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Lecture 10

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University of Toronto St. George

SOC336: Week 11, Lecture 10: March 26 Crime and Immigration: Vincent Sacco (Dept. of Sociology – Queen’s University) There are many ways to think about the relationship between immigration experience and crime:  How does immigration affect offending behaviour (the criminogenic question)? o I.e. think about Mexican border relationships with US o Does the experience of immigration relate to offends more  How does immigration affect victimization (the victimogenic question)? o Does it make one more victimized  How are immigrants affected by crime in the environment (the fear of crime question)? o What impact crime has on community life (even if you’re personally not an offender or a victim, but if you live in a neighbourhood where crime is common what is its effect on the quality of life?) o The questions contextualize for us that there are lots of instances where we recognize that community life reflects a particular immigrant communities o The fear of being victimized  is that a unique problem to immigrants? … Of these the first question has attracted the lion’s share of attention  Since the 19 C, raicist assumptions and dominant stereotypes have ocntextualized the search for naswers.  The ‘alient predator’ o During periods of large scale immigration, increasing crime rates were blamed on the assumed moral and o If crime goes up, then immigrants blamed o Ecological fallacy: just because two things are related on a macro level doesn’t mean that they are related on a micro level (logically or statistically) o So on the individual level, immigrants may not be pushing crime rates up  These arguments are nurtured by scientific racism  the attempt ot argue that there are physical differences in people and are related to behavioural differences. You could examine people’s skulls and measure certain parts of their brain, you could end up arguing they are more likely to be criminal or thieves, murderers, etc. This was taken very seriously by reasonably intelligent people at the time  The most famous group: Italian school  thought of differences in physical form relate to differences in behaviour. People coming from different places have different physical appearances and  related to how they’re criminal  Ex. Dracula (book)  his physical appearance described in this book related to his behaviour  savage murderer revealed through his physical features Fortunately…  Sociology provided a more reasonable alternative account  In 1918 W.I. Thomas and Florian Znaniecki published The Polish Peasant in Europe and America  People come here from somewhere else and settle in these communities which have higher rates of crime  Znaniecki  had bunch of letters  Thomas  discovered that these people who went to America, had these problems (mental illeness, drug addiction, alcohol abuse) were that these people only had these problems when they went to America. They didn’t have it at Poland  This suggests that there’s an interaction between the immigrant and the host culture  somethinga bout the inability to acculturate or the gap between expectations and experience that occurs as immigrants enter this other world.  Bottom line: it’s not biological but cultural and social. They were farmers, who lived normal decent lives but something happened when they moved  Other sociologists like Thorsten Sellin provides compelling sociological accounts of why immigrant crime rates might be higher or different than host rates o When people immigrate to some place, they bring their culture with them as part of your baggage. You’ve socialized into thinking a particular view and what’s right and what’s not, and you’ve learned that to the degree that we have learned our morality. It is institutionalized. It’s part of our very core. He says it’s the same thing. They bring their moral positions with them and they understand what’s wrong and what’s right. The legal system which as the right to penalize and contain and punish them may be based on a different set of moral principles  it is very difficult for us to shed long held morality. People go along living their lives that they think they should but they find that they are violating the law o Sellin tells a story about a Sicilian father whose daughter was dating a non-Sicilian. The father was not enthusiastic, and talks alone to the suitor. The father pulls out a knife and castrates the suitor. Sellin said that in essence that’s not the weird part of the story  when they come to arrest this guy, he doesn’t understand why they’re arresting him. The honour of his family was offended and he set to right that. o Ex. Honour killing  the argument made is that they’re not murder in the way we see murder but they reflect a complete different moral system What do we know about immigrant offending rate differentials?  Despite widespread assumptions to the contrary, there is no compelling evidence to support the claim that immigrant crime rates are out of proportion to the size of the population o Study  as you become acculturated, then crime rates increase. The study showed that first gen. low crime rates. But for the second gen. high crime rates. So it’s not changing the immigrant but the society that they’re in Still sociological research has revealed some interesting aspects of immigrant crime  Perhaps the most influential arguments are associated with the work of Daniel Bell (Crime as an American Way of Life)  Ethnic succession and the ‘queer ladder of social mobility’ o You have people at the bottom of the social structure (they find economic opportunities unavailable, the businesses are closed to them. But if some businesses are open to them, and to get into them they have to break the law. To accumulate wealth, influence, power. And once they accumulated those things, their children find use of illegitimate ways of going up not needed. But they’re followed by another ethnic group and same things)  Daniel Bell  thinks its wrong to conceptualize organized crime into alien predator argument. It seems like those immigrants (ex. from Italy) don’t become gangsters everywhere we go. They seem to become gangsters when they come to America, Canada. But if they go to South America they don’t. It’s not something that they’re bringing with them.  When you think about it that way, you’re never encouraged to ask about the social context from where this behaviour arises  American culture seems to make more organized crime groups to function/to flower o What is that thing?  1. Creation of market  2. Denial of opportunity to large segments of the population  A society like USA functions on the basis of the moralistic gap  we have always recognized that there were certain things people wanted to have but we tell them that it’s illegal to have them. Various from time to time what it is (i.e. drugs right now, alcohols in different times, prostitution, etc. )  We try to regulate the demand for products by trying to regulate supply. But controlling supply has no effect on the demand. Even in the prohibition of alcohol, people will still demand alcohol.  Ex. think there’s x number of drug dealers. And Y number of consumers. The government removes 1/s of the drug dealers. Y amount of consumers still demand drugs at the same rate. The price of the drugs go up, so pulls in potential drug dealers  creating a business opportunity only for people who are willing to break the law. So we understand demand but how do we understand who is supplying.  There have been different periods where different ethnic groups had a dominant presence in organized crime  It starts with the Irish, followed by a large number of Jewish immigrants, and then Italians. o At one time the gangsters were all Irish. And then all Jewish. And then all Italians.  but it’s a process whereby groups replace other groups  Rich Cohen – Tough Jews a really good read about Murder Inc.  The issue of ‘ethnic specialization’  The interconnected character of unconventional channels of upward mobility (crime, entertainment, sports, politics)  Various ethnic groups have specialized over time, a certain kind of business. (ex. Chinese immigrants  ended up in businesses relating to laundry/clothes and food services. So why did that happen? After the railways are built, you have an excess of labour. Chinese labourers weren’t allowed to compete with White workers. The margin to which they regulated was the margin that involved the kind
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