency; they had ample evidence to examine the relationship between immigration and crime…
The rise and rise of a pity-for-Osama lobby: How did ‘I hate bin Laden and I’m glad he’s dead’ become the most shocking thing one can say in polite society?
May 12, 2011
This week we have shuttled from an atmosphere of congratulation, even muted celebration, over the killing of OBL to what Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury and High Priest of the Chattering Classes, describes as a ‘very uncomfortable feeling’ about the killing of OBL. Those who dare to celebrate his death – mainly young American jocks – have been denounced as ‘abhorrent’ and ‘sickening’, and now the main way you advertise your decency, your membership of the civilised, upstanding, oh-so-unAmerican classes, is by wondering out loud if poor old OBL shouldn’t have been arrested and put on trial rather than having a bullet planted in his head.
This pity-for-Osama lobby, this bishop-led congregation of ‘uncomfortable’ moral handwringers, might pose as radical, denouncing America’s military action in bin Laden’s compound as ‘Wild West-style vengeance’. Yet in truth it is fuelled by self-loathing more than justice-loving. These critics are not opposed to Western intervention in principle – indeed, most of them have demanded ‘humanitarian’, political or legalistic intervention in other states’ affairs at one point or another. No, it is a discomfort with decisive action, a fear of what such action might lead to in the future, and a belief that people in the West should douse their emotional zeal and learn to be more meek, which motors the creepingly conformist anti-Obama and pro-Osama (well, almost) brigade. There is little, if anything, in this outburst of concerned liberal moralism that is worth backing.
The most striking thing was the speed with which the great and the good of the Western liberal elite sought to distance themselves from those vulgar, excitable Yanks and to express a more erudite and PC view of OBL’s demise. Barely 24 hours had passed since the dumping of bin Laden’s body in the sea before observers were describing President Obama as a ‘mobster’. ‘Are we gangsters or a Western democracy based on the rule of law?’, asked has-been mayor (and wannabe mayor) Ken Livingstone, who is so used to doing politics in the rarefied environs of London’s mayoral office that he doesn’t realise that the rule of law might not be so neatly applied during a shoot-out in a compound in Pakistan. Elsewhere the killing of bin Laden has already been described as a ‘war crime’ (isn’t everything these days?) while human rights campaigners say it would have been a better advert for Western values if justice against OBL had come ‘from a legitimate court of law rather than the end of gun’.
It didn’t take long for these apparently decent lovers of justice over violence to expose their real fears: that the sight of a few young Americans chanting ‘U-S-A!’ in response to OBL’s death might invite even more Islamist retribution upon us. One writer described this ‘frat boy reaction’ as ‘abhorrent’ – it is ‘sickening’, she said, and, more revealingly, it has ‘no dignity’. A British columnist said the anti-OBL shindigs were the products of a ‘patriotic reflex’ – that is, a nationalist kneejerkism amongst America’s unthinking classes – which is apparently ‘intense and pervasive’. In response to the chant of ‘We killed bin Laden!’, the columnist said: ‘If “they” killed bin Laden in Abbottabad, then “they” also bombed a large number of wedding parties in Afghanistan, “they” murdered 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha and “they” gang-raped a 14-year-old before murdering her, her six-year-old sister and their parents near Mahmudiyah.’ Yep, that’s right – if you celebrate the killing of OBL then you are also implicitly celebrating American atrocities overseas, including rape. Gang-rape-loving dunderheads.
The most telling phrase in that article was ‘they’, which was used again and again, always in quote marks, to refer to ordinary Americans. Because much of the ‘uncomfortable feeling’ over the killing of bin Laden is really an ‘uncomfortable feeling’ with, if not outright disgust for, ‘them’, the people who make up America, and for the ideals of modern America itself. This is ‘very much the American style’, sniffed Livingstone about the anti-OBL get-togethers (which, by the way, were only relatively small, party-style expressions of a fleeting emotion). Other commentators have said that they ‘recoiled’ at the ‘gloating that Americans went in for’. Behind the high-falutin’ expressions of passion for justice over shoot-to-kill, much of the pity-for-Osama lobby is really concerned with expressing its moral superiority over apparently vengeful Americans. Where ‘them’ Yanks still have an attachment to nationalism and war, ‘we’ Europeans are post-nationalist, cosmopolitan, empathetic rather than vengeful, and are far more comfortable with having a man in a wig rather than a man with a gun sort out our moral and political problems.
Of course, such anti-Americanism is not confined to Europe. As we have seen in the 10 years since 9/11 it is rife within America itself, where the better-educated classes have long had an ‘uncomfortable feeling’ in relation to the antics and emotions of the American masses. And so it was that Timemagazine, in keeping with the modern trend for explaining away every emotion as a product of evolution or of involuntary brain activity, said that human beings are ‘wired to perceive the punishment of rule-violators as rewarding’. In seeking to explain the appearance of frat boys outside the White House, Time cited scientific research showing that ‘when people witnessed snitches receiving painful electric shocks, the pleasure regions of their brains were activated (but only in men)’. Of course, some people – not ‘them’, but ‘us’ – are immune to this hardwired desire for vengeance and can rise above it to express a more considered ‘uncomfortable feeling’ with OBL’s death…
It’s the end of the Second World War, and the United States is deciding what to do about two immense, poor, densely populated countries in Asia. America chooses one of the countries, becoming its benefactor. Over the decades, it pours billions of dollars into that country’s economy, training and equipping its military and its intelligence services. The stated goal is to create a reliable ally with strong institutions and a modern, vigorous democracy. The other country, meanwhile, is spurned because it forges alliances with America’s enemies.
