Immigration

Tom Tancredo doubts that immigration makes crime rate go down

Yesterday, former congressman Tom Tancredo tackled accusations that the organizer of an Arizona event at which he's scheduled to speak has unsavory ties to neo-Nazis. He argued that the impetus for the controversy was really his decision to break ties with a fellow immigration-reform advocate who'd demanded that South Carolina Lindsey Graham "come out of the closet."

But in the midst of the conversation, Tancredo also tackled another subject: a study by CU professor Tim Wadsworth suggesting that immigration causes the crime rate to fall.

Tancredo hasn't read the study. But from what he knows of it, he's definitely not persuaded.

"This issue of illegal immigration and the crime rate, it's like trying to shovel smoke," he maintains. "You have so many different statistical quote-unquote facts to look at that contradict each other.

"One of the things that makes me a little leery of what he says is that he relies heavily on the census data -- because a high percentage of census takers say they have to guess about someone's actual status here. And then you have FBI statistics about fugitive murders, or alleged murderers, I should say. I've been told that 56 percent of them are non-citizens.

"And look at the incarceration rates. They're all over the place in terms of getting an actual number. It's very difficult, because a lot of police department's and sheriff's departments don't report citizenship, so you don't know for sure. But the best guesses are that between 20 and 30 percent of our prison population are immigrants. Some are legal aliens, some are illegal aliens -- but they're immigrants. And supposedly only about 15 percent of our overall population is comprised of people who are non-citizens. If that's the case, you have a higher presentation of these folks in prisons than they represent in the population."

Moreover, Wadsworth concedes that many factors potentially impact crime rates, "including better policing and blah-blah-blah," Tancredo says. "And that's true. It's very difficult to analyze these factors and come to a definitive conclusion. But nobody argues that in prisons around the country, there's a higher percentage of non-citizens than there is in the general population. That makes his suggestion that higher immigration will reduce our crime rate very questionable."

So much for lies, damned lies and statistics.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts