Fox News pushes misleading DOJ statistics about non-citizen arrests

Fox & Friends / Griff Jenkins / 64% statistic

Fox News is going full bore in pushing a new report from the Department of Justice, declaring that noncitizens make up 64% of federal arrests and that this figure has increased at a staggering pace. (Noncitizens make up only 7% of the overall population.)

The catch: The increase is being driven not by violent crimes — but by the Trump administration’s crackdown on undocumented immigration.

NBC News’ Pete Williams explained the issue in a Thursday analysis:

Prosecutions for violating immigration laws have flooded the nation's federal courts, especially in border states. Nationwide, arrests of noncitizens for immigration offenses rose 440 percent in the two decades from 1998 to 2018 — from 19,556 a year to 105,748. By contrast, the number of noncitizens arrested for other crimes rose about 8 percent.

Compared to 20 years ago, 95 percent of the increase in total federal arrests was due to immigration offenses.

Fox News figures and Trump officials are using the report to give the administration further rhetorical ammunition to overturn the 1997 Flores court agreement, which placed time limits on family migrant detention.

This effort to advance  these mass immigration arrests as an illustration of noncitizens launching a supposed crime wave in America is like the classic tale of the man who murders his parents and then pleads for the court’s mercy — on the grounds that he is an orphan.

On the August 22 edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight, host Lou Dobbs claimed that the report “highlights the rise of crimes by non-U.S. citizens in this country.”

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Citation From the August 22 edition of Fox News' Lou Dobbs Tonight

Dobbs also hosted Mark Morgan, acting director of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, who declared that the figures represent “a national security crisis.”

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Citation From the August 22 edition of Fox News' Lou Dobbs Tonight

And today on Fox & Friends, the morning crew and Fox News correspondent Griff Jenkins explicitly connected these misleading statistics to the push against the Flores agreement.

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Citation From the August 23 edition of Fox & Friends

GRIFF JENKINS (CORRESPONDENT): This report is from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and it shows 64% federal arrests in 2018 were non-U.S. citizens — a figure that has more than tripled in the last 20 years. And while non-U.S. citizens just make up 7% of the total population, they are accounting for 24% of all federal drug arrests. 25% of all federal property arrests, and 28% of all fraud arrests. This as the administration issues that new rule you mentioned, which eliminates the Flores settlement agreement. That currently prohibits officials from holding migrant children for more than 20 days. They'll replace it with a new standard, expanding migrant family detention. If approved by a judge, it would take effect in 60 days from today.

STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Griff, so just to reiterate, 64% of federal arrests involve people who are in the country illegally even though that's only 7% of the total U.S. Population? 

JENKINS: Yeah, that's right, Steve. And if you look back to 1998, which is what the study did, it's a more than 230% increase. So, quite alarming numbers we're putting out there. 

BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): See, I just don't see why enforce the border. I mean, it makes no sense. We've just got to get those numbers up a little bit. 

DOOCY: You sound like somebody I know in Washington.

KILMEADE: Yeah, absolutely.