The country not chosen was India, which “tilted” toward the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Pakistan became America’s protégé, firmly supporting its fight to contain Communism. The benefits that Pakistan accrued from this relationship were quickly apparent: in the nineteen-sixties, its economy was an exemplar. India, by contrast, was a byword for basket case. Fifty years then went by. What was the result of this social experiment?
India has become the state that we tried to create in Pakistan. It is a rising economic star, militarily powerful and democratic, and it shares American interests. Pakistan, however, is one of the most anti-American countries in the world, and a covert sponsor of terrorism. Politically and economically, it verges on being a failed state. And, despite Pakistani avowals to the contrary, America’s worst enemy, Osama bin Laden, had been hiding there for years—in strikingly comfortable circumstances—before U.S. commandos finally tracked him down and killed him, on May 2nd.
American aid is hardly the only factor that led these two countries to such disparate outcomes. But, at this pivotal moment, it would be a mistake not to examine the degree to which U.S. dollars have undermined our strategic relationship with Pakistan—and created monstrous contradictions within Pakistan itself.
American money began flowing into Pakistan in 1954, when a mutual defense agreement was signed. During the next decade, nearly two and a half billion dollars in economic assistance, and seven hundred million in military aid, went to Pakistan. After the 1965 Pakistan-India war began, the U.S. essentially withdrew aid to both countries. Gradually, U.S. economic aid was restored, but the Pakistani military was kept on probation.
Those civilian-aid programs were largely successful. Christine Fair, a specialist on South Asia at the Center for Peace and Security Studies, at Georgetown University, notes that the original model for economic assistance was “demand driven”—local groups or governments proposed projects and applied for grants. Aid usually came in the form of matching funds, so that grantees had a stake in the projects. Moreover, American specialists presided over the disbursement of these funds and served as managers. “That was effective,” Fair says. “But we haven’t done it for decades.”
Then, in 1979, U.S. intelligence discovered that Pakistan was secretly building a uranium-enrichment facility in response to India’s nuclear-weapons program. That April, the military dictator of Pakistan, General Mohammed Zia-ul-Haq, hanged the civilian President he had expelled from office, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto; he then cancelled elections. U.S. aid came to a halt. At the same time, Zia began giving support to an Islamist organization, Jamaat-e-Islami, the forerunner of many more radical groups to come. In November, a mob of Jamaat followers, inflamed by a rumor that the U.S. and Israel were behind an attack on the Grand Mosque, in Mecca, burned the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad to the ground, killing two Americans and two Pakistani employees. The American romance with Pakistan was over, but the marriage was just about to begin.
The very next month, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. President Jimmy Carter, in a panic, offered Zia four hundred million dollars in economic and military aid. Zia rejected the offer, calling it “peanuts”—the term often arises in Pakistani critiques of American aid, but it must have rankled the peanut farmer in the White House. Zia was smart to hold out. Under Carter’s successor, Ronald Reagan, U.S. aid nearly quintupled: about three billion dollars in economic assistance and two billion in military aid. The Reagan Administration also provided three billion dollars to Afghan jihadis. These funds went through the sticky hands of the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, the spy branch of the Pakistani Army. Starting in 1987, the I.S.I. was headed by General Hamid Gul, a cunning and bitterly anti-American figure. The I.S.I. became so glutted with power and money that it formed a “state within a state,” in the words of Benazir Bhutto, who became Pakistan’s Prime Minister in 1988. She eventually fired Gul, fearing that he was engineering a coup.
Milton Bearden, a former C.I.A. station chief in Pakistan, once described Gul to me as having a “rococo” personality. In 2004, I visited Gul—a short man with a rigid, military posture and raptor-like features—at his villa in Rawalpindi. He proudly asked his servant to bring me an orange from his private grove. I asked Gul why, during the Afghan jihad, he had favored Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, one of the seven warlords who had been designated to receive American assistance in the fight against the Soviets. Hekmatyar was the most brutal member of the group, but, crucially, he was a Pashtun, like Gul. As I ate the orange, Gul offered a more principled rationale for his choice: “I went to each of the seven, you see, and I asked them, ‘I know you are the strongest, but who is No. 2?’ ” He formed a tight, smug smile. “They all said Hekmatyar.”
Later, Gul helped oversee the creation of the Taliban, reportedly using mainly Saudi money. The I.S.I. openly supported the Taliban until September 11, 2001. Since then, the Pakistani government has disavowed the group, but it is widely believed that it still provides Taliban leaders with safe harbor in Quetta, where they stage jihad against Western forces in Afghanistan…
May 12, 2011
This image has been posted with express written permission. This cartoon was originally published at Town Hall.