Arizona politicians who support the state’s new immigration law have spent the past few months justifying the passage of SB-1070 by pointing to the high levels of crime that undocumented immigrants have brought to their state. However, over the past few weeks, the media has countered their claims of kidnappings and beheadings with reports that the border is “safer than ever” and “one of America’s safest places.” Today, when pressed by guest anchor Harry Smith on CBS’ Face the Nation, SB-1070 supporter Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) called the reports a “gross generalization”:
SMITH: One of the things that’s come to light over the past last couple weeks is that in some of these border towns that were thought to be susceptible to lawbreaking of illegal immigrants. Crime is actually down. Crime in Phoenix for instance is down significantly over the past couple of years.
KYL: Well, that’s a gross generalization. Property crimes are up, certain violent crimes on certain parts of the citizenry are up. Phoenix is a very large source of kidnapping. It’s called the kidnapping capital of the United States…So there’s a great deal of violence and crime associated with illegal immigrants.
Far from being a “gross generalization,” as undocumented immigration has increased, crime in Arizona has dropped in almost every category — including property crime. FBI statistics show that Arizona’s overall crime rate dropped 12 percent last year and 23 percent between 2004 and 2008. More specifically, Media Matters reports that the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that the per capita property crime rate in Arizona was lower in 2006, 2007, and 2008 than any year since 1968.
And while Kyl has repeatedly claimed that Arizona is the “kidnapping capital of the United States,” adding in the past that “it’s second only in the world to Mexico City,” Politifact recently classified the claim as “false.” According to Politifact, though the number of kidnappings that have occurred in Phoenix since 2008 have been specified, no one has said how many kidnappings were reported in other cities. Neither the FBI nor the U.S. National Central Bureau of Interpol could confirm the claim. Most experts immediately dismissed the claim that Arizona is “second only to Mexico.”
In his interview, Kyl also claimed Judge Susan Bolton’s decision to block the most significant provisions of SB-1070 from taking effect this past week was “wrong,” despite the fact that Bolton was nominated to the bench following his recommendation and praise. Kyl admitted that “tweaking” SB-1070 “won’t work to obviate the concerns of judge.” Instead, Kyl recommends Congress should act to “reaffirm” that its intent is that the law should be enforced.