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"We have some bad hombres here and we're going to get them out."
In 2016, before he was elected, Donald Trump pledged to get rid of "bad hombres" who have entered the country illegally, but are immigrants and crime actually connected? A supposed connection might be the basis of Trump presidency’s party line.
In recent weeks particularly, the Trump administration has repeatedly alluded to a correlation between immigration — particularly from border countries like Mexico — and high crime rates, even going as far as suing the state of California, which has one of the largest immigrant populations in the country, over their immigration policies.
"We are going to fight these irrational, unfair, and unconstitutional policies that have been imposed on you and our federal officers," said Attorney General Jeff Sessions in Sacramento earlier this month, where he announced his intent to fight "sanctuary state" laws. Trump also landed in California this week — his first time ever doing so since becoming president — and visited prototypes of his proposed border wall.
President Trump also echoed Sessions' statements on sanctuary laws on Twitter and, just last month, claimed that California would devolve into a "crime nest like you've never seen" if federal involvement in immigration decreased.
"If we ever pulled our ICE out and we ever said, 'Hey, let California learn and let them figure it out for themselves,' in two months, they'd be begging for us to come back. They would be begging," he said. "And you know what? I'm thinking about doing it."
Criticism of ICE has even come from inside the organization itself — earlier this week, spokesman James Schwab resigned after criticizing the agency for spreading misinformation about immigration, which included referring to undetained immigrants as "criminal aliens and public safety threats."
Would limiting immigration actually reduce crime in America, as the Trump administration has repeatedly suggested? The short answer is no, according to multiple studies, the San Diego Tribune found.
A 2007 research study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that immigrants actually have lower incarceration rates than native-born residents of the U.S.; specifically, they're incarcerated at one-fifth the rate of natives, and incarceration rates of more recently arrived immigrants are even lower than that.
Evidence presented in the study also suggested that the low incarceration rates might have little to do with deportation, and more to do with the immigration process itself, which selects individuals who are less likely to commit crime.
A 2015 report by the American Immigration Council found the same, the Tribune reports, and concluded that the disparity in incarceration rates among immigrants and U.S. natives has existed for decades.
As for the state of California specifically? Contrary to Trump's theory that the area would become a hotbed of crime were it not for ICE and Border Patrol agents, crime in the golden state has reached historic lows, the Public Policy Institute of California found last year.
This might be one area in which presidential concern may be misplaced.
[Photo: Getty Images, Graph:Public Policy Institute Of California]