That’s what the headline to Peggy Fikac’s column should be, but she took the easy way out.
At a forum where statewide candidates strutted their stuff for leading business groups, Sen. Dan Patrick could have focused on pretty much any angle when he talked about immigration.
There is the reality that people working here without documents are woven into the economy. There’s the question of how much responsibility businesses should bear for checking on prospective workers’ immigration status. There is the fact that key business leaders stymied so-called sanctuary city legislation in the 2011 legislative session.
Patrick – locked in a tough GOP primary fight for lieutenant governor in which candidates are positioned – chose to tie it to violent crime.
He pounded the need for border security by citing “hardened criminals we arrested from 2008 to 2012 – not illegals who were here for a job, who got four speeding tickets, but hardened criminals – 141,000 we put in our jails just in four years in Texas.”
“They threaten your family. They threaten your life. They threaten your business. They threaten our state,” he said, adding that they were charged with 447,000 crimes including 2,000 murders and 5,000 rapes.
Violent crime is scary and if you’re a law-abiding person, you’re probably against it, no matter your stand on immigration.
But Patrick’s stark language could seem a counterpoint to concerns that Republicans’ future depends on the party attracting more support from the growing Hispanic population.
Can we put aside the politics of Patrick’s abhorrent assertions and focus for a minute on the fact that he’s lying through his teeth? Let’s start by pointing out that Texas’ total state prison population is about 150,000, with another ten to fifteen thousand state prisoners in county facilities. Are we to believe that over 90% of inmates in state prisons are not just immigrants but undocumented immigrants? Does he have a source for this “statistic”, other than perhaps one of his body cavities?
Patrick’s crime numbers are deeply suspect as well. I don’t know what time frame he has in mind, but for the entire five year period of 2008 through 2012, there were 6223 murders in Texas. According to the Census, foreign-born people made up 16.3% of the population of Texas during that same time period. Are we to believe that 16.3% of the population – at least some of whom are children and elderly folks – committed nearly 65% of the murders in Texas?
There’s no evidence that increased immigration causes an increase in crime. That’s true if you look at historic data, and it’s true if you look only at Mexican immigrants. It is true that second-generation immigrants are more likely to commit crimes than first-generation immigrants, but only at the rate of native-born Americans. Which is to say, they’re about as likely to commit a crime as your average Senator or talk radio host.
By the way, if you go back to that link about the volume of crime in Texas, you might notice that there were half as many murders committed in the state in 2012 as there were in 1979, despite the fact that the overall population of Texas is twice as much now as it was then. The per capita murder rate therefore declined from 16.7 per 100,000 people to 4.4 per 100,000 people. Unless you believe that all native-born Texans must be on the verge of sainthood these days, I don’t see how that is consistent with an immigrant-fueled violent crime wave.
But Dan Patrick doesn’t care about any of that. He’s got an election to win, and if spreading lies helps him win, then that’s what he’ll do. To be fair, he’s hardly alone is spreading this manure around the state, but he’s the most shameless about it. I’ll say again, when Bill Hammond and his business brethren actually oppose this sort of crap, then I’ll believe them when they say they’re pre-immigration reform. In the meantime, even in a story on political tactics, I expect better from Peggy Fikac. None of the links I provided was hard to find. She owed it to her audience to at least reference the truth.