Center for American Greatness

Illegal Aliens Commit Fewer Crimes Than U.S.-Born? Not So Fast


- August 27th, 2018
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The day before we left to take our oldest child to college for the first time, police found the body of Mollie Tibbetts. The news about the 20-year-old college student who went missing while on an evening jog in July had made me nervous for the past month. It was hard to read coverage of Mollie’s disappearance without getting a pit in my stomach about sending my daughter away to school. We talked about how to stay safe, the buddy system, the influence of alcohol, carrying mace, and every other base I could cover.

As my daughter and I were scrambling to finish last-minute tasks before heading out to Syracuse, news alerts shared the devastating news: The petite, pretty girl from Iowa was dead. Hours later, more infuriating details followed: Mollie was hunted down, murdered, stuffed into a car trunk and dumped in a cornfield by a monster who shouldn’t be this country. (There are no charges against Cristhian Rivera for sexual assault as yet.)

I was outraged, heartsick, and scared. My daughter also was afraid; I again warned her that evil is everywhere. And I fumed that our government fails repeatedly to keep our children safe from people who are in our country illegally.

Anti-Trump Media Mob Springs into Action
Apparently, according to libertarian writer Nick Gillespie, this makes me an xenophobe. It was a matter of moments before pundits and politicians were offering cover for Rivera. The anti-Trump media mob went into overdrive to downplay the story because it interfered with breaking news about Paul Manafort’s conviction and a plea deal for Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen. (The timing of the news about Tibbetts, according to one New York Times reporter, “could not have been better” for Trump and his supporters.)

An Associated Press reporter quickly warned that the details about Mollie’s murder would be “coming to a Trump rally near you.” (The president held an event in West Virginia that evening.) Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) expressed concern about mothers being separated from their children, but she wasn’t talking about Mollie’s mother being separated viciously and permanently from her only daughter; Warren was shamefully regurgitating pro-immigration talking points about families at the border. “Separating a mama from a baby does not make this country safer.” (Irony alert.)

MSNBC contributor and Fordham University professor Christina Greer lamented that coverage about “some girl in Iowa” would obscure news about Manafort and Cohen. NeverTrumper Bill Kristol, editor-at-large of The Weekly Standard, was sitting next to Greer and did not say a word to object to the grotesque political diminution of a heinous crime.

Data Deceptions
Follow-up articles flooded the scene to remind Americans that illegals are less likely to commit crimes than legal residents. News and opinion outlets representing all corners of the ideological spectrum—from the Washington Post to National Review—uniformly cited a single study by the Cato Institute as proof that “data” show illegal aliens actually pose less of a danger than do native-born Americans.

“Most social scientists who have looked at crime among immigrants have concluded that noncitizens are less likely to engage in criminal activity,” wrote Jeremy Peters in the New York Times on Friday. “A recent study by the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute, for example, found that in Texas, conviction and arrest rates for undocumented immigrants were lower than those for native-born Americans.” But despite these grand claims, the Cato paper is the only one Peters cites.

So, what exactly does the Cato Institute, a libertarian, pro-immigration think tank, offer as evidence that American moms like me should be more worried about the boy next door than they are the migrant from Mexico? Cato offers only a scientifically weak analysis of a small subset of criminal data from one state—Texas—that now has been overblown and extrapolated by nearly every news outlet to shame Americans and to assure us illegals pose no significant threat.

Their political bent was exposed in Cato’s post the day after Tibbetts’ body was found. In order to shape the media narrative and defend open borders, it explains: “People with a political axe to grind, those who want to distract from the recent conviction of Paul Manafort and plea deal for Michael Cohen, and partisans who want to compare Tibbetts’ murder to the shooting of Kate Steinle in an effort to impact the upcoming November elections are already using the tragic murder of Tibbetts as an argument for increasing the enforcement of immigration laws.” (No bias to worry about coming from Cato, folks. It’s only coming from those nasty Trump partisans.)

The author of that post, Alex Nowrasteh, evaluated how many people were convicted of murder in Texas in 2016 and their legal status. In order to reach his finding that illegals have a far lower conviction rate for murder, Nowrasteh admitted he used “an estimate of the size of the illegal immigrant population in Texas as well as data from the American Community Survey for the number of native-born Americans and legal immigrants.” By using that sketchy methodology, Nowrasteh claimed the illegal immigrant conviction rate was “44 percent below that of native-born Americans in 2016 in Texas.”

Deceptions Debunked
Now, think about this: Based on estimates from survey numbers rather than raw data from legitimate sources, the American news media is trying to convince us that native and naturalized citizens are more dangerous than illegals. An analysis by the Heritage Foundation last year debunked Cato’s flawed work and suggested that “it has not been proven that illegal aliens commit crimes at a lesser rate than either native-born or naturalized American citizens. In fact, existing data may support the opposite conclusion.”

Heritage links to a 2011 GAO report that provides much more specific data about the criminal behavior of illegal immigrants. According to the GAO, criminal aliens (the government’s term) represent one-fourth of the total population of inmates incarcerated in federal prison. If estimates that there are about 11 million illegals in this country are correct, that’s only three percent of the total U.S. population. Further, about one-third of inmates in state and local jail are here illegally.

Aside from charges for immigration violations, nearly half have been arrested for drugs; 35 percent for assault; 12 percent for sexual violence; and eight percent for murder. (Only about four percent of the prisoners in the federal penitentiary have been convicted of murder.) So how does all this square with the blaring headlines claiming illegals commit fewer crimes than legal residents?

It doesn’t. The politicization of Mollie’s murder is coming not from Donald Trump or Republicans who have been accused of “seizing” upon this tragedy: It is actively being exploited by open borders advocates who want us to ignore the obvious implications of a young girl’s murder, and mislead us with phony statistics, name calling, and baseless tropes. (Nowrasteh astonishingly even makes this assertion: “Increased enforcement of our immigration laws is not a good way to prevent murders.”)

Right now, I assume none of this matters much to Mollie’s family and friends; she is gone forever and they must live with the knowledge of the senseless, vile way she died. But the rest of us have a duty to make sure our daughters are safe from criminals. It is enough for us to worry about the ones who are home grown: We ought not have to worry about the ones who don’t belong here. That means calling out bogus “studies” peddled by partisans who care not one whit about the dead children unintentionally standing in the way of their ideological open borders agenda.

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Photo Credit: John Moore/Getty Images

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