Fox runs with right-wing group's absurd “estimate” that “2,158 killed by illegals every year”

Fox & Friends displayed an on-screen graphic promoting a ridiculous Family Security Matters estimate that “2,158 killed by illegals every year.” But that statistic is derived from completely baseless assumptions about immigrants' crime rates. Actual studies have found that immigrants in general are less likely to be incarcerated and that there is no evidence that undocumented immigrants commit a disproportionate amount of crime.

Fox chyron cites absurd estimate that “2,158 killed by illegals every year”

Fox pushes ridiculous immigrant crime estimate. Fox & Friends hosted Ed Kowalski, a board member from the group 9/11 Families for a Secure America, to discuss, among other things, the controversial new Arizona immigration law. During the segment, co-host Gretchen Carlson said, “According to you, politicians seem to be more concerned about the illegals' rights than the rights of the Americans, some of whom end up dead.” Kowalski responded: “That's correct, that's correct. As best as we can estimate, 2,200 Americans a year are murdered by criminal illegal aliens. That number is staggering.” Several times throughout the segment, the following on-screen text aired:


But the “crude” statistic is based on an analysis using completely baseless assumptions

Human Events writer bizarrely assumed that immigrants are committing crimes at the same rate that people purportedly commit crimes in their home countries. The immigrant murder rate cited by Fox News is based on a 2005 Human Events article by Mac Johnson. In the article, Johnson said he attempted to locate statistics on “illegal alien murders” but was told “that no one kept track” of those numbers. Johnson then “arrived at my own approximation of the number,” which he called “crude.” After admitting that “the murder rate among illegal aliens in America is unknown,” Johnson assumed that the rate at which “illegal aliens” murder would remain consistent with murder rates from the immigrant's home country. From his 2005 Human Events article:

I assumed that 3,871,912 Mexicans in America kill at the same rate as 3,871,912 Mexicans in Mexico, then did the same for 336,717 Salvadorans, 77,000 Brazilians, 226,886 Chinese and 39 other categories of illegal alien -- as totaled in a Census Bureau estimate of the illegal alien population in 2000. The report's total figure was that 8.7 million illegal aliens are in our country.


Using the above method, I estimated that illegal aliens kill 1,480 people in America every year. This assumes that the 8.7 million illegal aliens in America have a population age structure and a sex ratio similar to that of their homelands. Most murders are committed by young males. If the illegal population in America is skewed toward young males, as most believe, the murder total is actually much higher. Comparing the age structure of the population of illegal aliens that applied for amnesty during the Reagan administration (according a GAO report) to the current age structure of the population of Mexico (according to the US Census Bureau), I found that people aged 22 to 45 years old were overrepresented in the amnesty pool. Adjusting the murder rate using FBI homicide perpetrator age-cohort information for the United States (see why you need to pay attention in math class, kids?), the total is more likely to be 1,806 murders per year.

Sex ratio is harder to estimate. I have seen data indicating a 1:1 ratio of males to females in the illegal alien population, and I have seen claims that it is 90% male, as well as many figures in between. A catalog of deaths of illegal immigrants in the deserts of the Southwest (most either from exposure, automobile collisions or, interestingly, from homicide) on a “human rights” website had a ratio among the dead of 3:1 male to female. I was unable to resolve the sex ratio issue to my satisfaction. Our enforcement system is so inadequate that I could see it being no obstacle to even a pregnant woman in fashionable shoes, favoring the 1:1 ratio. But my intuition is that illegal adventures in foreign lands appeal disproportionately to testosterone-clouded minds, favoring a male bias to the ratio. Thus, I made three calculations, based on the population being 50% male (1,806 murders), 60% male (2,076 murders), or 75% male (2,510 murders). If we adjusted for the social class of the migrants, the total would climb higher. But I could find no data making this adjustment possible. Also, the sort of people who are willing to break our laws to enter are probably of a more criminal nature than those who wait for permission, meaning that the illegal alien population could be more violent than the population of their homelands as a whole. But again, there was no way to correct for this possible skewing of the population, so the estimates were left arguably too low.

So the upshot, for the journalism majors that just rejoined the article, is that a simplistic good-faith estimate is that illegal aliens kill between 1,806 and 2,510 people in the United States each year.

