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The Left Misrepresents Stats To Deceptively Claim Illegals Are ‘Less Likely To Commit Crimes’

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The media and Democrat officials continue to parrot the claim that illegals commit violent crimes at a lower rate than native-born Americans.


Corporate media and Democrat officials continue parroting the claim that illegal migrants commit violent crimes at a lower rate than native-born citizens. The assertion is meant to push for an open southern border, even as incidences of illegal migrants rapingassaultingrunning over, and brutally murdering American children pile up.

But the claim ignores the fact that all illegal migrant crime is inherently preventable and hinges on misrepresenting studies in ways that mislead and deceive the public. 

Media Misrepresents Research

Examples in the media are numerous. A CNN article published shortly after an illegal migrant attacked and killed nursing student Laken Riley in February claimed public perception of illegal migrant crime “flies in the face of years of studies looking at what actually happened after immigrants came to communities across the US.”

“Many researchers crunching the numbers have found there’s no connection between immigration and crime,” wrote CNN Senior Writer Catherine E. Shoichet. “Some have even found that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the US.”

The article directs readers to a previous CNN article citing a study from the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. The study, conducted by policy scholar Alex Nowrasteh, found that illegal immigrants were arrested for and convicted of violent crimes less than native-born Americans in Texas in 2015. The study did not evaluate actual offenses, nor did it rule out any connection between immigration and crime, as Shoichet claimed. 

Research has shown, however, that arrest and conviction data are not adequate proxies for how often crime is committed. Additionally, the study’s use of Texas Department of Public Safety (TDPS) data has faced backlash from scholars who say Nowrastesh was “misusing data” in a way that led “to erroneous conclusions about illegal immigrant crime rates.”

“Studies purporting to show low illegal immigrant crime rates in Texas fail to account for the fact that illegal immigrants are not always identified immediately upon arrest,” wrote Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) researchers Sean Kennedy, Jason Richwine, and Steven A. Camarota. “In many cases, illegal immigrants are identified only after they are imprisoned.”

The study concludes that illegal migrants “have above average conviction rates for homicide and sexual assault” when correct data is used. 

The major flaws in the Cato Institute research did not stop multiple other outlets, including Yahoo News, from citing it as “proof” that illegal migrant crime is lower than average.

USA Today claimed “research suggests immigrants actually commit fewer crimes than people born in the U.S.” in a March article, citing the Cato Institute study. The article also cited research led by sociologist Michael Light at the University of Wisconsin. 

Light’s use of TDPS data also fails to stand up to scrutiny. 

“[Light] makes the same mistake as Nowrasteh in treating illegals as fully identified by DHS at intake, even though DCJ will go on to identify more illegals who are initially placed in the DPS ‘other/unknown’ category,” wrote CIS researchers. “Unlike Nowrasteh, Light then relies on unverified claims made by arrestees about their citizenship and place of birth to both supplement the ‘legal’ arrest category and create a ‘native-born’ category.” 

The University of Wisconsin research was also cited in articles by NewsNation, AP News, and ABC News published this year.

NPR echoed the claim in a March article, referencing the inaccurate Cato Institute study and, oddly, a Stanford study that assessed immigrants in general rather than specifically addressing illegal migrants. AP News and Newsweek both used the study similarly in articles published earlier this year. 

NPR also referenced a 2019 Marshall Project article and a 2018 New York Times article, both by reporter Anna Flagg. 

The Marshall Project articles used the Cato Institute research in combination with research from SUNY Buffalo sociologist Robert Adelman, which evaluated immigrants in general and did not narrow the scope to illegal migrants. Flagg indicates Adelman’s team is conducting further research on “unauthorized immigration” that has produced “early results” but does not provide data. 

Flagg also used Pew Research’s estimates of illegal migrant populations to construct regression models. Regression models, by nature, cannot answer questions of causation. They show correlation, whether two variables move in the same direction, but cannot demonstrate a cause-and-effect relationship. 

The data she produces, nevertheless, shows a correlation between higher illegal migrant populations and higher murder rates, a correlation Flagg readily dismisses as “small and uncertain (effectively zero).”

Flagg’s article in the Times uses the same SUNY Buffalo research. The article quotes Trump stating “sanctuary cities release illegal immigrants, drug dealers, traffickers, gang members back into our communities,” but reframes Trump’s concern as “immigrants bring[ing] crime into America” (emphases added). The distinction between illegal migrants and immigrants in general is crucial. 

Flagg’s subtle misrepresentation allows her to construct a strawman argument using data that doesn’t address illegal migrant crime. Multiple outlets, including CNN, the Chicago Tribune, and MSNBC have similarly conflated the general immigrant population with illegal migrant criminals to misrepresent data and deceive audiences. 

Elected Officials Parrot False Claims 

Multiple Democrat officials have similarly misled the public to believe research shows illegal immigrants commit fewer violent crimes.

“Immigrants actually commit fewer crimes than native-born people here in this country,” Congressman Robert Garcia claimed during a February press call

Garcia’s office told The Federalist that he was referring to the Cato Institute research that studies convictions, not criminal offenses, and dramatically underestimates the number of illegal migrants. The office also sent “what [they] found after a quick Google search,” which included the Cato Institute research, the Stanford study, and the University of Wisconsin Study, all debunked above.

Democrat Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal parroted this claim to Fox Business Correspondent Hillary Vaughn in June, saying, “But as we know, the research is that undocumented immigrants commit far fewer crimes than anyone else.”

Jayapal’s office sent The Federalist NPR’s article, a study erroneously using arrest data from the Texas Department of Public Safety, and a study including legal immigrants. When asked for adequate substantiation of Jayapal’s actual claim, the office sent two blog posts containing the previously sent research. The office did not provide any research actually proving Jayapal’s claims. 

No Proof Given

Some reporters and elected officials asserted that illegal immigrants commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans but provided no source to support their claims.

J. David Goodman, a reporter for the Times, repeated the myth in a recent piece covering the brutal rape and murder of 12-year-old Jocelyn Nungaray, allegedly by two illegal immigrants. 

“[D]espite a number of high-profile cases, studies have found that migrants commit fewer crimes than legal residents,” Goodman wrote. 

The report contains no information regarding the “studies” cited. Goodman did not respond to The Federalist’s multiple requests for clarification. 

Vaughn also spoke with Democrat Congressman Jerry Nadler, who claimed, “The crime rate among immigrants is far lower than the crime rate among native-born Americans.” The Federalist reached out to Nadler’s office for a citation and did not receive a response. 

Democrat Senator Chris Murphy repeated the claim on the Senate floor in May.

“Whether you choose to want to believe the facts or not, that is not my decision, it is your decision,” Murphy said. “But immigrants commit crimes in this country at a rate lower than natural-born citizens. You may not believe that … but I hate to tell you, it is the truth.”

Murphy’s office did not respond to The Federalist’s request for clarification. 

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