With his sensational spin on a new Congressional Research Service (CRS) memo, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) is proving once again that he believes “immigrant” to be synonymous with “criminal”—and showing why the Republican Party is having such a hard time courting Latino voters and others with immigrant roots.
Smith is the leading lawmaker behind the Republican Party’s immigration agenda in Congress. He has been peddling his anti-immigrant worldview for years, from his perch as chair of the Immigration Subcommittee in the mid-1990s, to his “leadership” of the House Judiciary Committee today. The latest from Smith involves a report he commissioned from the non-partisan CRS that was designed to portray immigrants negatively. The CRS memo reviews DHS data on people identified through the Secure Communities program, including those who were not immediately deported and were later arrested for subsequent offenses. Clearly, any number greater than zero would provide all the fodder Smith needs to continue his anti-immigrant smear campaign.
According to Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice:
Any horrendous crime is wrong, no matter who commits it. But Rep. Smith’s efforts to sensationalize this Congressional Research Service report should be exposed. Even this report shows that crime rates among immigrants are lower than the native-born, but you wouldn’t know it to read Smith’s ‘analysis.’ Smith is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts.
Smith “helpfully” added his own analysis to the top of the CRS report, ignoring the research service’s advice to interpret the results “cautiously” due to data limitations. Here are a few key points Smith left out of his screed:
- The CRS report actually confirms, once again, that immigrants are far less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans. It’s well-established that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes or be imprisoned than the overall population. What’s more, the national recidivism rate hovers around 40%, while the recidivism rate for the individuals tracked in this report was less than half that (17%).
- Undocumented immigrants aren’t mostly heinous criminals; they are aspiring Americans. The CRS report identified 7,283 undocumented people who were re-arrested, comprising less than 28% of the “recidivist” pool. Furthermore, 40% of these immigrants were charged with only civil immigration or status-related charges, like driving without a license and seeking work as a day laborer. Only 1% were charged with the most serious types of offenses.
- Most of the people Smith is talking about couldn’t have been deported after they were arrested—it would have been against the law. Seventy percent of the people identified upon arrest and not taken into federal immigration custody were here legally. ICE cannot deport a legal resident simply because she is arrested; she has to be convicted of a crime that makes her deportable before the government can take action.
After years of following the Lamar Smith playbook on immigration, some in the Republican Party wonder why Latino voters are rejecting them. The answer is obvious: when politicians like Smith, David Vitter, and Steve King call you and your family members criminals, and compare you to animals, it is offensive. The vast majority of immigrants are hard-working aspiring Americans, despite what Rep. Smith thinks.
- Immigration Policy Center: Restrictionists Misrepresent Data on Immigration Enforcement
- Immigration Policy Center: Fact Sheet on Immigrants and Crime