Daily Read: Uncriminal Immigrants

I really shouldn’t have to point this out, but after a few days of seeing the primacy of the Kate Steinle killing on Fox News (as seen from the treadmill at my gym), I am compelled to share the data. Here’s the deal: Steinle’s killer was an illegal immigrant. The shooting took place in San Francisco, which is a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants – a designation that means the city will not use municipal funds to enforce federal immigration laws; nor will they routinely question people about their immigration status. Here’s the part I shouldn’t have to point out: Steinle’s killer, Francisco Sanchez, did not kill her because he is an illegal immigrant. Being an illegal immigrant did not cause him to shoot her. There is no causative element between his immigration status and his actions. Granted, if he wasn’t in San Francisco, he couldn’t have killed Steinle; but it is a massively fallacious and illogical cognitive leap to assert the proposition that being an illegal immigrant is causative. Correlated, yes; causative, no. Here’s the basic assertion: Sanchez killed Steinle. Sanchez is an illegal immigrant. Therefore, illegal immigrants are killers. This is like saying that all fish swim. I also swim. Therefore, I am a fish.

I realize that I’m simplifying this – I don’t think any rational person is actually proposing that all illegal immigrants are killers or criminals. But the sensationalizing of this story and the framing of it as a consequence of illegal immigration gets to me, because the data do not support the proposition that illegal immigrants are more likely to be criminal. That’s where we get to the Daily Read for today. This article from The Economist gives the data, which show clearly that Latin American immigrants are less likely to commit crimes. It’s a brief but illuminating read that, among other things, reports that “America’s major cities, and the country as a whole, have seen a significant decline in rates of violent and property crime over the past 30 or so years. Crime has fallen even as the proportion of Americans born on foreign soil has grown, and as rates of unauthorised immigration have gone up.” So as far as I’m concerned, it’s irresponsible and disingenuous for Fox News and other media outlets to claim that Steinle’s death is a direct consequence of illegal immigration and sanctuary cities, and worse, that immigrants to this country are more likely to be criminals.

Not Here to Cause Trouble

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