The (un)truth about illegal immigrants

Eric Hong, Opinion Edtior

In hopes of creating paranoia against illegal immigrants, some Republicans unfairly label them collectively as criminals, even though many only make the crime of entering illegally.

It’s no secret that it has always been an essence of the Republican Party to be hard-set against illegal immigration and the unauthorized immigrants already living in the U.S. Admittedly, there is merit to this idea—after all, improper entry is a crime. However, since the start of the primary election campaigns, the anti-immigration rhetoric has been taken too far, and a toxic name has been created for the undocumented of this country.

Most notably, it’s the “teachings” of presidential candidate Donald Trump that have further blackened the image of undocumented immigrants. As if being labeled illegal wasn’t bad enough, Trump claims that there are “hundreds of thousands of [illegal immigrants] going to state and federal penitentiaries” and seeks to blow the issue out of proportion with figures that were essentially created out of thin air.

With nothing but fallacious facts and the mention of a single illegal immigrant who is accused of killing a woman in San Francisco four months ago, anti-immigrant politicians seem ready to unfairly label the 11.4 million undocumented people in the country as vicious criminals.

One of the biggest “factual” weapons used against illegal aliens is that for just 3.5 percent of the U.S. population, they have been known to make up disproportionately large percentages of federal sentences. For example, 9.2 percent of federal murder sentences in 2013 were given to criminal aliens, and anti-immigrants are eager to use this information to say the undocumented are that much more likely to kill. However, because the federal court handles much less violent crime than local and state courts, the 9.2 percent translated only to eight murder cases out of the estimated total 14,196 from that year, according to a USA Today column.

To be fair, the statistics game goes back and forth, and no real conclusion can be drawn from the hodgepodge of numbers that are often easily manipulated left and right by liberal and conservative media outlets.

But one truth remains.

In general, this group doesn’t even come close to being a hiding place for criminals, as anti-immigrant advocates say. Although by definition every illegal alien has broken the law, they pay taxes (8 million paid income, Medicare, and Social Security taxes in 2006). They’re here solely to work hard and build better lives. Ultimately, they’re no different from authorized foreigners. But, unfortunately, these otherwise law-abiding people are the ones being targeted, using a small group of criminal aliens as an excuse to give the boot to an innocent majority. Although there are undeniably a number of outliers, getting into trouble is the last thing on any deportable immigrant’s mind.

I am not defending immigrants for improperly entering the U.S., nor praising them for doing so. But, the current political debate on immigration has created an environment in which the undocumented are being demonized completely without warrant. This community has its own problems—suffering the unsubstantiated claims their loudmouth antagonists are spewing out should not be one of them.