Fact-checking the Donald

Donald Trump is still being raked over the coals for his recent racist comments (interestingly enough, the media has been very slow-like a tortoise-to refer to those comments as racist). Had the man’s ego been the size of most humans, perhaps he would have chosen not to make a name for himself as “the candidate with racist opinions of Mexicans“. After all, the United States has a sizable population of Mexican immigrants-both documented and undocumented (the latter being the preferred term over “illegal“)-so a savvy politician would have kept their racist opinions to themselves (and a decent politician would not have held such racist opinions to begin with). But the Donald? This man is not known for his political savvy (nor is he known for being a decent man). Of course, does he need to be savvy when he was merely telling the truth?

“If you go to Fusion, you will see a story: About 80% of the women coming in, you know who owns Fusion? Univision! Go to Fusion and pick up the stories on rape. It’s unbelievable when you look at what’s going on. So all I’m doing is telling the truth,”

[…]

“Well, somebody’s doing the raping, Don! I mean somebody’s doing it! Who’s doing the raping? Who’s doing the raping?” he asked.

Apparently Donald Trump is unaware of a great resource for those seeking the truth (or the closest approximation of it). It’s called…the Internet. With the Internet, if one is so inclined, one can research the Donald’s claims (which is a better idea than taking them at face value). Such a search would turn up the truth and illuminate one of the bigoted blowhards many problems:

Before they can reach the American Dream, many migrant women have to survive a Mexican nightmare. A staggering 80 percent of Central American girls and women crossing Mexico en route to the United States are raped along the way, according to directors of migrant shelters interviewed by Fusion.

That’s up from previous reports by non-profit organizations like Amnesty International that estimate the number at 60 percent.

“Women and girl migrants, especially those without legal status traveling in remote areas or on trains, are at heightened risk of sexual violence at the hands of criminal gangs, people traffickers, other migrants or corrupt officials,” the 2010 Amnesty International report stated. “…Many criminal gangs appear to use sexual violence as part of the “price” demanded of migrants. According to some experts, the prevalence of rape is such that people smugglers may require women to have a contraceptive injection prior to the journey as a precaution…”

“Who’s doing the raping?”

Were Trump’s reading comprehension skills more developed, he would have found the answer to his question at the very beginning of the Fusion article he based his claims upon. Additionally, anyone who reads the article will note there was no mention of immigrants bringing drugs or crime to the U.S. so it is unclear where Trump is getting his other “facts” from. The burden of proof is upon him to provide evidence for his claims, and in this, he has failed. It is reasonable to conclude he is a fool, a fuckwit, or a foolish fuckwit (guess which one I’d pick).

The foolish fuckwit appeared on CNN shortly after he made his racist, evidence-less assertions. Rather than apologize for them, he doubled down, defending his words to host Don Lemon (ugh, I can’t stand this man):

“If you look at the statistics, of people coming … I didn’t say about Mexico, I say the illegal immigrants —if you look at the statistics on rape, on crime, on everything, coming in illegally to the country, they’re mind-boggling,” he told Lemon.

In the interest of seeing if his claims had any basis in fact, I thought to fact-check them. What are the statistics on the crime rate among Mexican immigrants? What about drug trafficking among immigrants?

Regarding the first, the above article by the Washington Post provides multiple citations debunking the myth that immigrants bring crime with them:

 —”Foreign-born individuals exhibit remarkably low levels of involvement in crime across their life course.” (Bianca Bersani, University of Massachusetts, 2014. Published in Justice Quarterly.)

Citing Bersani’s work, Pew Research created this graph, showing crime rates among the immigrant community.

“The crime rate among first-generation immigrants — those who came to this country from somewhere else — is significantly lower than the overall crime rate and that of the second generation,” they write.

Since undocumented immigrants are more than a quarter of the immigrant population, it’s nearly impossible that the overall-immigrant crime rate could be so much lower if the undocumented-immigrant crime rate were significantly higher.

Regarding the claim “they’re [Mexican immigrants] bringing drugs“, let’s turn to PolitiFact. In a 2010 television interview, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said “The majority of the people that are coming to Arizona and trespassing are now becoming drug mules.” Following up on this claim, PolitiFact had this to say:

“If caught along the southwest border, the vast majority of migrants are prosecuted in federal district court, often 70 at a time, for misdemeanor illegal entry,” Kohli said. “If they are caught smuggling drugs, they would not be prosecuted” in this way.

Federal statistics bear this out. We looked at the latest available statistics, covering March 2010, for prosecutions stemming from immigrations and customs activities by the Department of Homeland Security. They show that “immigration” charges accounted for almost 89 percent of cases, while drug and drug-trafficking charges accounted for just over 5 percent.

“These apprehensions do not catch everyone, obviously, but as the Border Patrol is particularly interested in interdicting contraband, I don’t know of any strong reason to believe that the Border Patrol’s arrests would have a disproportionately low share of smugglers,” said Gabriel “Jack” Chin, a professor of law, public administration and policy at the University of Arizona.

The statistics also track with accounts of law enforcement sources.

“Based on conversations with front-line Border Patrol agents, it is clear that the majority of people encountered by the Border Patrol are not carrying drugs,” said T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council. “While it is true that the majority of human smuggling is controlled or at least regulated by the cartels, it does not logically follow that the majority of people who are smuggled by the cartels are therefore transporting drugs. The penalties for transporting drugs are far greater than the penalties for entering the country illegally, so people do not engage in that type of criminal behavior unless they are so inclined, are extremely desperate or are coerced by the cartels. The two latter categories are the exceptions rather than the rule.”

