Terry H. Schwadron
June 24, 2018
This immigration debate is filled with overstatement and hype, all In defense of one partisan position or another.
Time Magazine had to apologize publicly for putting an image of a two-year-old Honduran girl featured on the cover and emblematic for the separation of immigrant children and parents after the father told The Washington Post on Thursday that the young girl was never separated from her mother.
The number of misstatements by members of the Trump administration in defense of the policies that has led to the child detainees issue has been legion, as they have morphed 14 or more times over a week.
But on Friday, President Trump stood with “Angel Families,” who have lost a relative to violence involving undocumented immigrants. As he has since starting his presidential campaign, Trump used the occasion to hammer away at a theme that other countries are sending criminals our way, flooding our borders.
In his telling, there never are lawless violence in places like ‘Honduras forcing families to flee for their lives, or sending their children on the highly dangerous trip to the U.S. border to save their lives.
OK, we’ve become inured to all of that back-and-forthing. We understand that President Trump represents a real chunk of America that insists on isolation behind a 30-foot border Wall, and changes in legal immigration practices that range from narrowing the definition of asylum to ending family “chain” immigration, to eliminating visa lotteries for some kind of ill-defined merit system.
Still, it is hard to connect all of this theoretical philosophy with the realities at the border or the separation of children from families as a political lever for his legislative goals.
But what made my ears stand up was to hear — repeatedly — during Trump’s appearance with the families who have suffered “permanent separation” from loved ones, was the figure that there have been 63,000 deaths at the hands of illegal immigrants in the United States.
So, I looked it up — which is a little more difficult than you’d think if it were as described.
There was no attempt to provide an explanation, or a time frame or whether he was only talking about murders as opposed to suicides and drunk driving accidents. Just the bald figure, thrown out for the shock value that such a figure has. Snopes Magazine said “not only is there no evidence for his claim, it would require a seemingly superhuman murder spreeby the nation’s roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants.”
That figure is more than deaths in Vietnam and Middle East wars combined. That figure is the total population of Dearborn, Michigan. or Fort Meyers, Florida, or Janesville, Wisconsin. Accoreding to Snopes, the first such mention was in a 2006 post by Rep. Steve King, R-IA, complaining about the “Day Without An Immigrant” campaign calling attention to the contributions of immigrants to U.S. community.
There have been about 285,000 people murdered in the United States since 2001. It is estimated that illegal immigrants could account for perhaps 3% of the population; 3 percent of the total murders since 2001 would be under 9,000. That’s not to excuse any criminal act, but it is to say that concluding baldly that there have been 63,000 deaths at the hands of illegal immigrants through violence seems, um, overstated.
Moreover, there have been studies in the larger cities where immigrants are overrepresented, from Los Angeles to New York to St. Louis and others. In those cities, murder rates have been dropping, not rising. That’s true even in “sanctuary cities.” There have been separate journalistic studies by the Marshall Project and The New York Times that crime rates by a variety of crime types actually are lower among illegal immigrants that the general U.S. population.
You could do the math on deaths from drunk driving accidents or odd medical diseases or almost anything, but no one is monitoring the overall numbers of deaths at the hands of people who entered the country at some time in the past without proper documentation.
Of course, Trump is persistent about waving about crimes by MS-13 a Los Angeles-based gang with many Central American members who do pretty horrible things. But altogether how many gang members are there as opposed to the hundreds of thousands lined up at the border asking for asylum?
From what I can tell, partisan Trump fans believe that the numbers tend to be true, though they are willing to argue that even one violent death at the hands of an illegal immigrant is one too many. So, build that Wall.
My point is simple: This debate already is overly emotional, overly charged. Why don’t we eliminate made-up numbers or those without substantiation from arguments about values?