Some Republicans are so obsessed with the immigration issue that they just make things up. Steve King is the king of that. But, he’s not alone. On the House floor late last month, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) alleged:
“Every day, all along border states, maybe other places, there are murders by people who have been arrested coming into this country, who have been released by the Obama administration, I believe in violation of the law, who are murdering Americans all over our cities. We hold the Democrat Party and the president personally accountable for this action.”
That’s some pretty intense fear-mongering. But, it’s wrong. The facts just don’t support Sessions’s fear-mongering. From Fact Checker:
There are on average 44 murders a day in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Assuming murders by illegal immigrants were prorated as a percentage of the U.S. population, it is not unreasonable to assume one to two murders a day are committed by illegal immigrants.
But that’s just a straight-line calculation — and Sessions was not talking about the 11 million or so illegal immigrants, but about the 130,000, including 30,000 with previous criminal records, that the Obama administration released in the 2014 fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30.
(We should note that immigration agents removed nearly 316,000 people in the fiscal year that ended in 2014, most of whom were convicted of a crime. That was a decrease of 14 percent from the previous year.)
Since there are no nationwide data kept on murders committed by illegal immigrants, let alone on immigrants who are released by the Obama administration, Sessions’s staff struggled to come up with something that would confirm his assertion.
[Sessions’s spokesman] passed along a pie chart produced by the Texas Department of Public Safety purporting to show that aliens were accused of committing 3,000 homicides in 2014. (In U.S. law, “alien” means any person in the country who is not a U.S. citizen or national.) But it turned out this was data over a six-year period — 2008 to 2014 — and the Department of Public Safety at the time did not know which of these people arrested were in the country illegally; it only knew they were not U.S. citizens. In fact, the chart was so old that it no longer appears on the agency’s Web site.
Remember that Sessions was talking about murders committed by people released by the administration, which is a much smaller universe. Indeed, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in January released a report tracking crimes committed by 36,000 illegal immigrants who had criminal records and were released in 2013. One thousand of these one-time criminals had added to their criminal record, including such charges as assault with a deadly weapon, terrorist threats, failure to register as a sex offender, and spousal rape. But murder or homicide was not even on the list.
There’s no doubt that law enforcement should take appropriate legal action to remove violent criminals, sexual predators, and drug traffickers from our communities. But in no way should these offenders be muddled (as Rep. Sessions is attempting to do) with the millions of law-abiding immigrants who would benefit from either comprehensive immigration reform or President Obama’s immigration action.
This is an important distinction to make, because while Sessions referenced one group of bad apples who deserve no place in our society, his attempt clearly was to demonize the entire immigrant community in general.
Contrary to Rep. Sessions’s claim, it’s well-established fact that immigrants in general have lower crime rates than native-born Americans. Decades worth of data have shown immigration is associated with lower crime rates and safer neighborhoods. As the number of immigrants (including those present without permission) has increased over the past 20 years, violent crime has decreased by 34%, and property crime has fallen by 26%.
Not exactly the exploding violent spree Rep. Sessions alluded to.
In fact, passing comprehensive immigration reform would have made our communities safer by allowing law enforcement to shift their focus from moms and dads to criminals instead. This reform would reduce crime by bringing undocumented immigrants out of the shadows and requiring them to register and clear background checks during their wait to becoming documented.
Comprehensive immigration reform passed the Senate by a large bipartisan majority last Congress, but House Republicans refused to bring it to the floor for a vote.
As a result, President Obama directed his Administration to defer deportations for law-abiding undocumented immigrants with established roots and ties to this country, who will first have to register, pay fees, and pass background checks in order to meet eligibility and protection from deportation.
It’s precisely why law enforcement groups across the country support it. And unless Rep. Sessions knows something that 14 national police chiefs and police associations don’t, it’s better to side with the experts who do this for a living.
In awarding Sessions four Pinnochio’s for his claims, Fact Checker’s Glenn Kessler closes:
As always, the burden of proof rests with the speaker. Sessions failed to provide any convincing evidence to show that illegal immigrants released by the Obama administration are committing a murder a day. He earns Four Pinocchios.
One can debate the merits of the administration’s immigration policies without resorting to nonsense facts. Sessions is a committee chairman, and he should know better.
Sessions should know better. But, when it comes to immigration, too many Republicans just can’t control themselves. It’s bizarre. It’s sad. And, it’s just wrong.