League, or 3 percent, were foreign-born. Of these 48, 11 were born in Canada, 8 in Germany, and 4 or fewer in other countries. At the other extreme, 355 of the 439 players in the 1995-96 season of the National Hockey League (NHL), or 81 percent, were born outside the United States. In one case, the Tampa Bay franchise, not a single player of the 24-player roster was U.S.-born.17 Over 60 percent of NHL players are from Canada, although there are now a large number of hockey players in the United States from Russia, Sweden, and the Czech Republic.
In between these extremes are immigrants in other professional sports. The National Basketball Association includes 30 foreign-born players of a total of 345 players, or 9 percent. Immigrant basketball players come from around the world, with players from such diverse countries as Lithuania, Yugoslavia, Croatia, Canada, the Netherlands, Italy, Romania, and Nigeria. There are 162 foreign-born baseball players, or 14 percent, of the 1,193 players on the nation's major league baseball teams. Most come from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico, Panama, and Cuba.
As Colorado Governor Richard D. Lamm and Gary Imhoff (1985) wrote, "No aspect of immigration is more sensitive, more liable to misinterpretation, and more problematic than the issue of immigration and crime." The fear that immigrants contribute to high levels of crime is a recurrent theme in U.S. history. In 1859, 55 percent of the persons arrested for crimes in New York City were Irish-born and an additional 22 percent were born in other foreign countries (Jones, 1992:114). Yet many of these allegedly criminal acts were for minor actions, including public drunkenness and disorderly conduct; the contribution to more serious crime was much smaller. The gap between popular perceptions about immigration and crime and reality are no narrower today.
Measuring the effect of immigration on crime is mired in a statistical maze. The major limitation from existing crime statistics is that immigrant status is often not known. We often do not know who commits a crime; we especially do not know from victim reports whether the person is an immigrant or a native. Victims are simply not able to tell if a person is an illegal or legal immigrant, or a naturalized or native-born citizen.
Almost all of what is know about immigration and crime is from information on those in prison. But not all crimes are detected, and many perpetrators are never apprehended. For many minor crimes, especially crimes involving juveniles, those who are apprehended are not arrested. Only a fraction of those who are arrested are ever brought to the courts for disposition, and only a minority of