Last week, ThinkProgress reported that, during a recent primary debate, Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) falsely claimed that the “majority” of undocumented immigrants who come to the U.S. are “coming here and they’re bringing drugs” and “doing drop houses and they’re extorting people and they’re terrorizing the families.” On Meet the Press today, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) admitted to David Gregory that he does not agree with Brewer’s fallacious comments, but refused to address whether such gross exaggerations “make the debate harder”:
GREGORY: Do you agree with the Governor of Arizona that most people who come across the border are actually drug mules?
MCCAIN: No. I think that there’s a large number. I think that she’s right that drug cartel movement has drastically increased and the violence — 23,000 Mexicans have been killed in the last three years in Mexico!
GREGORY: Do those kind of comments make the debate harder, make it a hotter debate?
MCCAIN: I think the Governor of Arizona has done a good job in this whole debate. I may not agree with one sentence that she uses, but she’s standing up for Arizona. And I think the people of my state deserve a better environment than the one they are getting from the federal government now.
Perhaps the reason McCain refused to say whether Brewer’s inaccurate generalizations contribute to a toxic environment of misinformation is because he too has been misleading the public with his fear-mongering. McCain once described undocumented immigrants as “God’s children” and reminded people that “the overwhelming majority of people who come to this country are honest, god-fearing, hard-working people.” Now, when discussing immigration, McCain prefers to bring up the “murderous, barbaric behavior” of drug cartels and the appalling death toll in Mexico. However, what he and his colleagues don’t tell voters is that, despite violence in Mexico, the U.S. side of the border is safer than it’s been in years.
Recently released FBI crime statistics show that, despite an increase in illegal immigration, crime has been dropping in Arizona for years. Not only is violent crime declining in Arizona, immigrants themselves are actually less likely to commit crimes and more likely to contribute to the safety of communities they live in. A study of more than 50,000 U.S. cities revealed that “the cities that experience the greatest growth in immigration were the same one that were experiencing the greatest declines in violent crime.”
During his interview with Gregory, McCain also insisted that Congress can not pass immigration reform until the border is secure. Just a few years ago, McCain called an “enforcement-first” strategy an “ineffective and ill-advised approach” and insisted that “the only way to truly secure our border and protect our Nation is through the enactment of comprehensive immigration reform.”