This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Gov. Perry and Undocumented Immigrants: Who's the Criminal?

Governor Rick Perry of Texas--a past and likely future contender for the Republican presidential nomination--has just been indicted for abuse of power, as reported by the New York Times:
A grand jury indicted Gov. Rick Perry on two felony counts on Friday, charging that he abused his power last year when he tried to pressure the district attorney here, a Democrat, to step down by threatening to cut off state financing to her office.
The indictment left Mr. Perry, a Republican, the first Texas governor in nearly 100 years to face criminal charges and presented a major roadblock to his presidential ambitions at the very time that he had been showing signs of making a comeback.
His response is that this is just politics. Maybe it is. He should know about using politics to claim that people are criminals, even if they are not. That is precisely how he has portrayed the latest wave of undocumented immigrants, including large numbers of children, crossing the border from Mexico into Texas. In response to this, Rubén Rumbaut of UC, Irvine and Rogelio Sáenz of UT, San Antonio have prepared an Op-Ed piece that will be published soon in the San Antonia Express-News and they have given me permission to quote from it:
In an interview with CNN anchor Candy Crowley on August 3, Governor Perry claimed that since September 2008, 203,000 people have entered the United States illegally and have been booked in Texas county jails. He noted that these 203,000 persons have been responsible for more than 3,000 homicides and nearly 8,000 sexual assaults. Crowley questioned the accuracy of his numbers. The Governor retorted that he stood by his figures.
We have conducted some calculations based on Governor Perry’s numbers. They yield a homicide rate of 1,478 homicides per 100,000 unauthorized immigrants in Texas alone over that period of time (less than six years)—a level of violence that translates to an annual rate of at least 246 murders per 100,000. By comparison, those numbers would greatly exceed the world’s highest recorded urban homicide rate of 159 per 100,000 in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
The Governor’s numbers are astronomically high. They are literally off the charts. For more accurate data, he should refer to his own Texas Department of Public Safety’s Annual Uniform Crime Reports, which are conveniently available online. A Google search retrieves them in less than a second.
Yet, the Governor’s claim fits nicely with the fearful narrative linking immigrants to crime. The reality, however, does not support this tale. In fact, sociologists and criminologists have found consistently—as have government commissions going back more than a century—that immigrants are less likely to be involved in crime and to have lower levels of incarceration than people born in the United States. In addition, they have also discovered that communities where immigrants are concentrated tend to be safer than those with fewer immigrants, including especially those along the border, such as El Paso.

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