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HOLMES LYBRAND
Fact Check Editor at The Daily Caller News Foundation

 

PolitiFact rated a claim that illegal immigrants commit fewer crimes than U.S. born citizens as “Mostly True,” by merging illegal and legal immigrants into one group.

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa claimed that “undocumented immigrants” commit fewer crimes than native-born citizens during a MSNBC interview Monday. “That’s just a fact,” he said.

Politifact weighed in with a Thursday fact check: “We interpreted Villaraigosa’s statement to mean undocumented people commit crimes at a lower rate than the native born.”

One of the ways PolitiFact leads its audience to accept the “Mostly True” conclusion is by quickly switching from “undocumented immigrants” to simply “immigrants.” The fact check then uses studies regarding the crime rates of legal immigrants to argue that illegal immigrants commit less crime than U.S. citizens, a conflation that bears no strength in reality.

Attempting to establish a connection between legal immigrant’s crime rates and illegal immigrant crime rates is inaccurate and dishonest. A study from the National Academy of Sciences cited by Villaraigosa and analyzed by PolitiFact does not deal with illegal immigrant crime rates, but instead focuses on legal immigrants.

The fact check also cites a study from the American Immigration Council which does not “specify legal status” of the immigrants it analyzes. In an effort to demonstrate the crime rate of illegal immigrants compared to U.S. citizens, it seems pointless to again utilize data that includes said citizens with illegal immigrants.

To further support its rating, PolitiFact uses one of its fact checks from 2016 that also dealt with legal immigrants, a group Villaraigosa is not addressing. It is also worth noting that every illegal immigrant has already committed a crime, a fact for which the article fails to account.

The biggest problem with PolitiFact’s rating that “undocumented immigrants [are] less likely to commit crimes than U.S. citizens” is “Mostly True” lies in the fact that we simply don’t have enough data on the issue — a point PolitiFact admits. “Researchers agree more data is needed to get a better understanding of immigration and crime,” the article notes.

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