So here I was again doing some research on the facts and fiction surrounding the immigration debate. I have been listening to the debate on how much crime is committed and public resources are being given to illegal immigrants.
Utah is not considered one of the states with a large problem of illegal immigration so many of the reports focused on Texas, California and Arizona.
One statistic being thrown around is that 30 percent of the prison population is made up of illegal immigrants. The best statistic available was that 10.9 percent in Federal prisons were alien criminals in 2007. That number included both illegal and legal immigrants.
Also it was noted that over half of those incarcerated their only crime was immigration related, meaning they had not committed any other crime.
In California, U.S. born men are 10 times more likely to be incarcerated than foreign born males. The rate of incarceration was 4.2 percent of the population for US born males vs .42 for those born out of country. These statistics were published in a 2008 study by Kristin Butcher and Anne Piehl with research help by Jay Liao.
In Utah there have been similar numbers shown after studies. The actual numbers of illegal immigrants incarcerated are not anywhere close to what some want us to believe.
It certainly does not mean there is not an element of criminality in some who cross our borders illegally. But there also is an over emphasis on Hispanics.
After the study was published I read a letter to the editor in the Salt Lake Tribune which disputed the findings because they read their local arrest reports that are public records and counted the Hispanic sounding surnames.
I just read another letter today that said that the undocumented crop pickers bring their families for us to educate and pay for their babies. If they commit crimes we have to pay their legal fees.
Probably so, but there is more incentive for those that come to really do work to not commit crimes of any sort. Even a traffic violation can trigger deportation. Every encounter they have with an agency puts them and family at risk to be sent packing. If I wanted to stay, I'd be sure to keep my nose clean.
In the Midwest last Friday federal officials arrested over 370 immigrants that were in the country illegally and had committed other crimes or been deported and had returned.
The immigrants were from over 50 countries including Iraq, Kenya, Togo, Syria, Bosnia, Vietnam and (gasp) Canada. According to the story, these were some pretty bad dudes.
My point with this is not that I am against trying to come up with a better plan to secure our borders. I truly just have to close my eyes and remember the planes hitting the world trade center to remember we have a problem.
We do need to stay focused on the actual nature of what we have to do as a country to stay true to our roots while securing our safety. We cannot do this if we overreact to unsubstantiated fear mongering that divides us and muddies the waters.