The facts about Republicans’ hysteria over brown people

Immigrants are much less likely to commit crimes than native-born U.S. citizens. Period.

A screengrab from a political ad tweeted by Donald Trump on October 31, 2018.
A screengrab from a political ad tweeted by Donald Trump on October 31, 2018.

President Donald Trump tweeted a new ad that is almost too racist to believe on Wednesday.

The ad from Trump’s campaign, which accuses Democrats of allowing Mexicans and Central Americans to murder Americans, is the latest escalation in Republicans’ very obvious attempts to stoke fear about brown people and distract from unpopular conservative policies. The president’s party is widely expected to lose control of one chamber of Congress in Tuesday’s midterm elections.

While smearing immigrants is a time-honored tradition for many on the right, the president’s efforts to make a major campaign issue out of a migrant caravan traveling north from Central America (and currently 1,000 miles away from the U.S. border) has been echoed by prominent Republicans, Fox News, and numerous other propagandists in conservative media.

But don’t just take our word for it. Let’s dig into the data to show why Republicans’ recent cherry-picking has no basis in reality.


Luis Bracamontes, who is featured in Trump’s racist ad, was sentenced to death earlier this year for murdering two California police officers in 2014. Though the ad claims “Democrats let him into our country” and “Democrats let him stay,” reports revealed Thursday that Bracamontes actually reentered the U.S. under then-President George W. Bush after being deported back to Mexico in 1997. The Daily Beast also noted that Bracamontes killed the officers with an AR-15, an assault rifle used in many mass shootings that Republicans have refused to ban.

Despite the Trump campaign’s decision to highlight Bracamontes, data shows undocumented immigrants are not more likely to commit crimes than U.S. citizens. In fact, it is often the opposite.

According to a 2015 Cato Institute report that analyzed crime rates in Texas, undocumented immigrants accounted for 5.4 percent of homicide convictions. Native-born Americans were responsible for 93 percent of murder convictions during the same time period, as the Toronto Star’s Daniel Dale explained in a June tweet.

The American Immigration Council (AIC) reached the same conclusions about undocumented immigrants in a 2015 study that used data from the 2010 census.

The 2010 Census data reveals that incarceration rates among the young, less-educated Mexican, Salvadoran, and Guatemalan men who make up the bulk of the unauthorized population are significantly lower than the incarceration rate among native-born young men without a high-school diploma. In 2010, less-educated native-born men age 18-39 had an incarceration rate of 10.7 percent—more than triple the 2.8 percent rate among foreign-born Mexican men, and five times greater than the 1.7 percent rate among foreign-born Salvadoran and Guatemalan men.

AIC also found that “roughly 1.6 percent of immigrant males age 18-39 are incarcerated, compared to 3.3 percent of the native-born.”


In what was apparently a big year for debunking conservative smears of immigrants, another 2015 study from the National Academies of Sciences also determined that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans.

Despite the facts, the Trump administration started an office in 2017 to highlight crimes committed by immigrants that was called “blatantly racist and a dangerous new tool for extremists and white supremacists.” At a June event with relatives of people who were killed by undocumented immigrants, the president falsely claimed that 63,000 Americans had been killed by undocumented immigrants since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Though Republicans have obsessed over the migrant caravan that is making the dangerous journey north to escape violence, natural disasters, and brutal authoritarian crackdowns in their home countries, even members of Trump’s administration have admitted there is no proof to the baseless claims that the caravan is being funded by philanthropist George Soros or contains “unknown Middle Easterners.”

Conspiracy theories about Soros paying the caravan — which Trump absurdly repeated again on Wednesday — reportedly drew the ire of the anti-Semite who is charged with murdering 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue last weekend.

Numerous prominent Republicans, including House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-TX), and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), have amplified smears about Soros and the migrant caravan in recent weeks. The 88-year-old Holocaust survivor was one of the targets of last week’s spate of attempted bombings of almost a dozen prominent Democrats.

Trump has sent thousands of active-duty troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in an attempted justification of his caravan fear-mongering; meanwhile, the number of migrants traveling with the group continues to shrink and it remains legal for the migrants to claim asylum at a port of entry along the border.


Reporters have noted the similarities to the 2014 midterm elections, when Republicans fear-mongered about Ebola and ISIS en route to taking back control of the Senate. Forty-three percent of respondents in an October 2014 poll said they “were worried about the possibility that they or someone in their immediate family might catch Ebola.” A total of four Americans wound up being diagnosed with Ebola.

In addition to contributing to the “melting pot” of American culture, immigrants are also very important to the U.S. economy, as a 2015 ThinkProgress piece explained.

An April 2015 Institute on Taxation and Economy policy study found that undocumented immigrants paid $11.84 billion in state and local taxes in 2012. Immigrants also are 30 percent more likely than non-immigrants to start a business in the country and their businesses create jobs for American workers. And immigrants boost the earnings of American workers by about 0.7 percent, according to a University of California at Davis study.