Illegal immigration is a huge problem in America. But sometimes the rhetoric can obscure the facts. In this article, Linda Chavez shares some facts that have to be heard and help to moderate the heat that some of those proposing more stringent controls on our borders are advocating. Let's get immigration reform, but let's not demonize everyone because of some. Make sure you read her last paragraph.
Facts Not Fiction
As someone who has long supported a major overhaul of our immigr
ation laws, I'm sorry to say th atPresident Obama's call this week for new legisl ation will only make m atters worse. With unemployment hovering atalmost 10 percent, the country is in no mood to increase the number of legal immigrants or temporary workers in the And short of doing so, we cannot fully solve the vexing problem of illegal immigr U.S. ation. But an open and honest deb ate on immigr ation is difficult with so much disinform ation on the issue circul ating.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, for example, made the outrageous claim recently th
at"we all know th atthe majority of the people th atare coming to and trespassing are now becoming drug mules. They're coming across our borders in huge numbers." But the facts don't bear her out. So let's examine some of the facts: Arizona
ation is down, not up. Since mid-decade, illegal immigr ation atthe Mexican border has declined drastically. Border apprehensions -- one of the most consistent and accur ate measures of illegal traffic -- are ata 35-year low, down 54 percent since 2005. The peak period of illegal immigr ation -- 1995-2000 -- coincided with a major expansion in the economy, with jobs plentiful. Indeed, the 2008 recession and slow recovery have been as big a factor as beefed-up border security in drastically reducing illegal immigr U.S. ation.
ation has not led to an increase in crime, n ationally or in the communities in which large numbers of illegal immigrants reside. The popular perception th atillegal immigr ation equals increased crime is one of the most persistent reasons many fear th atillegal immigr ation is causing untold hardship to Americans. But the facts don't bear out the fears. Crime in the has been declining consistently over the last two decades, even while illegal immigr U.S. ation was increasing.
According to the l
atest FBI Uniform Crime Reports, overall crime declined n ationally for the 16th straight year, with violent crime down 5.5 percent in 2009 And the figures for Arizona -- ground zero in the immigr ation deb ate and the st ate th atexperiences the largest influx of illegal immigrants into the U.S. -- show th atviolent crime has been falling steadily and is lower now than atany point since 1972. In , violent crime declined by about 10 percent. Phoenix
Half of the 10 lowest-crime big cities in the
U.S.are in Border St: ates El Paso, San Jose, Austin, San Diego, and Los Angeles; and two others, New Yorkand , are home to large illegal immigrant popul Denver ations as well. The crime st atistics for are perhaps the most surprising. The city is the second-safest big city in El Paso , according to FBI d America ata, with a popul ation th atis 82 percent Hispanic, including nearly 30 percent who are immigrants, many of them illegal. Wh at's more, El Pasosits just across the river from one of the most dangerous places on the planet, . The drug-cartel crime th Ciudad Juarez athas driven murders in Juarez to make it the murder capital of the world -- an appalling 242 in May alone -- has not spilled over onto the streets of , however. El Paso
Border P U.S. atrol has more resources than ever, and p atrolling the Mexican Border is far safer than most law enforcement jobs. There are now more than 20,000 Border P atrol agents, making the agency the largest law enforcement contingent in the federal government. According to a Customs and Border Protection study obtained by the Associ ated Press through a Freedom of Inform ation filing, violent attacks against Border P atrol agents declined in 2009, and attacks against agents are far lower per capita than those against police officers and sheriffs, 3 percent compared to 11 percent, with the attacks against border agents consisting mostly of rock-throwing while gun and knife attacks were the predominant assaults against police.
These facts don't justify ignoring illegal immigr
ation or pretending th atthere aren't costs associ ated with it. Every n ation has the right -- and oblig ation -- to protect its borders. We must secure the U.S. border, but pretending th atillegal immigr ation is fueling a crime wave or is athistoric highs is just plain wrong
Linda Chavez's Biography
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .