Supporters of Arizona's draconian immigration law have relied largely on inflammatory rhetoric tying immigration to crime in order to make their case. The measures they take may be drastic, they say, but illegal immigration is causing a public-safety crisis and something had to be done.
The empirical data belies this conclusion--not only has the undocumented population in Arizona decreased over the past few years, immigrants are less likely to commit crimes, and as Dara Lind noted yesterday, in Arizona in particular, violent crime has gone down "dramatically" over the past two years. Not only that, but the federal government can hardly be described as "inactive." The Obama administration is deporting more people now than at any time in the past decade.
The AP now has a story on how the top four big cities with the lowest crime rates are -- you guessed it -- along the U.S. Mexico border:
The top four big cities in America with the lowest rates of violent crime are all in border states: San Diego, Phoenix, El Paso and Austin, according to a new FBI report. And an in-house Customs and Border Protection report shows that Border Patrol agents face far less danger than street cops in most U.S. cities.
Nevertheless, Congress is insisting that Obama needs to crack down on illegal immigration because of rising violence:
"Violence in the vicinity of the U.S.-Mexico border continues to increase at an alarming rate. We believe that this violence represents a serious threat to the national security of the United States as well as a serious threat to U.S. citizens that live along the 1,969-mile long border," a dozen bipartisan members of Congress from border states wrote President Obama.
This is just the opposite of reality. The energy on the anti-immigration side isn't based on empirical facts; it's based on something else entirely. That's the real story here -- whatever is causing the intense feelings surrounding immigration on the anti-immigration side, it isn't driven by an increase in crime or illegal immigration, or even inaction by the federal government.
-- A. Serwer