In show business they say that there is no such thing as bad publicity. That might be true for show biz, but it’s not always the case in politics. That’s a distinction that business tycoon/TV personality/presidential candidate Donald Trump does not seem to have grasped as yet.
The Donald quickly became “The Story” in the crowded GOP nomination contest with his public comments about how Mexican immigrants are unleashing a crime wave on the American public. I think it’s worth repeating the whole quote here before I go any further. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems. And they’re bringing those problems with (them). They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists, and some, I assume, are good people.”
It’s that last bit that has gotten most of the attention (more on that later), but I think the first sentence is worthy of a little scrutiny as well. Mexico, Trump claims, is “sending” the worst of the worst across the border to bedevil God-fearing Americans. Since a country can’t actively do anything on its own, I can only guess that he is suggesting that the Mexican government is emptying its prisons and herding felons across the border. If he has evidence that such a thing is going on, we need to see it right away. But if it was just an off-the-cuff, poorly-worded, groundless generalization (spoiler: that’s exactly what it was) then voters might want to consider what foreign relations might look like under a Trump administration.
As to the latter part of his statement, where he seems to be saying that a sizable portion of the Mexicans who are crossing the border illegally are drug-dealers and/or rapists, that’s a much more straightforward contention and it’s something we can fact-check. So let’s do that.
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What do crime statistics for cities with high concentrations of illegal aliens tell us? Are these noncitizens rampaging through our communities, committing heinous acts in greater proportions than the native population? The short answer is no, they aren’t. According to a number of surveys that have been compiled in the past few years, the crime rate among first- generation immigrants is notably lower than that of U.S.-born citizens. And it’s not just true for Mexicans -- it’s true for immigrants from all countries. In fact the incarceration rate for U.S.-born adult men is two and a half times that of first-generation immigrants.
Note that I said, “first generation” immigrants. It turns out that male children of immigrants go to jail at about the same rate as other U.S.-born males. So we would probably be better served trying to figure out why children born in the U.S. (regardless of where their parents come from) are unacceptably likely to get involved in a life of crime than pretending that we will somehow solve our crime problems by cracking down on illegal immigration.
Of course illegal immigration is a real concern, and here in Georgia we have become more or less a “border state,” so it’s one that we should be interested in. If even a handful of criminals are making it across the border, it’s still too many. We need better control of our borders. We need to know who is entering the country and what their intentions are once they get here. And we need to know what the candidates plans are for achieving that goal, so candidates from both parties need to be talking about immigration in a serious way.
Trump is many things, but serious is not one of them. His antics are not helping his country or his party. It’s clear, though, that is not his concern. He is the ultimate self-promoter, and as long as people are talking about him, he’s happy. And, I suppose, the media and the public are happy to engage with his nonsense rather than address real issues as well. After all, politics is a lot like a circus, and what would a circus be without a clown?
Bill Ferguson is a resident of Warner Robins. Readers can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.