If you’re one of those consumers of conservative news who is convinced that the problem of illegal immigration is spinning wildly out of control, that crime rates in border states are soaring, that ranches on American soil are being taken over by violent drug cartels, and that this problem must be dealt with immediately through strong measures like the Arizona sb1070 law or the repeal of the 14th amendment, I dare you to watch this entire segment from the Rachel Maddow show:
If you didn’t watch it because you’re afraid of being confronted with actual facts that might shake the carefully constructed worldview you’ve been operating under for decades, you’re not in the clear yet. I suggest you stop reading this now if you want to preserve your illusions.
The fact is, illegal immigration is not spinning wildly out of control. This chart from the U.S. Department of Commerce shows the number of migrant apprehensions along the U.S.-Mexico border over the last two decades:
Wouldn’t you know it—it’s actually going down. Why? It might have something to do with the massive economic recession we’re going through, seeing as how the same thing happened during the mini-recession of the early 2000s. When the economy sucks, less immigrants come here because there are obviously fewer opportunities for them to get hired and enjoy a significantly better standard of living than they’d be able to have in Mexico. If conditions are poor on both sides of the fence, they might as well remain on their side.
But what about crime? John McCain recently called Phoenix the “kidnapping capital of the world”, a blatantly false talking point that’s now being repeated by his fellow Arizona senator John Kyl, who insists that crime rates are rising wildly due to the supposed rise in illegal immigrants crossing the border. These guys are sure serving their state well! I’m sure everyone who works in the Arizona tourist industry are very happy that their senators are telling the rest of the country that it’s not safe to come to Arizona.
Well, let’s do them a favor and look at the facts. In the above clip, a segment from an interview with John Kyl is played in which the senator is confronted with the inconvenient fact that crime rates in Arizona have actually been dropping. Kyl insists that while certain kinds of crimes have been going down, property crimes and violent crimes have been going up. Here are the numbers:
Property Crimes in AZ:
Violent Crimes in AZ:
If you look closely, you’ll notice those numbers consistently going down. The Arizona in which illegal immigrants are constantly pouring over the border to rape, pillage, plunder, kidnap and murder Americans exists solely in the imagination of conservative politicians, their enablers in the right-wing media, and those predisposed to believe anything that supports their pre-existing worldview while ignoring everything else.
Incidentally, the story about how the Los Zetas drug cartel has taken over ranches in Laredo, Texas—that Mexican drug-lords are invading American soil—is also completely false. In fact, if you Google “los zetas laredo” you can scroll through at least five pages of right-wing blogs trumpeting the story without ever coming to a single actual news source. You won’t even find the story anywhere on CNN.com. Why? Because they check facts, and there are no facts behind this one.
Republican politicians still think it’s the mid-1980s and that getting people all riled up about illegal immigrants is a great way to win elections. If stories that support their portrait of Mexican immigrants as violent criminals can’t be found, conservatives simply invent them. They forget that it’s 2010, when the truth can easily be found with nothing more than an internet connection and a few minutes of spare time.
They also forget that it’s 2010, when there are a heck of a lot more Hispanic citizens in America than there were in 1980, and that those legal residents might not appreciate their cousins from across the border being painted as bloodthirsty delinquents. Whipping up immigration furor may be a good way to win a primary, but it’s an incredibly stupid strategy for winning general elections—especially in the long-term.
Laws like sb1070 are an over-reaction to a problem that isn’t nearly as bad as it seems whenever an election season rolls around. Repealing the 14th Amendment, which guarantees that every citizen born on U.S. soil is considered a U.S. citizen, would be the most radical over-reaction on the part of the U.S. government since the invasion of Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11. It’s a part of the essence of America that anyone born here, regardless of race, creed, or ethnicity is an American. Doing away with that just to prevent a few illegals from crossing the border to have anchor-babies would be a profoundly terrible mistake.
Luckily, this kind of race-baiting strategy will continue to lose effectiveness as the country becomes increasingly more multi-ethnic. So while I do recognize that there are economic problems associated with illegal immigration, that it’s unfair to those who go through the legal process to grant amnesty to those who came here illegally, and that a comprehensive immigration policy from the federal government is long overdue, I welcome anyone who brings a bit more color to America regardless of the manner in which they arrive.
[more at kemstone.com]