By Jill Richardson
As Donald Trump leaves office, it’s worth remembering how he first launched his campaign: by calling immigrants “murderers” and “rapists.”
This was outrageous then. And there’s more evidence now that it was, of course, false.
A new study finds that “undocumented immigrants have considerably lower crime rates than native-born citizens and legal immigrants across a range of criminal offenses, including violent, property, drug, and traffic crimes.”
The study concludes that there’s “no evidence that undocumented criminality has become more prevalent in recent years across any crime category.” Previous studies found no evidence to support Trump’s claim, but now we have better data than ever before.
Put another way, Trump was telling a dangerous lie.
Sociologists Michael Light, Jingying He, and Jason Robey used crime and immigration data from Texas from 2012 to 2018 to find that “relative to undocumented immigrants, U.S.-born citizens are over 2 times more likely to be arrested for violent crimes, 2.5 times more likely to be arrested for drug crimes, and over 4 times more likely to be arrested for property crimes.”
Unfounded accusations of criminality are a longstanding tool of racism and other forms of bigotry across a range of social categories.
When anti-LGBTQ activist Anita Bryant wanted to discriminate against gays and lesbians in the 1970s, she claimed we molest children. More recently, when transphobic people wanted to ban trans women from women’s bathrooms, they falsely claimed that trans women would rape cisgender women in bathrooms.
Consider how much anti-Black racists justified their actions in the name of “protecting white women” from Black men. In 1955, a white woman, Carolyn Bryant Donham, wrongly claimed that a 14-year-old Black boy, Emmett Till, grabbed her and threatened her. White men lynched Till in retaliation. More than half a century later, Donham revealed that her accusations were false.
In 1989, the Central Park Five — five Black and Latino boys between the ages of 14 and 16 — were wrongly convicted and imprisoned for raping a white woman. They didn’t do it. In 2002, someone else confessed and DNA evidence confirmed it. (Trump, who took out full-page ads calling for their execution then, never apologized.)
Racism and bigotry are about power and status. Yet instead of openly admitting that some groups simply want power over others, most bigots find reasons that sound plausible to the uninformed — even if the reasons are completely untrue. Bigotry is much easier to market if it can masquerade as fighting crime.
It wasn’t just Trump himself. During the Trump administration, officials like the U.S. solicitor general argued before the Supreme Court that undocumented immigrants are disproportionately likely to commit crime. Data: None. Claims: False.
As Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said, “You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.”
So when you hear a claim that a particular group of marginalized people are criminals, question it. What is the evidence for the claim? What is the evidence against the claim? Why is the person making the claim, and how will they benefit if people believe them?
If someone cites research, who performed the research, and who funded it? Do the funders have a financial stake in the research findings? Was it published in a peer-reviewed journal? Is the data publicly available for others to replicate the findings?
In this case, the research debunking this racist lie was government-funded, peer-reviewed in a major journal, and the data is available to the public.
Hearing that particular group of people poses a threat to your safety can be frightening. But because such claims have been used throughout history to spread bigotry against marginalized groups, they should always be fact-checked.
In this case, the evidence is clear. Trump stoked anti-immigrant sentiment in the name of fighting crime, and his claims were baseless and false. The lie should end with his presidency.
Jill Richardson is the author of “Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It.” She is a columnist for OtherWords.org.
Jim O says
Write about this in four years. You will see what an open border will really mean to our safety and economy. Stick to food maybe you know this subject better.
Lies, lies and more lies.
She should stick to food. Hopefully her recipes are better than her political views.