Family Security Matters took “the mean of Mr. Johnson's range” to declare “there are 2,158 murders committed annually by illegal aliens.” In a February 16, 2007, report, Family Security Matters cited Johnson's analysis and wrote: “Using the mean of Mr. Johnson's range, there are 2,158 murders committed annually by illegal aliens -- crimes that never would have happened if they weren't here. This is part of the collateral damage of tolerating illegal immigration.” [emphasis in original]

Johnson has a history of writing inflammatory articles on immigration. Johnson has previously written articles asking President Obama about his “illegal alien aunt,” blaming undocumented workers for helping to “burst the housing bubble,” and calling undocumented workers “millions of unlawful, uninsured, unskilled serfs” who came to America “merely to serve as a discount servant class for corrupt businesses.”

Studies find immigrants in general 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.” The Center for Immigration Studies, which claims "[t]he data collected by the Center during the past quarter-century has led many of our researchers to conclude that current, high levels of immigration are making it harder to achieve such important national objectives as better public schools, a cleaner environment, homeland security, and a living wage for every native-born and immigrant worker," issued a report admitting that “poor data quality” means that the claim of a high immigrant crime rate is not “well supported.” From the November 2009 CIS report:

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. [emphasis added]

CIS: “No clear evidence that immigrants commit crimes at higher or lower rates than others.” The same 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. [emphasis added]

Family Security Matters has history of attacking undocumented immigrants

“Illegal aliens” are “Burglars in the Night.” FSM contributing editor Michael Cutler, a fellow at the the Center for Immigration Studies, wrote in a January 24, 2009, column that "[w]hen individuals enter our nation with out undergoing the mandated inspections process ... it is comparable to someone breaking into a home in the dead of night."

FSM pushed false claim that leprosy cases in U.S. have spiked because of “illegal aliens.” In a March 6, 2007, article, FSM wrote that "[m]any illegal aliens are carrying horrific third world diseases" and pushed the false claim that "[i]n the 40 years prior to 2002, there were only 900 total cases of leprosy in the US. In the following three years there have been 9,000 cases."

FSM contributor: “Show Your Papers -- Then Thank the Police for Asking.” In a May 3 column, FSM contributor Gregory D. Lee defended Arizona's recently passed immigration law and wrote: “If you are a U.S. citizen residing or visiting Arizona and a highway patrol officer stops you for speeding and asks you for your papers -- show them! Thank him for enforcing the law.”

FSM contributor accuses NCLR of trying “to dismantle American sovereignty.” In a January 4 column, contributing editor Carolyn Cooke attacked the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), claiming that NCLR's “lobbying efforts” are aimed at trying “to dismantle American sovereignty.” Cooke also falsely claimed that “the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), [is] translated, 'The National Council of the Race.' ”

FSM contributor: It is “well-documented” that "[t]hough exceptions exist, these Mexicans are incorrigible trouble-makers and we just don't want them in our country." In a May 5 column, FSM contributing editor Robert Weissberg wrote:

Unfortunately, contemporary political etiquette requires defenders of tighter borders to ignore the traits of many of those sneaking in. It is just too dangerous to say, “Though exceptions exist, these Mexicans are incorrigible trouble-makers and we just don't want them in our country. They will fill our prisons, murder innocent Americans, and promote drug trafficking and otherwise harm Americans.” This condemnation, no matter how well-documented, would be deemed insulting to all Mexicans and racist. It is almost as if there is now an 11th Commandment: Thou shall not try to define our national identity. These awkward realities, these in-your-face statistics on crime and welfare dependency, are sometimes called “hate facts.” In today's PC-dominated climate, group-based animosity commits the most egregious sin of sins no matter how factually justified. The exceptions, of course, are condemnations of bigots and racists, and these can be attacked mercilessly without regard to truth.

FSM contributor scapegoats undocumented immigrants for California budget crisis. In a March 13, 2009, column, contributing editor Vincent Giola wrote, "[T]he failure to pay attention to the obvious affect illegal immigration has on California's social services means that some of your children's teachers in California will soon be unemployed." Giola later stated, “Is it worth destroying a whole generation of our citizen children's educational years simply to have lower cost produce or cheap gardeners?”

Family Security Matters repeatedly promoted birther conspiracy theory

FSM repeatedly promoted false claim that Obama has not produced valid birth certificate. An October 27, 2008, post by the FSM's "research staff and editors" promoted the conspiracy theory that Obama has not produced a valid U.S. birth certificate. FSM wrote: “These allegations will not go away until Mr. Obama produces proof to State and federal authorities. If he will not do so voluntarily he must be compelled by every means available.” FSM has published numerous other articles promoting the birther conspiracy theory.