MALDEF

Anti-Immigrant Spokesman Demonizes Hispanics in Time Magazine

In the February 27th edition of Time magazine, Steven Camarota, research director for the Center for Immigration Studies, an organization that wants to restrict new immigration to the United States, warns that “even if immigrants are less likely to commit crimes, their children and grandchildren may be more likely to end up on the wrong side of the law. He points out that U.S. Department of Justice statistics show that Hispanics make up 20% of state and Federal prison populations in 2005, a rise of 43% since 1990… ‘That means the children and grandchildren of immigrants are committing a lot of crime, making this a long-term problem.’” 1

Truth:

Although some anti-immigrant spokespeople argue that other nations are “shipping killers”2 to the United States, study after study shows that immigrants in fact commit far fewer crimes than other U.S. residents. The President’s Council of Economic Advisors, for example, reports that immigrants have lower crime rates than U.S. natives and that immigrant men ages 18 to 40 are less likely than other U.S. residents to be incarcerated. The Council found that “[t]he direct evidence on crime rates shows that localities that receive large numbers of immigrants do not experience increases in relative crime rates.”3 Moreover, a Public Policy Institute of California study concluded that among men ages 18-40 – the age group most likely to commit crimes – those born in the U.S. were 10 times more likely than immigrants to be incarcerated. 4

Nevertheless, anti-immigrant organizations often choose to ignore legitimate evidence and instead present false information that purports to link immigrants with criminality. Mr. Camarota, in endorsing immigration restrictions based upon the imagined future activities of immigrants’ children and grandchildren, adopts a revealing approach in his anti-immigrant rhetoric. In doing so, he makes clear that immigration policy is not, in fact, his primary concern or that of his organization; race-based stereotyping and anti-Hispanic hatred are.

Mr. Camarota’s group, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), was founded and is funded in large part by John Tanton and his organization, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). FAIR, a designated hate group,5 has accepted millions of dollars from the Pioneer Fund, which has been described as a "neo-Nazi organization, tied to the Nazi eugenics program in the 1930s.”6 Mr. Camarota’s comments in Time magazine are further proof of the true mission of the Center for Immigration Studies: the demonization of Hispanics. 7

First, Mr. Camarota conflates immigrants and Hispanics.  While 54% of immigrants are from Hispanic sending countries, 46% are not; five million current immigrants are from Europe, ten million are from Asia, and 1.3 million arrive from Africa.8   “Immigrant” and “Hispanic” are, therefore, not the interchangeable terms that Mr. Camarota suggests that they are.

Mr. Camarota also inaccurately attributes the rise in the prison population to the growing Hispanic population in the United States. In 1990, there were 22.4 million Latinos in the United States, or 9% of the total U.S. population. In 2006, Hispanics numbered 44.3 million, or 14.8% of the population. The Hispanic population, therefore, increased by 98 percent from 1990-2006, much faster than the increase in the prison population over this period.

Mr. Camarota, of course, also ignores factors that are not race-based in deciding to attribute the increase in the prison population solely to the increase in the size of the Hispanic population. If Mr. Camarota were truly concerned about crime rates among Latino citizens, he would examine our failing schools, limited economic opportunities, access to justice, and structural racism. Instead, he appears to suggest that Latinos are somehow predisposed to criminality, a false assertion that has no place in a rational debate about immigration policy.

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1. Time magazine, Feb 27, 2008.
2. Glenn Beck. CNN Headline News. September 25, 2006
3. Council of Economic Advisers, Immigration’s Economic Impact, Executive Office of The President (June 20, 2007)
Specifically, this report concludes that from 1994 to 2005, the violent crime rate overall declined 34.2 percent. Immigration Policy Center, The Myth of Immigrant Criminality and The Paradox of Assimilation: Incarceration Rates among Native and Foreign-Born Men, (Spring 2007)
4. Public Policy Institute of California, Crime, Corrections, and California: What Does Immigration Have to Do with It? Kristin F. Butcher and Anne Morrison Piehl, February 2008, 24 pp.Vol. 9, No. 3
5. Southern Poverty Law Center, “Nation's Most Prominent Anti-Immigration Group has History of Hate, Extremism.”
6. The Puppeteer: The organized anti-immigration 'movement,' increasingly in bed with racist hate groups, is dominated by one man, John Tanton. Southern Poverty Law Center, Intelligence Report, Issue 106, Summer 2002
7. Id.
8."Place of Birth for Foreign Born Population." 2006 American Community Survey. US Census Bureau.

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