Immigration and Gangs

Authored by: Kristina M. Lopez , Nicholas M. Perez , Wesley G. Jennings , J. Mitchell Miller

Routledge Handbook on Immigration and Crime

Print publication date:  February  2018
Online publication date:  February  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138668416
eBook ISBN: 9781317211563
Adobe ISBN:


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American immigration and gangs are seldom covered in either historical or contemporaneous accounts independently. While the oft-referenced immigration and crime correlation is phenomenally more general than gangs, gangs, as readily identifiable and contentious collectives, have fueled social constructions and thus over-representative stereotypes of various immigrant groups. Immigration as a driver of crime rates remains a popular public opinion reflecting a fused collective outlook regarding immigration, terrorism, and domestic crime. Now dated explanations of ganging as short-lived necessity for newly arrived immigrants assumes that as assimilation transpires and legitimate opportunities emerge, the utility of gang behavior wanes and gangs naturally diffuse. Such explanations are based on racial and ethnic groups whose immigration experience was motivated by political struggle, war, and limited economic opportunity with gang formation as a reactionary after-thought to new circumstances – a sharp contrast with immigrant gangs today whose primary purpose is criminal enterprise. After briefly reviewing the history of immigrant gangs in the United States, the balance of this chapter identifies emblematic contemporary immigrant gangs and leading policy responses.

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