Ever heard of Kate Steinle? She was murdered by an illegal immigrant, therefore it is true that among illegal immigrants there are criminals; that is irrefutable. If you take any random group of say, 1,000 people there are very likely criminals among them. The only difference between 1,000 American citizens and 1,000 illegal immigrants is that we KNOW who the American criminals are based upon their DOCUMENTED records. We wouldn’t know which of the 1,000 illegal immigrants were criminals because they wouldn’t tell anybody AND they are undocumented. The most disturbing part of all this is that the left doesn’t care. They will happily allow the rapists and murderers in with the crowd as long as they perceive some benefit. We keep child sex offenders away from schools and notify area residents of their offenses, but if there’s a illegal immigrant who is also a child rapist, we wouldn’t know and the politicians don’t care. The problem is exacerbated when the potential “immigrants” know that no one bothers to check their background and if they are criminals, convicted or not in their home countries they perceive a free ride and opportunity unencumbered by a criminal history. So stop the bullshit lies and face the fact that rapists and murderers such as MS-13 members are being allowed into our country for political purposes and the havoc they wreak is considered merely the price of votes and well worth it to leftist politicians.
The Realist says
The author is absolutely right. Tear down those borders. Abolish what we know as a country. Lets all not pay federal income taxes just like these undocumented immigrants. We should only pay taxes for goods purchased at stores like undocumented immigrants do. This may just work…lets give it a try!
A True Patriot says
First, being here illegally is a crime. So right off the bat illegal immigrants have a 100% crime rate. Second, many illegal immigrants are rapists and murders. Denying as much proves idiocy. Lastly, anyone here illegally and committing a crime is atrocious and makes the crime all the worse. Imagine an illegal taking the life of your daughter, son, mother, father. They shouldn’t have been here in the first place – giving them an opportunity to commit a crime. Let’s put a stop to illegal immigration today!
It’s not whether anyone is more likely or not. It’s about the fact that additional illegals brings additional crime. It’s bad enough those already here commit crimes and that fluctuates with the economic conditions. Adding more unemployed to an area in a recession is just a recipe for higher crime rates. Think about it ? If there are no jobs, businesses shuttering, why would anyone want to add thousands of unemployed to any community ? Are the illegals coming into the USA with a letter of a job offer ? No, so that makes them unemployed just the same as those who were born here and already live here. And how long into this new residency do you think that crime won’t start to surge & spike ? Allowing those illegal(s) in subjects the rest of the existing population to illnesses, further strains resources and spreads those resources thinner to those that have been in our own system longer. The whole thing about America’s systems, they’re based on points & scores to determine whether someone is a recipient of benefits. This applies to all of us not fortunate enough to be a nepotism legacy of an incestuous pool of labor or aren’t one if the “endangered” species as a minority that have legislation(s) to ensure they get special considerations & reverse discrimination(s). So it’s not really a Trump falsehood/lies.
There are those that will cross illegally that will be gang members. Not every illegal, but there will be enough potential comingled into that caravan. Those types won’t have warning labels on them to tell you who they are and what they’re about. Go back to Ebola under Obama, the Texas cases was about a man that traveled from Africa to the the USA, along the way he either lied about what his contacts & exposures were or that he was even aware of being exposed ? So we have a pandemic, simple Yes or No on that. If Yes, why is anyone allowed to come into the USA beyond the supply chain of basic necessities as essential ?
Eyelids open says
Wow. I understand Freedom of Speech. And I’m 100% in favor of fighting to keep my Constitutional freedoms, BUT, bending the facts and blurring the lines is NOT what our for fathers had invision Muddling the constitution into a perverse manuscript is highly insulting to any and all that have fought for our freedoms
larry krasner says
“Undocumented” immigrant is the new politically-correct euphemism for “Illegal” immigrant. Anyone who sneaks into this country committed a crime. And I don’t want anyone here who, the very first thing he or she does when they get here, is break a law.
“Undocumented immigrant” is the grammatically correct and factual way of referring to the undocumented. There is no such thing as an “illegal immigrant” anymore than there is an “illegal person” or an “illegal child.”
BS…. If and immigrant is here ILLEGALLY they are and ILLEGAL immigrant. Stop playing word games. My immigrant parents came here legally and are LEGAL immigrants. Just as you are Pierre. You are a legal immigrant. This type of BS that you try to spew and playing word games is what causes the divide. Just like this article. It states that Trump said something and you know it is not true. That is not what he said. Just as it was not a Muslim ban, and that he said the Nazi’s at the demonstration were fine people.
