This study explores the perceptions toward immigrant criminality in Utah of four distinct social groups: state legislators, immigrants, law enforcement personnel, and incarcerated immigrants. Each group was examined separately and found to have a variety of perceptions among their members. Themes emerged that provided insight into the overlap and complexity of these differences across social groups. Legislators appeared the most dichotomous: some believed immigration and crime to be positively correlated, especially for undocumented immigrants, while others perceived no such connection. Among immigrants, perceptions were extremely diverse, but generally represented by reference to an unsubstantiated stereotype that immigrants committed crime at a higher rate than non-immigrants, though there were wide gaps in other areas within this group. For law enforcement, perceptions varied according to social distance and the degree of interaction with immigrants: those officers who dealt more intimately with immigrants had more sympathetic and nuanced perceptions. Incarcerated immigrants represented a diversity of perceptions with complexities similar to those manifested in the immigrant group; but overall, most did not consider themselves to be criminal. Future research is suggested and recommended.
College and Department
Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Sociology
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Tindall, Catherine F., "Are All Immigrants Criminals? Societal Perceptions Across Select Social Groups" (2011). Theses and Dissertations. 3019.
crime, perceptions, immigrants, social distance