Since taking office, President Donald Trump has frequently used tragedy and crime to argue in favor of stricter immigration laws. And yesterday, August 22nd, the Trump administration released a video compilation of parents whose children had been killed by undocumented immigrants, either by accident or during violent crimes. The video attempted to frame the administration’s problematic immigration policies as a means of protecting American children.
But make no mistake: As tragic as each of the individual incidents described in the video are, they in no way represent the majority of undocumented immigrants. This is fear-mongering and manipulation at its finest, and it’s designed to play on our fears and emotions—not reason or the actual data at hand.
Trump is also using the recent tragic death of college sophomore Mollie Tibbetts to help justify his platforms. As NPR reported, early on the morning of August 21st, suspect Cristhian Bahena River led investigators to Tibbetts’s body, ending a month-long search for the 20-year-old woman. Government officials stated that Rivera had entered the country illegally, although Rivera’s attorneys have disputed that claim.
On the 22nd, Trump addressed the tragedy in a taped statement on Twitter. He said that Tibbetts had been “permanently separated from her family” (which is a direct callback to his administration’s highly controversial family separation policy). Trump then explicitly called for stricter laws.
Trump and other anti-immigrant politicians have long used fear to promote their policies. On August 8th, Fox News host Laura Ingraham claimed that “the America we know and love doesn’t exist anymore” because of immigration. And on the campaign trail in 2015, Trump famously claimed that Mexico was “sending” criminals and rapists.
Let’s get one thing clear: there is absolutely no evidence that immigrants—documented or undocumented—commit more crimes than natural-born U.S. citizens.
A 2015 study from the American Immigration Council found that, based on data from the 2010 census, 1.6% of immigrant men were imprisoned, as compared to 3.3% of American-born men. And according to a 2017 study from the libertarian Cato Institute based on 2014 data, undocumented immigrants are 44% less likely to be imprisoned than native citizens. Legal immigrants, meanwhile, are 69% less likely to be incarcerated.
In short, violent crimes are unfortunately perpetrated in the U.S. every single day—and it’s usually by legal U.S. citizens. Not only that, but a number of U.S. industries literally run on the labor of undocumented immigrants. Immigrants—both legal and “illegal”—are a vital part of the American economy.
Don’t let the administration’s recent manipulative and opportunistic videos fool you, and if you feel passionate about this issue, remember to make your voice heard in the midterm elections.