How Donald Trump Is Exploiting the Myth of “Crime Prone” Immigrants

Donald Trump made headlines yet again this week after getting into a verbal sparring match with Jorge Ramos, one of the most well-known Latino journalists in the United States.

On Tuesday night, the Univison reporter was escorted out of a press conference after Trump refused to answer his questions on immigration, something Trump says he did because Ramos spoke out of turn. “Go back to Univision,” Trump said at one point during the brief quarrel.

After spending a few unpleasant minutes in the hallway (where an angry Trump supporter told him to go back to his country), Ramos was invited back into the press conference.

When he finally got his chance to speak, Ramos challenged Trump on his controversial immigration stance, including his plans to deport all of the roughly 11 million undocumented migrants living in the United States today and to get rid of birthright citizenship, which grants citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants who are born within the United States.

Aug. 25, 2015: Univision reporter Jorge Ramos is escorted out of a press conference held by presidential candidate Donald Trump (Photo: C. Neibergall/AP/SIPA)

Aug. 25, 2015: Univision reporter Jorge Ramos is escorted out of a press conference held by presidential candidate Donald Trump (Photo: C. Neibergall/AP/SIPA)

In his defense of the deportation plan, Trump referenced all of the “rough illegal immigrant” gangsters living in cities across America, saying,

“There’s a lot of bad ones — real bad ones. ‘Cause you know they looked at some of the gangs in Baltimore, they looked at some of the gangs in Chicago, they looked even in Ferguson. They got some rough illegal immigrants in those gangs.”

This narrative is definitely not a new one for Trump, who made similar comments about Mexican immigrants when he launched his campaign back in June:

“They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people,”

Trump said during his announcement.

Trump is hardly the first politician to exploit people’s fear of immigrants — the belief that migrants are prone to crime has been around for ages. Unfortunately for Trump, however, this belief is simply false. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Numerous studies going back more than a century have shown that immigrants—regardless of nationality or legal status—are less likely than the native population to commit violent crimes or to be incarcerated.

In his response to Ramos’ questions, Trump also argued that, “We have tremendous crime,” in America today. But that claim is dubious as well: a report published just last month by the Immigration Policy Center (IPC) points out that while the illegal immigrant population in the United States has more than tripled since 1990, the overall crime rate has dropped drastically. The report states:

“FBI data indicate that the violent crime rate declined 48%—which included falling rates of aggravated assault, robbery, rape, and murder. Likewise, the property crime rate fell 41%, including declining rates of motor vehicle theft, larceny/robbery, and burglary.”

Graphs comparing the rise in undocumented migrants in America to the falling crime rate (Courtesy of

Graphs comparing the rise in undocumented migrants in America to the falling crime rate (Courtesy of the IPC)

Some people say that stats like these are misleading, arguing that immigrant crime rates are low because “well-behaved” migrants from countries like India and China make up for the more “criminally-minded” migrants coming from Latin America.

But that argument has also been debunked. According to an IPC report from 2007,

“For every ethnic group without exception, incarceration rates among young men are lowest for immigrants… This holds true especially for the Mexicans, Salvadorans, and Guatemalans who make up the bulk of the undocumented population.”

Let’s face it: we all get a little nervous when we interact with people who look different, sound different, or who come from a different culture or background than we do.

But when it comes to issues like immigration, we have to make sure that our decisions are driven by facts, not fear, if we truly wish to make changes for the better.

Read more from The Wall Street Journal. You can watch the full interaction between Trump and Ramos below:

BONUS: One of the other most common accusations levied against illegal immigrants is that they hurt the economy by taking advantage of programs like welfare and Social Security without having to pay any taxes into them.

As it turns out, that claim is also false. In an article about the positive impact that illegal immigrants have on the U.S. economy, The New York Times’ Adam Davidson writes,

“Stephen Goss, chief actuary for the Social Security Administration, told me that undocumented workers contribute about $15 billion a year to Social Security through payroll taxes. They only take out $1 billion (very few undocumented workers are eligible to receive benefits). Over the years, undocumented workers have contributed up to $300 billion, or nearly 10 percent, of the $2.7 trillion Social Security Trust Fund.”


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