Given that the above information is half a decade old, it’s possible things have changed in the last several years. Maybe prosecutions for immigrant drug traffickers have risen to such high levels that Trump’s fears are warranted. For that, I turned to Syracuse University’s data gathering, research, and distribution organization, TRAC (transactional records access clearinghouse). TRAC records for fiscal year 2012 show that Immigration and Customs in Homeland Security brought 91,941 cases before the Justice Department for prosecution. Of those cases, 85,132 were for illegal entry or re-entry. That means at most, only 6,809 cases were for drugs or drug trafficking. Similarly, in fiscal year 2013, there were 97,384 cases brought before the Justice Department. Roughly 93% of those were for illegal entry/re-entry. At most, that means there were 6,329 drug or drug trafficking prosecutions. It should be noted that Justice Department prosecutions fall into three categories-immigration, drugs/drug trafficking, and other. Thus, the remainder of cases in 2012 (6,809) and 2013 (6,329) are not all for drugs/drug trafficking, which means those numbers are most likely quite a bit lower. Sure does look like the majority of Mexican-American immigrants are not smuggling drugs.

All of this information was easy to find and access. I didn’t have to search far and wide. I did have to do a little bit of math for some of the TRAC figures though. A little addition here, some division there. Heck, I even had to work with percentages. It was rough. Trump doesn’t even have that excuse. He wouldn’t have to rub his two brain cells together. All he’d have to do is phone a friend. I’m sure he knows someone who can get these facts and figures for him. But he’s not interested in ensuring he has evidence to back his claims. And because of that, he has justifiably pissed off an entire ethnic group. The pushback against him includes several companies ending their affiliation with him as well as comments like the following, from actress and activist America Ferrera:

Dear Donald,

You’ve said some pretty offensive things about Latino immigrants recently, and I think they’re worth addressing. Because, you know, this is the United States of America, where I have a right to speak up even if I’m not a billionaire. Isn’t that awesome?

Anyway, I heard what you said about the kind of people you think Latino immigrants are — people with problems, who bring drugs, crime and rape to America. While your comments are incredibly ignorant and racist, I don’t want to spend my time chastising you. I’ll leave that to your business partners like Univision and NBC, who have the power to scold you where it hurts. Instead, I’m writing to say thank you!

You see, what you just did with your straight talk was send more Latino voters to the polls than several registration rallies combined! Thank you for that. Here we are pounding the pavement to get American Latinos to the polls, while your tactic proves most effective. Remarks like yours will serve brilliantly to energize Latino voters and increase turnout on election day against you and any other candidate who runs on a platform of hateful rhetoric.

Do you know why that’s such a big deal, Donald? Because Latinos are the largest, youngest and fastest-growing constituency in the United States of America. That’s right! You are running for President in a country where the Latino population grew by over 49 percent from 2000-2012, while the rest of the country grew by 5.8 percent. What’s more, we are the future. The median age of the average Latino is 27 years old, compared to 42 years old for white Americans. In case you need a translation, that means there are a whole lot of Americans who are Latino and have the right to vote. And, we’re not going anywhere.

This is the America we are actually living in. I hope by now you understand that without the Latino vote, there is no chance of you ever winning this election. If you don’t believe me, you could ask President Bush or you could even ask President Obama.

You, Mr. Trump, are living in an outdated fantasy of a bigoted America. Last week, America celebrated some amazing milestones — marriage equality, universal healthcare, removing of the confederate flag — making it clear in which direction the country is moving. That is why racist remarks that play to extremists won’t change the tide, no matter how hard you try. They will only serve to rally more Latino voters to the polls. Your negativity and your poorly thought out speech ignited a fire in our community. Thank you, Mr. Trump!

Thank you for reminding us that there remains an antiquated and endangered species of bigots in this country that we must continue to combat. Thank you for reminding us to not sit complacently at home on election day, but to run to the polls and proclaim that there is no place for your brand of racial politicking in our government. Thank you for sending out the rallying cry.

You have made your thoughts on the Latino community clear and you continue to stand by them. And in return, we will do more than tweet about our indignation and beat piñatas of your likeness. We will silence you at the polls. We will vote and use our growing position in U.S. politics. Our fellow Americans who understand and value our contributions will join us. We know there is nothing that scares you more.

The truth is, Mr. Trump, that your comments mean that you fail to see that immigrants are what have made this nation. They are at the core of our ideals, and they are the foundation that keeps us afloat. No, Mr. Trump, you may not reduce us to drug dealers and rapists. We are moms and dads, sons and daughters. We are valedictorians and honor students. We are college graduates, bankers, police officers, entertainers, teachers, journalists, politicians and we are the future of America.

Thank you for helping us in our work to energize the Latino vote and to usher in our shared future! Keep it up!

Sincerely,

America

I think Ferrera may be correct. The alienation felt by many in the Latinx-American* community may well lead to an energized voting base anxious to ensure such a bigot is not elected. I also think they’re going to have some serious issues with the Republican Party. For all that the GOP recognizes the need to reach out to the Latinx community, they haven’t been quick to repudiate the Donald’s racist comments as we’ll see in my next post.

*Wondering why I used that term latinx, rather than latina or latino? Read this.

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Fact-checking the Donald
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