Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Arizona Ignores Facts, Attacks Immigration

The right wing leaders in Arizona, like Governor Jan Brewer, talk about an “illegal-alien crime wave,” as a reason for the startling new immigration law in that state. Politicians have pounded away at illegal aliens and their direct influence on crime.

According to Newsweek, Governor Brewer told Fox News, “We’ve been inundated with criminal activity. It’s just—it’s been outrageous.” Arizona’s Sen. John McCain said last month that the failure to secure the border with Mexico “has led to violence—the worst I have ever seen.” The president of the Arizona Association of Sheriffs, Paul Babeu of Pinal County, claims, “Crime is off the chart in this state.”

Newsweek did a little fact checking and exposed what the FBI data actually shows. The incidence of violent crime in Arizona declined dramatically in the last two years. After a spike in 2006 and 2007, the number in Phoenix dropped to 10,465 in 2008 and to 8,730 in 2009, which is lower than it was six years ago. Murders, which hit a high of 234 in 2006, dropped to 167 in 2008 and 122 in 2009. (Some lesser crimes may go unreported, especially if people are scared to talk to the cops, but police statistics only rarely miss a murder.)

A little basic research would have shown Arizona leaders that big cities with large immigrant populations are safer places to live.

Again, according to Newsweek, this is not just a matter of random correlation being mistaken for causation. A new study by sociologist Tim Wadsworth of the University of Colorado at Boulder carefully evaluates the various factors behind the statistics that show a massive drop in crime during the 1990s at a time when immigration rose dramatically. In a peer-reviewed paper appearing in the June 2010 issue of Social Science Quarterly, Wadsworth argues not only that “cities with the largest increases in immigration between 1990 and 2000 experienced the largest decreases in homicide and robbery,” which we knew, but that after considering all the other explanations, rising immigration “was partially responsible.”

As Newsweek suggests:

To deny that reality and ignore its implications is likely to make life more dangerous all over America, diverting resources away from the fight against violent crime and breaking down the hard-won trust between cops and the communities where they work.

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