Refuting a Cynical Fiction
Sonoma Valley citizens have been pouring into the Plaza in successive waves of protest since the advent of the Trump presidency, objecting with bodies, voices and placards to a problem manufactured in the White House and the halls of Congress.
Among the countless political, moral, legal, financial, strategic, diplomatic and tasteless transgressions committed by our president, perhaps the most painful to endure is the cynical fiction that waves of criminal Latino immigrants—“rapists … drug dealers … murderers … MS 13 gang members”—are flooding across our unprotected borders.
And that lie has taken root. A 2017 Gallup poll revealed that 45 percent of Americans believe immigrants are making crime in this country worse. But thanks to a compilation of survey statistics put together by Aaron Sankin, a reporter for Reveal (from the Center for Investigative Reporting), there are scores of studies that disprove this cruel and racist claim. Consider the following few from a much longer list:
• According to a 2018 study from the University of Wisconsin and Purdue University, the opposite of Trump’s assertions is true: As immigration goes up, crime actually goes down.
• Maybe that’s because, according to a Pew study, first-generation immigrants are far less likely to commit crime than are native-born Americans.
• In fact, “Foreign-born individuals exhibit remarkably low levels of involvement in crime across their life course,” says a study from the University of Massachusetts Boston.
• And the Public Policy Institute of California discovered, using data from California prisons, that, “U.S.-born adult men are incarcerated at a rate over two-and-a-half times greater than that of foreign-born men.”
• Immigrants are incarcerated at one-fifth the rate of native-born Americans, according to a 2007 study looking at data that goes back to 1980. And a 2015 report from the National Academy of Sciences finds immigrants are “much less likely than natives to commit crimes.” The report blames the perception of a link between immigrants and crime on, “‘issue entrepreneurs who promote the immigrant-crime connection in order to drive restrictionist immigration policy…and media portrayals of non-whites and immigrants as prone to violence and crime.”
• And another study, reviewing data from 1990 to 2014, concluded that, “Undocumented immigration has not increased the prevalence of drug or alcohol problems.”
To be sure, the U.S. has an immigration problem, but it’s not the problem being promoted by the president and his Congressional acolytes. The problem, of course, is the inexcusable absence of a coherent immigration policy, a failure of every Congress and every president, going back beyond 1978, when the Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy was created by an act of Congress. That 16-member commission labored for two years before delivering its now-forgotten report. Its 1981 conclusion, as one reviewer observed at the time, was that “the nation’s current immigration system is in total disarray.” True then and true now. But the commission’s findings appear to have vanished like wet footprints on a beach.
The public frustration over this status quo has been brilliantly (if diabolically) exploited by Trump, leading to the heartbreakingly immoral separation of young—even infant—undocumented children from their mothers and fathers. History, and the world community, is judging our behavior now. This country has, from its birth, had the most generous immigration policies in the world. We have been a beacon for freedom, security and opportunity.
Today, policies for allowing both immigrants and legitimate refugees into the country are seriously flawed, and politics has gotten in the way of a fix. But victimizing children in the process violates human decency.
The two girls pictured here are not refugees or immigrants. They are daughters of Sonoma, protesting on the Plaza. But look in their eyes and you see everyone’s daughters, look in their eyes and you see an issue that transcends politics, borders and nationality.
Look at them and you see reflected the humanity all of us want in our politics, in our nation, in our lives.
David Bolling, Editor & Publisher, Valley of the Moon Magazine
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