Joe Scarborough and Mike Barnicle suggested that violence is out of control in the United States along the Mexican border because of illegal immigration, citing, among other anecdotal evidence, the murder of an Arizona rancher. In fact, The Arizona Republic reported that border violence in the U.S. has not increased recently, and violent crime in border states has decreased in the past decade.
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Morning Joe pushes myth that out-of-control border violence is connected to lack of action on immigration reform
Barnicle cites border violence and states, "[Y]ou can't come into this country illegally." During a discussion on the May 4 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, Scarborough said it was "a stupid false choice" to suggest that a border fence shouldn't be built to stop illegal immigration because doing so would hurt cross-border commerce. In response, Barnicle said, "We've seen the highest homicide rates in the [unintelligible], higher than Baghdad, along the Mexican border in drug cartel wars. Enforcement has to be priority one. And enforcement priority one has to mean, you can't come into this country illegally."
Scarborough: "'Border security isn't the problem'? Tell the rancher's family that was killed there." In response to Barnicle, Scarborough stated, " 'Border security isn't the problem'? Tell the rancher's family that was killed there, tell the parents of teenage girls who have been kidnapped over the past five years, the family members whose daughters and sons have been shot to death with their grandchildren in cars that border security isn't the problem, Mike? I don't get this." Barnicle replied:
It's been the problem for 20 years, Joe, and the federal government has yet to act. Twenty years of this. Horrible deaths on both sides of the border. Poor people trying to come to the United States to find employment or to rejoin their families dying along the border. Violence erupting along the border and many deaths involved there.
Scarborough: "Enforce the law, and protect Americans in those border states." After co-host Mika Brzezinski stated, "You're not coldhearted, you just are asking that the law is enforced. The law -- the existing law that we have in this country," Scarborough responded:
SCARBOROUGH: Well, not only that. Enforce the law --
BRZEZINSKI: -- which we're --
SCARBOROUGH: -- and protect Americans in those border states.
BRZEZINSKI: That's the point.
Arizona Republic: Violence in border towns has not increased
Republic: Crime rates in Arizona border towns "have remained essentially flat for the past decade." In a May 2 article, The Arizona Republic reported, "FBI Uniform Crime Reports and statistics provided by police agencies, in fact, show that the crime rates in Nogales, Douglas, Yuma and other Arizona border towns have remained essentially flat for the past decade, even as drug-related violence has spiraled out of control on the other side of the international line. Statewide, rates of violent crime also are down."
Republic: Pima County sheriff: "This is a media-created event." The May 2 article also reported:
Since the murder of Cochise County rancher Robert Krentz by a suspected illegal immigrant in March, politicians and the national press have fanned a perception that the border is inundated with bloodshed and that it's escalating.
Clarence Dupnik, the sheriff of Pima County, said there always has been crime associated with smuggling in southern Arizona, but today's rhetoric does not seem to jibe with reality.
"This is a media-created event," Dupnik said. "I hear politicians on TV saying the border has gotten worse. Well, the fact of the matter is that the border has never been more secure."
Even Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever, among the most strident critics of federal enforcement, concedes that notions of cartel mayhem are exaggerated. "We're not seeing the multiple killings, beheadings and shootouts that are going on on the other side," he said.
Republic: Border Patrol says "Krentz is the only American murdered by a suspected illegal immigrant in at least a decade within the agency's Tucson sector." The article also reported: "In fact, according to the Border Patrol, Krentz is the only American murdered by a suspected illegal immigrant in at least a decade within the agency's Tucson sector, the busiest smuggling route among the Border Patrol's nine coverage regions along the U.S.-Mexican border."
Republic: FBI statistics show U.S. border towns have rates of violence comparable to non-border towns. The article also reported that David Aguilar, acting deputy commissioner for Customs and Border Protection, "said that Juarez, Mexico, is widely regarded as the 'deadliest city in the world' because of an estimated 5,000 murders in recent years. Yet right across the border, El Paso, Texas, is listed among the safest towns in America." The article continued:
A review of the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports suggests that Arizona's border towns share El Paso's good fortune. Douglas and Nogales are about the same size as Florence but have significantly lower violent-crime rates. Likewise, Yuma has a population greater than Avondale's but a lower rate of violent offenses.
According to Justice Department statistics, crime rates in border states have dropped during past decade
Crime rates in Arizona at lowest point in decades. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), the violent crime rate in Arizona was lower in 2006, 2007, and 2008 -- the most recent year from which data are available -- than any year since 1983. The property crime rate in Arizona was lower in 2006, 2007, and 2008 than any year since 1968. In addition, in Arizona, the violent crime rate dropped from 577.9 per 100,000 population in 1998 to 447 per 100,000 population in 2008; the property crime rate dropped from 5,997 to 4,291 during the same period. During the same decade, Arizona's undocumented immigrant population grew rapidly. The Arizona Republic reported: "Between January 2000 and January 2008, Arizona's undocumented population grew 70 percent, according to the DHS [Department of Homeland Security] report. Nationally, it grew 37 percent."
Crime rates have dropped during past decade in other border states. The BJS data further show that violent crime rates and property crime rates in California, New Mexico, and Texas dropped from 1998 through 2008 -- the most recent year from which data are available:
- In California, the violent crime rate dropped from 703.7 in 1998 to 503.8 in 2008; the property crime rate dropped from 3,639.1 to 2,940.3 during the same period.
