O’Reilly Finds a New Way to Be Wrong About Immigration and Crime

Fox News host Bill O’Reilly has endorsed the draconian Arizona immigration law on the grounds that immigration has caused the state’s crime to skyrocket–a claim that founders on the fact that crime in the state has actually gone down (FAIR Action Alert, 5/17/10). Of late, he hasn’t talked much about the immigration/crime angle, leading us to wonder whether he had figured out that he was all wet on the subject (FAIR Activism Update, 6/4/10).

But last Thursday (6/17/10), interviewing pro-immigration schoolteacher Jose Lara, O’Reilly returned to the topic with a fresh set of nonsense:

LARA: The fact is, Bill, and you can’t deny this, that in cities that have large amounts of immigrants, crime is actually lower.

O’REILLY: It’s lower because it’s compared to before the recession. And that’s why it’s lower, because there aren’t as many illegals here now–

LARA: No, it’s not.

O’REILLY: –as there were because the economy’s terrible. If you go back 10 years, every city is up big. And the intrusion on Arizona and California, as you know, is enormous in dollars and blood.

Once again, O’Reilly is just making things up. It’s not true that crime in “every city is up big” compared to 10 years ago; looking at the FBI’s violent crime reports for 2000 and 2009 in the 10 largest cities, the figures are down substantially in New York (down 44 percent), Los Angeles (57 percent), Phoenix (28 percent), Philadelphia (21 percent), San Antonio (14 percent), Dallas (45 percent) and San Diego (21 percent). Chicago doesn’t release figures on rapes, so it doesn’t have a comparable violent crime rate, but its murder rate declined 27 percent from 2000 to 2009. Violent crime in Houston rose 0.5 percent over the same time period; Las Vegas had a 52 percent jump, making it the one major city where crime actually was “up big.”

What about Arizona and California–was the “intrusion…enormous in dollars and blood” in those states? Not so much blood, it turns out–violent crime in those states was down 16 percent and 19 percent, respectively, from 2000 to 2008 (the most recent year available).

It’s worth saying again that the entire premise of O’Reilly’s argument is wrong–there is no connection between immigration and crime, so it’s unsurprising that the rise in unauthorized immigration to the United States has coincided with a dramatic fall in violent crime rates.

UPDATE: O’Reilly seems to be desperately seeking some way that he’s somehow right on this stuff. Here he is last night (6/22/10):

Crime has gone down in all the border states. In El Paso, we did a big extensive study, the Factor did, of this. You can’t break out illegal alien crime. You can’t break it out because they don’t keep stats that way. It’s down. And a lot of people think it’s because of the economy that fewer people are coming here to the United States because of jobs are harder to get.

Who thinks that, exactly? The people who did the big extensive study at the Factor? If they had done such a study, they would have noticed that the fall in crime in El Paso is not a short-term phenomenon; violent crime in that heavily immigrantcity is down 34 percent since 2000.

And that is consistent with national trends. As the Immigration Policy Center pointed out in a report, “Immigrants and Crime: Are They Connected?“:

Although the undocumented immigrant population doubled to about 12 million from 1994 to 2005, the violent crime rate in the United States declined by 34.2 percent and the property crime rate fell by 26.4 percent. This decline in crime rates was not just national, it also occurred in border cities and other cities with large immigrant populations–such as San Diego, El Paso, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Miami.

Research assistance: Alyssa Figueroa

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.