Donald Trump entered the Republican presidential field as a candidate, and made an announcement speech that was a wild assortment of feisty punchlines.
It was all a point-and-laugh affair for the media until his poll numbers shot to the upper tier. A controversial statement on Mexican immigrants got his Miss USA pageant cancelled by Univision and NBC, and got him booted from “The Celebrity Apprentice” on NBC.
Here’s the relevant quote, in full:
“They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
The problem with this debate is that one set of people is arguing that Trump is saying all Mexican immigrants are drug smugglers, criminals and rapists – even though his caveat makes crystal clear that’s not his argument at all.
So, when CNN goes to “fact check” this Trump statement, they’re not going to do it from the point-of-view that there’s any merit to say that some Mexican illegal immigrants are drug-smugglers, some are criminals, and some are rapists.
Statistics bear out the point that there’s a substantial criminal element among non-citizen immigrants. The Center for Immigration Studies provides some statistics (2009):
- “DHS states that it has identified 221,000 non-citizens in the nation’s jails. This equals 11 to 15 percent of the jail population. Non-citizens comprise only 8.6 percent of the nation’s total adult population.”
- “A Pew Hispanic Center study found that, of those sentenced for federal crimes in 2007, non-citizen Hispanics were 74 percent of immigration offenders, 25 percent of drug offenders… Non-citizen Hispanics are 5.1 percent of the nation’s adult population.”
This is not to claim there are no criminals among U.S. citizens. But that there should be immigration processes – just like every other nation on earth has – to distinguish immigrants who will support themselves and contribute to society from criminal elements.
The debate about illegal immigration is understandably charged and proponents are waging their arguments on the terrain of identity politics. When their opponents argue in terms of the national interest, the predictable defense is to become outraged. Americans deserve a better discussion of this issue.