- In New Mexico, the violent crime rate dropped from 961.4 in 1998 to 649.9 in 2008; the property crime rate dropped from 5,757.7 to 3,909.2 over the same period.
- In Texas, the violent crime rate dropped from 564.6 in 1998 to 507.9 in 2008; the property crime rate dropped from 4,547 to 3,985.6 over the same period.
Studies find immigrants are less likely to be incarcerated than native U.S. citizens
Public Policy Institute of California: "U.S.-born men have an institutionalization rate that is 10 times higher than that of foreign-born men." As Media Matters Action Network noted, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) found in a February 2008 study "Crime, Corrections, and California":
The difference only grows when we expand our investigation. When we consider all institutionalization (not only prisons but also jails, halfway houses, and the like) and focus on the population that is most likely to be in institutions because of criminal activity (men ages 18-40), we find that, in California, U.S.-born men have an institutionalization rate that is 10 times higher than that of foreign-born men (4.2% vs. 0.42%). And when we compare foreign-born men to U.S.-born men with similar age and education levels, these differences become even greater. [PPIC, "Crime, Corrections, and California," February 2008]
PPIC: "[I]mmigrants are underrepresented in California prisons." In its February 2008 study, PPIC found that "the foreign-born, who make up about 35 percent of the adult population in California, constitute only about 17 percent of the adult prison." According to PPIC:
[I]mmigrants are underrepresented in California prisons compared to their representation in the overall population. In fact, U.S.- born adult men are incarcerated at a rate over two-and-a-half times greater than that of foreign-born men. [PPIC, "Crime, Corrections, and California," February 2008]
Immigration Policy Center: "[I]ncarceration rates among young men are lowest for immigrants." According to a 2007 Immigration Policy Center (IPC) report, "data from the census and other sources show that for every ethnic group without exception, incarceration rates among young men are lowest for immigrants, even those who are the least educated":
In fact, data from the census and other sources show that for every ethnic group without exception, incarceration rates among young men are lowest for immigrants, even those who are the least educated. This holds true especially for the Mexicans, Salvadorans, and Guatemalans who make up the bulk of the undocumented population. What is more, these patterns have been observed consistently over the last three decennial censuses, a period that spans the current era of mass immigration, and recall similar national-level findings reported by three major government commissions during the first three decades of the 20th century. The problem of crime in the United States is not "caused" or even aggravated by immigrants, regardless of their legal status.
Among men age 18-39 (who comprise the vast majority of the prison population), the 3.5 percent incarceration rate of the native-born in 2000 was 5 times higher than the 0.7 percent incarceration rate of the foreign-born. [IPC, "The Myth of Immigrant Criminality and the Paradox of Assimilation," Spring 2007]
Even "low-immigration" think tank acknowledges data don't support claim that undocumented immigrants have high crime rates
CIS acknowledges claims of high immigrant criminality rates are not "well supported." From a November 2009 report by the Center for Immigration studies, a nonprofit organization with a "low-immigration vision":
Some opinion surveys show that the public thinks immigrants overall or illegal aliens in particular have high rates of crime. On the other hand, a number of academic researchers and journalists have argued that immigrants have low rates of crime. In our view, poor data quality and conflicting evidence mean that neither of these views is well supported. Given the limitations of the data available, it is simply not possible to draw a clear conclusion about immigrants and crime. [CIS, "Immigration and Crime: Assessing a Conflicted Issue," November 2009]
CIS: "No clear evidence that immigrants commit crimes at higher or lower rates than others." The November 2009 CIS report stated:
In conclusion, we find that it would be a mistake to assume that immigrants as a group are more prone to crime than other groups, or that they should be viewed with more suspicion than others. Even though immigrant incarceration rates are high in some populations, there is no clear evidence that immigrants commit crimes at higher or lower rates than others. Nevertheless, it also would be a mistake to conclude that immigrant crime is insignificant or that offenders' immigration status is irrelevant in local policing. The newer information available as a result of better screening of the incarcerated population suggests that, in many parts of the country, immigrants are responsible for a significant share of crime. This indicates that there are legitimate public safety reasons for local law enforcement agencies to determine the immigration status of offenders and to work with federal immigration authorities. [CIS, "Immigration and Crime: Assessing a Conflicted Issue," November 2009]
Cato: "[I]t is a smear to blame" immigrants for Arizona crime
Cato's Griswold: "[I]t is a smear to blame low-skilled immigrant workers from Latin America for creating a crime problem in Arizona." In an April 27 post, Daniel Griswold, director of the Cato Institute's Center for Trade Policy Studies, wrote that "Arizona's harsh new law against illegal immigration is being justified in part as a measure to combat crime" and that "drug-related violence along the border is a real problem." But, Griswold continued, "it is a smear to blame low-skilled immigrant workers from Latin America for creating a crime problem in Arizona." From Griswold's post:
Arizona's harsh new law against illegal immigration is being justified in part as a measure to combat crime. The murder of an Arizona rancher in March, allegedly by somebody in the country without documentation, galvanized support for the bill.
The death of the rancher was a tragedy, and drug-related violence along the border is a real problem, but it is a smear to blame low-skilled immigrant workers from Latin America for creating a crime problem in Arizona.
The crime rate in Arizona in 2008 was the lowest it has been in four decades. In the past decade, as the number of illegal immigrants in the state grew rapidly, the violent crime rate dropped by 23 percent, the property crime rate by 28 percent.