At a campaign rally in Springfield, Ohio on October 27, 2016, President Donald Trump charged that “thousands of Americans have been killed by illegal immigrants.”


During his joint address to Congress on March 10, President Trump took another opportunity to infect the social mindset of this nation with the belief that crime is rampant because of illegal immigrants. The president made reference in that address to an executive order he signed in February instructing the Department of Homeland Security to create the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement office (VOICE).


President Creates Anti-Immigrant Sentiment to Serve Political Ambitions


More than any other force in this nation, Donald Trump has deliberately and methodically worked to create a mass anti-immigrant sentiment in this country to serve his political ambitions.  Media pundits and political analysts have speculated that there is a psychological flaw in the president’s character that prevents him from being able to distinguish between falsity and truth.


That psychological analysis may or may not be correct.


What is correct is that President Trump has said things so false that even elementary school children have both the intellectual and moral ability to recognize their falsity.


Some of President Trump’s falsehoods, many of which have now assumed legendary status, have been directed at immigrants, both illegal and legal.


Sentencing Project Dispels Rhetoric


Fortunately, there are people in this country who believe in facts, not “alternative facts.” Some of these folks are with The Sentencing Project (“Project”) whose purpose is to research for facts and to use those facts to advocate for reform. The Project in recent days issued a report titled “Immigration and Public Safety.” The report was written by Nazgol Ghandnoosh, Ph.D, Research Analyst, and Josh Rovner, Juvenile Justice Advocacy Associate. The authors received research assistance from Project’s Program Associates Casey Anderson and Jessica Yoo.


The authors, and their assistants, believe in real facts and following the factual evidence trail to the point of honest conclusions—and the four basic conclusions drawn by their report are these:


  1. Immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than native-born citizens;
  2. Higher levels of immigration may have contributed to the historic drop in crime rates;
  3. Police chiefs believe intensifying immigration law enforcement undermines public safety; and
  4. Immigrants are under-represented in U.S. prisons.


With the opening paragraph of its report, the Project armed with these factual conclusions takes the president and his persistent falsehoods behind the woodshed:


“Starting from his first day as a candidate, President Donald Trump has made demonstrably false claims associating immigrants with criminality. As president, he has sought to justify restrictive immigration policies, such as increasing detentions and deportations and building a southern border wall, as public safety measures. He has also linked immigrants to crime through an Executive Order directing the Attorney General to establish a task force to assist in ‘developing strategies to reduce crime, including in particular, illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and violent crime,” and by directing the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to assist and publicize victims of crimes committed by immigrants.”


It is nothing short of a social tragedy that prominent and respected research groups must undertake research projects to dispel the falsehoods the President of the United States has infected the public discourse with.


Research Dating Back 100 Years Confirms Low Crime Rates


With respect to immigrants and public safety, the report pointed out that research scholars Alex Piquero, a criminologist at the University of Texas, and Bianca Bersani, a sociologist at the University of Massachusetts have long informed the public that “research dating back more than a century documents a patter whereby the foreign-born are involved in crimes at significantly lower rates than their peers.”


The president’s conservative-leaning supporters will dismiss Piquero and Bersani’s findings by saying that crime is more under-reported by immigrants than the native born. Not so, say Piquero and Bersani who compared self-reported crime data with official arrest records to reach this conclusion: “The finding that the foreign-born commit less crime than their U.S.-born peers is not a product of difference in reporting practices across these groups.”


Lower Crime Rates in Latino Populations


These conclusions drawn by the Project’s report will be both dismissed and scoffed at by the president and his supporters, the vast majority of whom are white. It is much easier for them to believe a lie than accept the truth. For example, they cannot accept the truth found by Harvard University sociologist Robert Sampson that, as stated in the Project’s report, “the prevalence of foreign-born individuals among the Latino population helps to explain differences in violent crime rates between whites and Latinos.”


Professor Sampson and his colleagues found that “the lower rate of violence among Mexican Americans compared with Whites was explained by a combination of married parents, living in a neighborhood with a high concentration of immigrants, and individual immigrant status.”


This high level of professional research lends credence to the Project’s report that, “all else equal, ethnic/racial groups with a higher proportion of immigrants exhibit lower rates of crime.”


Those are the facts. Accept them or not. They will remain facts, regardless of any “alternative” spin anyone may try to dispute them with. We fear, and there is substantial evidence in the public record to support our fear, that our nation is entering an era in which social and criminal justice policies will be shaped by falsehoods (and the inherent racial bias from which they derive) that will take generations to undo.


We hope not.