During a hearing last week, House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) stated that undocumented immigrants released by the Obama administration are responsible for killing Americans “every day,” a flawed statistic that anti-immigrant officials have seized on to spread fear about the president’s immigration policies.
SESSIONS: Every day, all along border states, maybe other places, there are murders by people who have been arrested coming into this country, who have been released by the Obama administration, I believe in violation of the law, who are murdering Americans all over our cities.
We hold the Democrat Party and the President accountable for this action.
The Washington Post’s Fact Checker ranked Sessions’ statistics with four Pinocchios, the highest rating given for inaccurate statements. They found no evidence that undocumented immigrants who benefited from the president’s immigration policies were responsible for the deaths of Americans on a daily basis.
A spokesman for Sessions elaborated to the Washington Post, “Thousands of illegal immigrants have been convicted of crimes, and President Obama has allowed them to stay in the United States of America, and the president’s unwise, unlawful and unconstitutional executive actions on immigration will only cause an increase in risk to our public safety.”
The spokesman also provided a pie chart produced by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) for the Washington Post, which reportedly showed that immigrants were responsible for more than 3,000 homicides in 2014. The chart, which no longer exists on the Texas DPS website, didn’t break down the legal status of immigrants. The Texas DPS now has a chart showing that there were 795 homicide arrests and 336 convictions by immigrants between June 1, 2011 and December 31, 2014. That chart also does not go into the legal status of immigrants.
The Washington Post added, “Remember that Sessions was talking about murders committed by people released by the administration, which is a much smaller universe. Indeed, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in January released a report tracking crimes committed by 36,000 illegal immigrants who had criminal records and were released in 2013.” But while those criminals had charges like assault and rape, “murder or homicide was not even on the list.”
According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, more than 25,000 foreign nationals were arrested for homicides over a 51-year period between August 1955 to April 2010, but not all of them were undocumented immigrants, nor ultimately convicted. Among the general population, there were 11,200 arrests for homicides in 2010 alone, the Department of Justice reported.
Most of the undocumented immigrant population in the United States are not a violent threat, with one study finding that “among men age 18–39 (who comprise the vast majority of the prison population), the 3.5 percent incarceration rate of the native-born in 2000 was 5 times higher than the 0.7 percent incarceration rate of the foreign-born.” Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the immigration-restrictionist organization Center for Immigration Studies previously said, “we found no strong evidence one way or the other for the notion that immigrants commit either more or less crime than the American population.” What’s more, a 2013 Criminology and Delinquency study found that first-generation immigrants commit crime at a lower rate than second-generation immigrants and native-born, non-Hispanic whites.
In spite of the facts, other lawmakers have jumped aboard the homicide train. Last summer, both former Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) and Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) made the same claims from the Texas DPS pie chart. And Rep. Steve King (R-IA) devotes a section on his official government page to stories about Americans killed by undocumented immigrants. He’s also given several speeches on the topic, once claiming that more Americans have been killed by undocumented immigrants in a four-year period than the number of people who perished during the September 2001 terrorist attacks.
Though Sessions condemns the president’s immigration executive actions, those policies would likely help to ensure accountability in the immigration system since upwards of five million undocumented immigrants would have to register with the government to receive temporary deportation relief and work authorization.