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Immigration, crime and money

May 5, 2010

Statistics are not on the side of those screaming about crime as a justification for Arizona’s new immigration law.  Studies repeatedly have shown that immigrants are less likely than native-born Americans to commit crime. (Makes sense if you think about it: they came here for a better life, they wouldn’t want to attract scrutiny.)

Further, while crime as a whole has decreased nationwide since the 1990’s (the same period during which immigration levels boomed in Arizona) by 30%, Arizona has seen a decrease of 43%. The numbers just aren’t backing up the rhetoric.  Heck, you’ve got John McCain out there making cryptic statements about immigrants purposefully causing accidents on the freeway.  We’ve seen the Sheriff of Pinal County in Arizona, Paul Babaeu, state that “We’ve had numerous officers that have been killed by illegal immigrants in Arizona.” Apparently, for Mr. Babeau at least, “numerous” means two since 2007.

Now, it is true that Pinal County recently experienced a shooting of a deputy; but it needs to be said that this was not by your average undocumented worker trying to make a living and improve his lot in life. No. This was an altercation with drug traffickers, which, I submit, has far more to do with the nation’s drug policy than with immigration policy. Ah, but you see, both are brown skinned people, so let’s just lump them all together and not bother to draw any distinctions.

To be honest, this law has nothing to do with stopping the violence perpetrated by Mexican drug gangs. There is no way this law, if in effect, could have done anything to prevent that confrontation in the desert between sheriff’s deputies and drug smugglers. Any other stories of crime imported from Mexico are not the norm and it must be pointed out that the victims of any crime by illegal immigrants is overwhelmingly against other immigrants.

Look, in any population of people, there is going to be a bad element that preys on the others. In Arizona, in fact, the percentage of arrests which turn out to be here illegally is about 10%, which tracks with the estimated percentage of the population. In fact, due to inherent profiling, it should be expected that the percent arrested would be disproportionate to the size of the population. Yet, we don’t see that across the board. Clearly, the vast majority of this group are good, law-abiding people.  These stories of rampant crime and downed officers are simply being used to gin up support for the law and downplay the uncomfortable charges of racism and xenophobia.

Meanwhile, economic studies have shown that if Arizona were able to successfully rid itself of all undocumented workers, the state’s  economy would be devastated (not to mention the costs associated with the deportation process.) In fact, economically speaking, studies show that a path to citizenship (what the opposition calls amnesty) would boost the national economy for all.  For instance, just think of the coming costs to the system of baby boomers reaching retirement age: an increased flow of younger workers, paying into the Social Security & Medicare funds is needed. That’s just one example of benefit.

At any rate, national borders are arbitrary, human dignity is not. I find it impossible to be angry with someone that crosses our border (even illegally) in an attempt to provide a better life for themselves and their family. People vehemently opposed to “amnesty” and ranting to deport the up to 12 million undocumented workers already here are at least one of two things (whether they realize it or not):

  1. uniformed about the true nature of costs, both economic and social
  2. awash in plain old bigotry

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One Comment leave one →
  1. May 5, 2010 11:52 am

    This has always been the fundamental reason for my inability to understand outrage over immigrants (which in modern times is all about brown-skinned people who may or may not speak english well):

    “…national borders are arbitrary, human dignity is not. I find it impossible to be angry with someone that crosses our border (even illegally) in an attempt to provide a better life for themselves and their family.”

    And even when I open my mind to all arguments posed I’ve never heard a convincing argument that it’s anything other than:

    “1. uniformed about the true nature of costs, both economic and social, and/or
    2. awash in plain old bigotry”

    I lived in Tucson and further south for my entire life until 1994, though apparently the immigration and drug trafficking problems have escalated since I left. But I know the mindset of that state very well – bigotry is at the core of the immigration outrage.

    Nice post, Sandi!

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