The left has caused the divide we have in America with this sort of rhetoric. The left is the one that encourages the rioting and violence. Have you noticed that all those God loving, gun toting red necks on the right have not burned down a city, looted a Target, …… after the election?
“Illegal immigration refers to the migration of people into a country in violation of the immigration laws of that country, or the continued residence without the legal right to live in that country.”
Your reply didnt age well. If it werent such a terrible Event I would ramble. So why dont you all build a wall or something and report back how that worked out for you.
A person who has illegally entered our country is not undocumented, they are here illegally, no amount of documentation is going to make them legal immigrants. They are not citizens, so they are aliens. So, they are illegal aliens, aliens who have entered our country illegally. They could be either documented or undocumented, but they are still aliens who entered our county illegally.
An alien is a person residing under a government or in a country other than that of one’s birth without having or obtaining the status of citizenship there. An alien residing in a country without authorization is residing illegally. Undocumented person is a made up phrase intended to hide the truth.
Illegal aliens are usually documented citizens of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras etc. So they are documented illegal aliens not undocumented. If they are here legally, they are legal aliens. If they are aliens and not here legally, well….
I have a green card. That makes me a legal immigrant. I am not a documented immigrant.
Mike Cocchiola says
The faithful do not care one whit about data-based and validated studies. They know in their hearts that immigrants are the major cause of trouble in America. And not White immigrants from Western Europe, just those rapists and murderers from shithole countries.
Do not ever expect an intellectual revelation – an epiphany – on the right. They are what they are.
Legal immigrants are not the major cause of trouble in America, liberals are, and those criminals they they seek to protect in exchange for their votes.
Not by what I witnessed during the storming of the Capital Building. Put down the koolaid annd realize that not all Democrats are Liberals. Most are moderates. But they dont tell you that so its fake
A completely ridiculous comparison! Saying that border police arrest criminals has NOTHING to do with the “study” of undocumented immigrants living here (most often peacefully and productively), as cited in this article. Unfortunately ignorance, racism and xenophobia continues to rear it’s ugly head in our community.
Happy Safe New Year! May 2021 be much, much better than 2020 for us all!
Jane Gentile-Youd says
I disagree with Pierre on this one ( probably only 2nd time ever): It requires MUCH more than ‘Documentation’ to ‘legally’ emigrate to the United States. It requires personal ( or through expensive ‘Immigration Attorney) i n t e r v i e w s in addition to ‘documentation’. Round One for hubby and me in 1991 – waiting on line 12 hours overnight at Miami Immigration so we could be one of the ‘only 200’ people allowed to enter the INS Building at NE 79th St Miami…. ( otherwise we would have to pay at least $1,000 to an attorney).. Another 8 hours until our interview at 3PM ( and only because I walked up to the ‘Attorney only window and answered ” Yes I am attorney Pro Se”……. Mark was given ‘temporary work permission with a social security number – ‘pending his final approval for ‘permanent residency’. We were called for a 2nd interview ( did not have to wait on line for 12 hours) and voila Mark got his ‘ permanent residency’ ( 1991). Whew ! at least we saved at least $1,000 30 years ago….. Oh yeah.. almost forgot – Mark’s application for ‘Citizenship’ was another round of webs to get through. All dressed up – tie and all – he went for his Citizenship scheduled ‘interview’ ( Dupont Plaza Downtown Miami)… Oops – his papers were not there -” Your papers are held up somewhere”… Thank goodness for then Governor Bob Graham’s staff who located Mark’s papers in San Diego ???? and made sure Mark would not be making a second trip to downtown Miami again.. I am the granddaughter of ‘legal immigrants on both sides of my family. They paid their dues legally and so did my husband,.
So please don’t make it sound so simple by sugarcoating a criminal illegal act as simply ‘ undocumented’.
The article is nothing but tripe. It even starts out not being factual with what Trump said. All immigrants are welcome to this country. Get in line and do it legally just as Pierre and my parents did.
