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Immigrant teens less prone to violence and crime, study finds

Published on Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Immigrant teens less prone to violence and crime, study finds

Dra. Cynthia García Coll, a well known researcher, has an opinion on this issue

Mr. Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant campaign has awakened the opinion of the experts. One of them is our provost of Puerto Rico, Dr. Cynthia Garcia Coll, recognized researcher on the impact of migration on children and adolescents, who has been cited in this article published on the Index Mineral Wells, a daily newspaper in Austin, Texas. Next the article as published yesterday, September 8, 2015:

 

By JOHN AUSTIN
CNHI State Reporter

AUSTIN – There’s no doubt that some Americans link immigrants with crime, violence and drugs.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gave voice to that view in a speech at Trump Tower earlier this summer when he described Mexicans arriving in the Untied States: “They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists."

A new study shows the opposite is true of immigrant teenagers who are less likely to commit crime, engage in violence or use drugs than their American-born peers, according to a team led by Christopher Salas-Wright of the University of Texas' School of Social Work.

“To assume immigrants are bringing crime to the United States is not backed up by research," said Salas-Wright. His team's findings appear in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.

Salas-Wright and others found that immigrant children ages 13 to 17 are half as likely to report binge drinking, drug use or selling drugs than their American-born teenagers.

Those who arrived in the United States at age 12 or older are one-third as likely to have sold illegal drugs or used cannabis as youths born in the United States. The odds of being involved in serious violent attacks or carrying handguns are one-third lower for immigrants ages 15 to 17.

Researchers studied national data collected from 2002 to 2009 among students who were not asked for their names or immigration status.

Among immigrants, about half identified themselves as Hispanic.

David Córdova, of the University of Michigan, a co-author of the study, said family dynamics play a key role in youth behavior.

Immigrant adolescents are likelier to report strong relationships with their parents, engagement in school and disapproving views on substance use, the study showed.

Families unfamiliar with the American customs are more likely to closely watch their children, said Seth Schwartz, of the University of Miami, who has interviewed parents and children who immigrated to the United States.

“If I was more familiar with the culture, I might let my guard down," he said, noting that many parents say in interviews that their children's wellbeing was a major factor in their decision to move to the United States.

“A lot of the kids were tearing up saying, 'I’m grateful to my mom for sacrificing everything to bring me here,’” said Schwartz, a co-author of the new study.

Others who've studied immigration say the recent research confirms earlier findings and can help inform the political discussion.

“Immigrant-bashing has again reached a feverish pitch in our national discourse,” said Carola Suárez-Orozco, a professor of human development and psychology at the University of California Los Angeles.

“While there are, no doubt, exceptional problematic immigrant individuals, on balance immigrant youth are not the problem," she wrote in an email, adding that a larger concern should be how youth accept and adopt practices in their new environment.

Cynthia García Coll, of Carlos Albizu University in Puerto Rico, said the findings reflect earlier studies, small and large, of Latino and Asian immigrants.

"I’ve done national studies using national data. We looked at all sorts of risky behavior - unprotected sex, delinquency. We basically found the same thing," said Coll, who taught education, psychology and pediatrics at Brown University for 30 years before becoming provost at Albizu.

Coll, who has studied immigrants for 15 years, said adolescence is marked by risky behavior. The trick for teachers, parents and adults, she said, is to engage teenagers in positive activities "where they can get the adrenaline rush in safer ways."

"The public policy implications are huge,” said Coll, who is co-author of the book, “The Immigrant Paradox in Children and Adolescents: Is Becoming American a Developmental Risk?”

Caroline Brettell, an anthropologist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas who studies immigration, agreed that the new research can help inject facts into the current political debate.

“Americans are engaged in all sorts of bad behavior,” said Brettell. “You can’t generalize a single instance to a population without putting it alongside what’s happening in the general population."

 

 

 

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