On Fox, Lars Larson Seizes Opportunity To Rehash Immigration Myths

On Fox News, radio host Lars Larson repeated the myths that immigrants commit a disproportionate amount of crime and that the Obama administration “has not been great on deportations.” In fact, data don't support the claim that undocumented immigrants have high crime rates; moreover, under Obama, deportations are at an all-time high.

Larson Falsely Claims Undocumented Immigrants Commit “A Larger Proportionate Share” Of Crimes

Larson Claims “Illegals” Are “Involved In More Than Their Share, A Larger Proportionate Share, Of Criminal Activity.” Discussing the illegal immigration enforcement program Secure Communities, Larson stated on Fox News' America Live:

LARSON: Illegal aliens, like it or not, are populated by the millions in our country. They come here, they take jobs, they send billions of dollars out of the country, and, unfortunately, they're involved in more than their share, a larger proportionate share, of criminal activity. States should be looking out for their own citizens by saying we're gonna identify these illegals, and then alert the federal authorities so they can be deported. [Fox News, America Live, 5/31/11]

In Fact, Studies Find Immigrants In General Are Less Likely To Be Incarcerated Than 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.” In a February 2008 study, “Crime, Corrections, and California,” the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) found:

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. [Public Policy Institute of California, 2/08]

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. [Public Policy Institute of California, 2/08]

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. [Immigration Policy Center, 5/23/07]

“Low-Immigration” Think Tank Acknowledges Data Don't Support Claim That Undocumented Immigrants Have High Crime Rates

CIS Acknowledges Claims Of High Crime Rates Among Illegal Immigrants Are Not “Well Supported.” In a 2009 report, the Center for Immigration Studies found that “poor data quality” means that the claim of a high crime rate among “immigrants overall or illegal immigrants in particular” is not “well supported.” CIS, which describes itself as a “low-immigration, pro-immigrant” research organization, writes on its website: “The 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.” From the November 2009 CIS report (emphasis added):

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. [Center for Immigration Studies, 11/09; Center for Immigration Studies, accessed 6/1/11]

CIS: "[T]here Is No Clear Evidence That Immigrants Commit Crimes At Higher Or Lower Rates Than Others." In the same November 2009 report, CIS stated (emphasis added):

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. [Center for Immigration Studies, 11/09]

Larson Misrepresents Obama Administration's Record On Deportations

Larson Claims Obama Administration “Has Not Been Great On Deportations.” On Fox, Larson criticized the state of California for attempting to opt out of the Secure Communities program, saying:

LARSON: Now the Obama administration has not been great on deportations, and neither was the Bush administration, but it would be nice to see states stand up for their citizens. In this case, California is selling out California. [Fox News, America Live, 5/31/11]

In Fact, Deportations Under Obama Are At An All-Time High

Deportations Have Increased Under Obama. According to data from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), nearly 100,000 more people were deported by ICE in both 2009 and 2010 than in 2007. [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, accessed 2/14/11]

Deportations Of Convicted Criminals Are At Their Highest Levels. According to AZ Fact Check -- a project of The Arizona Republic, AZCentral.com, 12 News, and Arizona State University -- “ICE has removal numbers immediately available for only the past 10 fiscal years, and according to those figures, the most convicted criminals were indeed removed in fiscal 2010.” [AZ Fact Check, 2/9/11]

Wash. Post: “Obama Administration Is Deporting Record Numbers Of Illegal Immigrants.” The Washington Post reported in July 2010 that “removals reached a record high in 2009” and “the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency expects to deport about 400,000 people this fiscal year, nearly 10 percent above the Bush administration's 2008 total and 25 percent more than were deported in 2007.”[The Washington Post, 7/26/10]

Data provided to Media Matters by ICE show that the agency has already removed more immigrants who have committed crimes from the U.S. in 2010 than in any previous year: