February 7, 2017; CNN
In the past few years, we have come to see policymaking around policing and criminal justice issues that relies more on facts about the multiple negative outcomes of drastically failed hardline policies and less on fear-mongering designed to engender support for those same hardline policies. In fact, criminal justice reform is one of the few policy areas where the country actually saw bipartisanship at work. But between Trump spewing anti-facts and an attorney general who was a major proponent of the disgraced War on Drugs, where are we now?
We are in a funhouse where nothing is as it appears, and that is a very dangerous place to be.
“And yet the murder rate in our country is the highest it’s been in 47 years. I used to use that, I’d say that in a speech and everybody was surprised. Because the press [gestures to reporters] doesn’t tell it like it is. It wasn’t to their advantage to say that. But the murder rate is the highest it’s been in, I guess, 45 to 47 years.”—Donald Trump
This is, of course, a bald-faced lie, in that the highest rate of murder in the last 45 years, according to the FBI, was in 1980, when it was 10.2 murders per every 100,000 residents. The lowest it has been is 4.4—just last year, in fact, a year in which Trump was making the same claim on the campaign trail. It is now 4.9.
Never mind that violent crime and murder rates are at nearly their lowest rate in 45 years; the president of the United States stood before a group of hand-picked friendly sheriffs yesterday to be congratulated about his new immigration orders and insisted that the murder rate was at its highest in more than 45 years and that the media was simply unwilling to admit it.
As for the facts he has been touting and the orders he has been making about immigration and crime, they are also a little “alternative.”
They are being released by the tens of thousands into our communities with no regard for the impact on public safety or resources.…We are going to build a great border wall to stop illegal immigration, to stop the gangs and the violence, and to stop the drugs from pouring into our communities.
So, what does Scientific American say about this allegation?
Immigration-crime research over the past 20 years has widely corroborated the conclusions of a number of early 20th-century presidential commissions that found no backing for the immigration-crime connection. Although there are always individual exceptions, the literature demonstrates that immigrants commit fewer crimes, on average, than native-born Americans.
Also, large cities with substantial immigrant populations have lower crime rates, on average, than those with minimal immigrant populations.
The problem is not that these pronouncements are not true; they are, in fact, the antithesis of true, being about as far from true as one can get. The problem in all of this is that there is a portion of the population that will accept such pronouncements from our president at face value, accepting further that somehow the press (and maybe even the FBI?) have been pulling the wool over their eyes. It is, of course, in part the job of nonprofits and of the press—now in the process of being systematically maligned—to help counter these versions of reality, however exhausting and repetitive that may get.—Ruth McCambridge