So I guess that the MS-13 gang members are a figment of your imagination. Or the 18th Street Gang in Los Angeles, the Latin Kings in Chicago, and many others that all have illegal undocumented immigrants. Yes, NOT all illegal undocumented immigrants are as bad as these gangs but you make sound and lie as bad as Trump does. You are no better or truthful than he is!
So I guess Trump supporters storming the Capital Building were figments of your imagination.
Many of these comments are hateful. It only goes to show that people whose opinions are based in fear and hate do not respond well to facts or reason. There are millions of Americans whose ancestors from Europe invaded this land that was the home of over 570 Indigenous tribes for tens of thousands of years. These invaders and their descendants have been living here illegally ever since they violated the treaties that were signed between tribes and the U.S. government which recognized the rights of Indigenous land ownership. The Constitution says, in Article One, that treaties between nations are the law of the land and that no other laws supersede them. So wherever there was a treaty violation by the U.S., the non-Indigenous people living on those territories are illegal, according to the Constitution. But you never hear anyone complaining about that of course. It is hypocrisy for anyone whose ancestors were not Indigenous Native Americans to disparage anyone who comes here from another country, documented or not.
Sheila Zinkerman says
Both undocumented and documented immigrants have long term benefits for our US economy and labor growth. They work in our agricultural fields to put romaine lettuce on our tables, they pack our meat so grocery stores are stocked for meat eaters, they build our roofs to keep us sheltered, they make our beds in the hotels we stay in, they care for our elder baby boomers. They are also mobile and fill labor shortages in other jobs that Americans do not want. American businesses count on immigrant labor to keep their businesses open. Instead of deep-seated ill will toward our immigrant families, we should be extending our gratitude towards them. For clarification on how our immigrant population compliments our native work force and grows our economy, please read this:
Jane, thanks so much for pointing out how terribly difficult and expensive it is to obtain “legal” citizen status in the United States. How incredibly fortunate you are that you can actually afford an expensive immigration attorney to help you through all the increasingly complex processes.
We should all remember that the vast majority of those who are seeking “refugee” status from countries where their lives are in grave danger do NOT have the resources required to jump through all the hoops you described. Thank you for reminding us that there is NO LONGER an Ellis Island where the majority of those “refugees” who built our nation were accepted (without expensive legal representation) as citizens. WE ARE A NATION OF IMMIGRANTS!
To those who say (ad nauseam) that “refugees” should simply “get in line” and immigrate “legally”. . . you have no idea what it takes to make that happen. Therefore, there are thousands of “refugees” who have managed to escape to the USA with their lives intact, and who are in the “limbo” of trying to attain some kind of EXPENSIVE legal status. You know, those who work in the hot sun picking the food you eat, putting roofs on your houses, doing your gardening, cleaning the hotels and restaurants your love. . . they are “human beings” too! They are called the “undocumented” because they have not been able to afford to jump all the hoops described by Jane.
Do not let the fear and hate ginned up by trump and his cult rip away your humanity and your compassion for your fellow human beings!
Remember “The Golden Rule”! “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”!
Thank you, Shelia, for pointing out what everyone needs to understand about how our lives are actually made better by the hard work of immigrants.
Normandie Kent says
The only illegal immigrants that committed widespread crimes against the indigenous American population were the European hordes the invaded the North and South Native American homelands. Talk about projection. Just because they did it and to this day haven’t stopped, doesn’t mean indigenous Americans from south of the border will do it too. The immigrants don’t think it’s their God of Israel given right to commit mass genocide and rape against the White European immigrant population that now live in the USA. It takes a special kind of degeneracy to think you can invade someone else’s continent, and somehow think you have every right to steal , plunder, rape , murder and genocide the ethnic American population that has lived there for 10’s of thousands of years, and then proceed to stop others from coming here too. European American immigrant Hypocrisy!
Geoff Knafou says
Yeah but how many violent criminals are young US citizens born on US soil to illegal alien parents. Look up the list of murderers in Texas and you’ll have your answer?