Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Goodness of Illegal Immigrants

The next time you hear some anti-illegal immigrant blowhard make reference to a story in which an undocumented immigrant commits a crime that results in the injury or death of an American citizen, point them to this story, in which an undocumented immigrant saves a life.

If we're going to count up the good and bad deeds of folks to determine their worthiness to be in this country, I can promise you that among the millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States, there are millions more acts of kindness, and probably thousands of such acts of kindness that actually directly save lives, than the miniscule number of cases where an undocumented immigrant harms or kills another person.

Among all the possible reasons for being an immigration hardliner, pointing to crimes committed by undocumented migrants is not a legitimate one. It's really nothing more than a red herring. Remember that.


Eric said...

Of course many, if not most, illegal immigrants have good intentions and do good things in this nation. I don't think you'll hear many people arguing against that. But that fact is, as a group, they commit crimes (other than illegally violating our border) at higher rates than the rest of the population, and they are alarmingly overrepresented when it comes to the crimes of drug smuggling, identity theft, and drunk driving.

But even if those facts weren't true... even if illegal immigrants were *better* behaved than the rest of the American population, that would still not constitute a good argument for maintaining our current immigration policies. For the same reason you probably (and quite logically) wouldn't be OK with a stranger breaking into your home in order to clean it for you without your express permission, we should not encourage, ignore, or tolerate people who knowingly and willfully violate our immigration laws, regardless of their character or theier intentions.

Huck said...

Eric - I'm not saying pointing out the good deeds of undocumented immigrants is an argument for a more liberal immigration policy. All I'm saying is that pointing out the bad deeds of undocumented immigrants (or the good deeds, for that matter) are red herring arguments. For every bad deed someone points out as a rationale for a hardline stance, I could point out many more good deeds that could be used as a rationale for a more liberal position. I think we would be better served in the debate over immigration policy without introducing such irrelevant polemics.

Eric said...

I agree that singling out specific incidents doesn't really lend any credibility to the argument (for either side), and furthermore I wish the media would report on positive stories much more often, regardless of the citizenship status of the people involved.

However, while I must admit that conservatives are often horribly inept at discussing it in a tactful manner, I do think it is a valid point to bring up the increased crime rates that accompany a large population of illegal immigrants, and this is especially true in places like Arizona where such populations make it a very real and pronounced issue at the local level. As somebody who would eventually like to see more LEGAL immigration in our nation, I think it is harmful to that cause to dismiss those concerns as red herrings.

Huck said...

Eric - I'd like to see the source of your statistics that indicates undocumented immigrants commit more crimes in much higher percentages than other populations. Because the evidence I've seen indicates just the opposite. Here's one example:

Eric said...

I'm not sure I follow the logic of the link. It uses as evidence the fact that violent crime rate in Arizona decreased from 2000-2008, but violent crime decreased throughout the entire US during that timeframe, part of a decrease that has been going on nationwide since the early 90's. Their statistics say nothing significant about the representation of illegal immigrants in the violent crimes that do take place. Also, the specific issues I brought up (drunk driving, identity theft, and drug smuggling) would not be represented in this data, as they are not violent crimes.

I am confident in my assertion regarding crime rates related to drug smuggling, identity theft, and drunk driving, and I would have thought those statistics were well established enough so as not to be controversial. I'd be happy to round up some links for you, but I'm only going to expend time doing it if you agree in advance that if the facts do support a higher rate of occurence in these crimes among illegal immigrants (as opposed to US citizens) then conservatives are justified in using those statisctics in the national debate on illegal immigrants.

Huck said...

Eric - Conservatives are justified in using whatever statistics they want in the immigration debate if the social science behind the statistics is solid. My objection always has been to the singling out of individual criminal behavior as a general argument for opposing any kind of liberal immigration policy or reform. I am pretty well versed in Latin American and Latino affairs, and I have never seen any arguments about undocumented immigrant populations being disproportionately involved in drug-trafficking, drunk driving, and identity theft crimes relative to other groups in our society. I don't think there is anything well-established about this line of argument at all, much less so as to make it uncontroversial.

As to the article I linked to, if one does the math, I think it makes logical sense to think that even if crime rates all over the US declined, the fact that the undocumented immigrant population increased substantially over that same time period would certainly question the notion that undocumented immigrants are linked positively to higher crime rates.

I happen to think that crime rates have more to do with poverty and joblessness than with immigration status.

Huck said...

Also, Eric, from the same source, here's another link that addresses more specifically the rate of immigrant crime levels via incarceration statistics versus the native-born: Incarceration rates are not perfect indicators and don't address misdemeanor infractions, but they are concrete ones and provide some baseline for comparison.