Trump spreads disinformation about immigrant crime during profoundly bizarre White House event

"These are the American citizens permanently separated from their loved ones."


On Friday, President Trump held an event at the White House intended to stoke fears that undocumented immigrants are violent criminals.

At the beginning of his remarks, Trump alluded to the humanitarian crisis he created with his policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the border, but tried to downplay it in comparison with the purported dangers posed by immigrants.

“We’re gathered today to hear from the American victims of illegal immigration. You know, you hear the other side,” Trump said. “You never hear this side. You don’t know what’s going on. These are the American citizens permanently separated from their loved ones.”

In fact, immigrants are no more likely to commit crimes than any other population. To obscure that reality, Trump avoided mentioning crime rates during his remarks, and instead read off raw number of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.

At one point, Trump claimed that 63,000 Americans have been killed by undocumented immigrants since 9/11.

“Sixty-three thousand. That number that they say is very low because things aren’t reported,” Trump said. “Sixty-three thousand. You don’t hear about that.”

But as The Washington Times details, that figure — which was tossed around during a roundtable discussion Trump had in March to fear-monger about immigrants — is unverified. Statistics from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) indicate that less than half that many undocumented immigrants have been arrested for homicides during that time frame.

Joining Trump on-stage for Friday’s event were parents and relatives of people who were killed by undocumented immigrants. Trump gave them opportunities to speak and describe the crimes in grisly detail. Some of the speakers held up photos of the victims that were autographed by Trump.


At one point, Trump held up an autographed photo of a murder victim and quipped that the man resembled “Tom Selleck, except better looking.”

The Trump administration has repeatedly spread disinformation about immigrant crime, including in a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memo released in February that announced the creation of Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) Office.

The entire VOICE office is based on a false premise. Data indicates undocumented immigrants are no more likely to commit crimes than American citizens, and are actually less likely to be criminals in some cases.

The literature is summarized in a 2015 Cato Institute report entitled, “Immigration and Crime — What the Research Says.” Here are some key findings from studies cited in the report.

— One study found that “roughly 1.6 percent of immigrant males 18–39 are incarcerated, compared to 3.3 percent of the native-born.” The study found the disparity in census data spanning three decades — from 1980 to 2010.

— Another found that the phased rollout of the Secure Communities (S-COMM) immigration enforcement program didn’t reduce crime in affected communities. S-COMM “led to no meaningful reduction in the FBI index crime rate,” researchers found. If undocumented immigrants were more likely to commit criminal acts, you’d expect to see crime rates decrease as undocumented immigrants were removed from communities. That wasn’t the case.

— Another study “looked at 159 cities at three dates between 1980 and 2000 and found that crime rates and levels of immigration are not correlated,” the CATO report says, summarizing the findings.

— Another “looked at a sample of 150 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) and found that levels of recent immigration had a statistically significant negative effect on homicide rates but no effect on property crime rates.” Yet another study found that an influx of immigrants is actually correlated with decreases in homicide and robbery rates.

— A study that looked looked at 103 different MSAs from 1994–2004 found that “the weight of the evidence suggests that immigration is not associated with increased levels of crime. To the extent that a relationship does exist, research often finds a negative effect of immigration on levels of crime, in general, and on homicide in particular.”

In January, Richard Pérez-Peña of the New York Times alluded to some of the aforementioned research, writing, “several studies, over many years, have concluded that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the United States. And experts say the available evidence does not support the idea that undocumented immigrants commit a disproportionate share of crime.” Pérez-Peña’s report is entitled, “Contrary to Trump’s Claims, Immigrants Are Less Likely to Commit Crimes.”