Last night, Fox News’ John Stossel featured Reason TV’s Nick Gillepsie and Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce (R-AZ) — the sponsor of SB-1070. Throughout the segment, Gillepsie repeatedly pointed out that, as illegal immigration has risen in Arizona, crime has gone down. However, Pearce refused to accept the data that Gillepsie was providing, arguing that “what’s coming across the border today is the drug trafficking, the human smugglers, the child molesters, the gang members”:
STOSSEL: Russell, he says crime is down, and that’s my understanding. We have a graph of crime in border states.
PEARCE: Violence isn’t down in those areas where the illegal aliens are involved in crime.
GILLEPSIE: Every study that compares a border city to a similar non-border city finds that the border cities are less violent, they’re less crime-ridden. Places like El Paso.
PEARCE: You can ignore the damage. That’s not true! Twenty percent coming across the border already have a criminal history. Twenty percent! What’s coming across the border today is the drug trafficking, the human smugglers, the child molesters, the gang members. And you ignore all that!
GILLEPSIE: This explains why in a decade where immigration is up overall, we see declines in all the different categories you just talked about.
PEARCE: That’s not true!
It’s unclear how Pearce came to his conclusion that 20 percent of all border-crossers have a criminal record. It certainly doesn’t reflect most data that’s out there. Earlier this year, Reason Magazine reported that “people who come here from other countries are actually more law-abiding than the norm.” This makes sense because “most foreigners who make the sacrifice of leaving home and starting over in a strange land do so not to mug grandmothers or molest children, but to find work that will give them a better life.” In concrete terms, the Immigration Policy Center found that, on the national level, U.S.-born men ages 18-39 are five times more likely to be incarcerated than are their foreign-born peers.
Stossel is right that, for the most part, crime is done in Arizona. However, there is one exception: Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Maricopa County. Over the past few years, Arpaio has dedicated a large part of his career to chasing down undocumented immigrants. He’s been the only sheriff in Arizona who has creatively interpreted the state’s human smuggling law in a way that allows Maricopa County to hunt down and charge undocumented immigrants with a felony for being “co-conspirators” in their own smuggling and imprison them in Arpaio’s jails for 90 days at the taxpayer’s expense. However, while the state as a whole averaged a 12 percent decrease in crime from 2002 to 2009, the crime rate in Maricopa County has increased 58 percent.
In his interview with Stossel, Pearce also called the mayor of Phoenix, Phil Gordon, an “anarchist” and proclaimed that the “facts are a stubborn issue.”