Author: CHRISTIAN BARNARD
On 20 August, a 24-year-old undocumented migrant, Cristhian Bahena Rivera, was charged with the abduction and murder of Mollie Tibbetts, a 20-year-old student in Brooklyn, Iowa.
Tibbetts’ death has spurred many conservatives to demand stricter immigration laws. Fox News contributor Tomi Lahren jumped at the opportunity to say that ‘illegal immigration kills Americans’. Despite pleas from the Tibbetts family against using her death for ‘political propaganda’. President Trump waded in to declare that ‘we need the wall’.
Tibbetts’ murder was a terrible tragedy. But it is wrong to use isolated events to push a political narrative that is both harmful and unsubstantiated. A large body of research contradicts the claims being made. Undocumented migrants in the US are 44 per cent less likely than natural-born citizens to be incarcerated. High rates of immigration, both legal and illegal, are, in fact, associated with lower rates of violent crime and property crimes.
There is an intuitive explanation for this: the potential costs of committing a crime are much higher for undocumented migrants than they are for legal residents. The need to avoid deportation can make all migrants more cautious about breaking the law. Given the increasingly risky migration process, most undocumented migrants who make it across the border do not want to take any more chances with law enforcement.