[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]
Remember how Lou Dobbs got in trouble for touting phony statistics linking immigration to leprosy?
Well now Fox News is doing the same thing -- with only a slightly different angle.
Yesterday on Fox & Friends, Gretchen Carlson interviewed a fellow named Ed Kowalski, who is a board member of the group 9/11 Families for a Secure America, about Arizona's new police-state immigration law. It produced this exchange:
Carlson: According to you, politicians seem to be more concerned about the illegals' rights than the rights of the Americans, some of whom end up dead.Several times the chryon read: "FSM: 2,158 Killed By Illegals Every Year."
Kowalski: That's correct, that's correct. As best as we can estimate, 2,200 Americans a year are murdered by criminal illegal aliens. That number is staggering.
It's a completely phony statistic. As Media Matters explains:
The immigrant murder rate cited by Fox News is based on a 2005 Human Events article by Mac Johnson. In the article, Johnson said he attempted to locate statistics on "illegal alien murders" but was told "that no one kept track" of those numbers. Johnson then "arrived at my own approximation of the number," which he called "crude." After admitting that "the murder rate among illegal aliens in America is unknown," Johnson assumed that the rate at which "illegal aliens" murder would remain consistent with murder rates from the immigrant's home country.Here's how Johnson's piece read:
I assumed that 3,871,912 Mexicans in America kill at the same rate as 3,871,912 Mexicans in Mexico, then did the same for 336,717 Salvadorans, 77,000 Brazilians, 226,886 Chinese and 39 other categories of illegal alien -- as totaled in a Census Bureau estimate of the illegal alien population in 2000. The report's total figure was that 8.7 million illegal aliens are in our country.It's not surprising that Family Security Matters is indulging in this kind of unethical chicanery; as MM notes, it has a history of bashing immigrants with dubious statistics and old-fashioned scapegoating. As for its standards and credibility, well, FSM has also endorsed the Birther conspiracy theory.
So the upshot, for the journalism majors that just rejoined the article, is that a simplistic good-faith estimate is that illegal aliens kill between 1,806 and 2,510 people in the United States each year.
And now Fox News is running their garbage as fact. Nothing new there, either, really -- except that this particular smear paints 12 million people as potential murderers and criminal thugs.
As Walter Ewing at Immigration Impact observes:
In fact, empirical research over the past century has demonstrated repeatedly that immigrants to the United States, including the unauthorized, are far less likely to commit serious crimes or be behind bars than the native-born. And no amount of grandstanding by Fox and Friends will change that simple fact.Knowing Fox News, they will neither correct this nor apologize for it. But every Latino immigrant on the planet should know that Fox News is now openly smearing them.
The notion that unauthorized immigrants bring the murder rates of their home countries with them when they enter the United States is not only inherently absurd, but has no basis in reality. For instance, a detailed study of incarceration rates in the United States using data from the 2000 Census found that foreign-born Mexicans, more than half of whom are unauthorized, “had an incarceration rate of only 0.7 percent in 2000—more than 8 times lower than the 5.9 percent rate of native-born males of Mexican descent.” If unauthorized Mexicans were actually committing murders in the United States at the same pace as the Mexican murder rate, one would expect many more foreign-born Mexicans to be behind bars. But that is not the case.
Findings such as these should come as no surprise. Immigrants in general are a highly motivated, “self-selected” group. That is, they made the difficult decision to uproot themselves from their home countries in order to create better lives for themselves in the United States. This is not an undertaking for the lazy or feint of heart. Moreover, given the harsh realities of U.S. immigration law, immigrants have a great deal of incentive to not get in trouble with the law. Even legal immigrants can be deported for relatively minor infractions, let alone unauthorized immigrants who are nearly assured of deportation if they fall into the hands of immigration authorities. But the bottom line is the evidence—and the evidence shows that the vast majority of immigrants do not commit serious crimes, regardless of their legal status.