Conservative Xenophobes Schooled on Latinos

immigrant crossing

Anti-immigration Republicans were dealt a hearty smack in the face by American Conservative editor, Ron Unz in the March 01, 2010 issue of the publication.  Conservative bigots have argued for years that crime statistics prove recent Latino immigrants are dangerous.   In His-Panic / Talk TV sensationalists and axe-grinding ideologues have fallen for a myth of immigrant lawlessness, Unz looked at federal crime rate statistics and found that such conservative claims are the result of lazy, prejudiced thinking.

Bumbling dolts, ensconced in thinly veiled white supremacist justifications of know-nothing hate, have made claims that crime stats prove that the incarceration rate for Hispanics is 150% that of Caucasians.  Rather than resorting to flimsy liberal gabble about how this stat does nothing but prove the prejudice of the American legal system, Unz actually analyzes the crime data.

His findings?  When the “data are controlled for things like age (the Hispanic population tends to be younger and more male than the white population) and location (some states incarcerate everyone at higher-than-average rates), the Hispanic incarceration rate is within a few percentage points of the white incarceration rate—and in some states, it’s lower.” (Slate, Feb 18, 2010)

Attacking xenopobic, conservative anti-immigration fear-mongering, Unz asks, “… are these concerns rooted in the same excitable and ideological mindset that produced endless stories of Saddam’s notorious WMD, with activists and their media accomplices passing along rumors and personal beliefs in pursuit of a political agenda rather than bothering to determine the facts? Does America face a Hispanic crime problem or merely a Hispanic crime hoax?”

This is an entirely valid question.  Why do we put up with axe-grinding, numbnut imbeciles like Dick Cheney and his relentless campaign to justify his disastrously irresponsible, nightmarishly isolationist and utterly fear-based foreign policy?  An embarrassingly pronounced flank of conservatives love nothing more than inciting fear in their followers. When you take this kind of fear and turn it against immigrants (as Glenn Beck and his various incarnations do), the results spell an indisputable megaflop for basic human relations and intercultural respect.

Then there’s the flipside of all this.  Let’s not forget Ron Unz himself is a conservative. Obviously, it is equally lazy to label all conservatives as fanatical, enthnocentric dum-dums.  “Conservatives aren’t anti-immigrant, they’re anti-criminal, much like liberals are anti-tax filing.  Loving your country enough to request that anyone who wishes to be a member abide by their immigration laws, is not anti-immigrant, and making such an assessment by accusing the entire conservative philosophy as being racist is… well … anti-intellectual,” says Rusty Weiss in News Busters.

Fair enough.  But if the conservative gripe is with crime rates, then perhaps it would behoove Republicans prone to blanket pronouncements to actually study the data instead of quivering over the dangerous world beyond their white picket fences.


Bjorn Karlman

14 thoughts on “Conservative Xenophobes Schooled on Latinos”

  1. Statistics–facts–are always construed to fit the narrative. Though this goes for both sides, is it just me or is it becoming harder and harder to find anything “fair” or “balanced” coming out of the Right?

    I’ve worked with illegal immigrants and can say that, as a general rule, most are actually trying to stay as far beneath the radar as possible. Crime does not pay for them, for they are already breaking the highest of laws. And, paradoxically, while breaking the law, many become overwhelmingly conscious of the law. Criminality does occur, however, but when it does, it certainly does not, in any way, reflect the character of the entire immigrant community–legal or illegal.

    The narrative conservatives are trying to pitch on this one reminds me of the anti-Italian (those greasy Whop mafiosi) immigrant campaigns that took place around the turn of the century, perpetrated by the descendants of the formerly despised Irish immigrants. Oh, irony.

    The anti-immigrant platform is SO last century…

  2. Thanks Ehren, you are right to put this in historical context. By the time the anti-immigration crowd is done attacking Mexican immigration we’ll be on to Central Americans or whatever the next noticeable wave might be…

  3. Bjorn,

    Thanks for the post. You’ve reported an analysis that I’d missed.

    Now here’s a question with potential for uncomfortable fall-out: is there an analogy between crime rates and academic achievement? I’ve understood that academically, America is the great leveler–the grandchildren of hard-studying Asian immigrants are often adopt the same relaxed attitude toward their courses as mainstream Americans. Might Hispanic crime actually be concentrated in second- and third-generation individuals?

  4. If this is who I think it is, then you can take a lot of the blame for this blog:) CultureMutt is an attempt at extending the conversations started at AU in Materialism/Idealism and Faith, Fiction & Philosophy…

    Now for a stab at answering your question. Brunner’s book “Retarding America – the Imprisonment of Potential” argues (somewhat predictably and in line with conventional thinking) that there does exist an analogy/correlation between crime rates and academic achievement. Not surprisingly, there are those such as Penn State Professor of Criminology/Sociology, Richard Felson who argue that “the feedback that adolescents receive in the form of grades does not affect their delinquent behavior, that academic performance and delinquency have instead a spurious relationship…evidence suggests that this relationship is attributable primarily to the effects of individual differences in self-control, not to those of social bonds.”

    My gut is that, despite Felson’s findings, and acknowledging that crime rates are also linked to poverty, social dysfunction, etc, low academic results are at least partly to blame for the perceived lack of viable, profitable options that, in turn, leads to crime.

    And yes, America is the great leveler. However, here’s an interesting argument from Unz himself that directly counters the idea that Hispanic crime is concentrated or will be concentrated in second and third-generation Hispanic Americans. Below is the direct quote:

    “We must bear in mind that most Hispanics are still of very recent immigrant origins and thus are considerably poorer than the average American. There actually does exist a connection between poverty and crime, even if liberals make such a claim, and since today’s Hispanic population has roughly the same crime rate as far more affluent whites, there is every reason to expect that this crime rate will drop further as Hispanics continue to move up the economic ladder. As the American Enterprise Institute’s Douglas Besharov pointed out in an important but insufficiently noticed October 2007 New York Times column, the last decade or two have seen an extremely rapid economic advance for most of America’s Hispanic population. 10 This rise may be connected with the simultaneous and unexpectedly rapid drop in urban crime rates throughout the country.”

    Interesting thoughts for a discussion that can/will be spun in endless directions! Thanks for checking out CultureMutt…

  5. Thanks for the links. I was especially impressed by the amount of detail in the Roberts/Burton “Chronicles Magazine” article. As with any question, this immigration/crime topic will hopefully encourage quality/scholarship on both sides. The stats can be sliced to support a smorgasbord of political opinions. You have doubtless come across this already, but here is Unz’s reply to Roberts/Burton:

    What I am most opposed to, as this process unfolds, is the kind of blind discrimination that I have seen in many a conservative circle. Anti-immigration enthusiasts such as Congressman Tom Tancredo make hugely inflammatory statements (quoted by Unz) such as: “The face of illegal immigration on our borders is one of murder, one of drug smuggling, one of vandalism for all the communities along the border, and one of infiltration of people coming into this country for purposes to do us great harm.” These kinds of comments, made by supposed leaders, incite blind hatred and fear in large groups of people and do nothing to help attempts at cross-cultural relations/communication that could actually address some of the core problems.

  6. This is not a necessarily a direct response to what you posted, just a general rant about illegal immigration. Some of it does apply to what you said, but not all of it. Just an FYI that I am not trying to put words in your mouth.

    The gripe with illegal immigration is very complex and transcends ideology. I live in Phoenix, the front line of illegal immigration. To say there is anything but a net loss (financially) on our city because of it is devoid of reality and facts. If illegal immigration was as great as some people pretend it is, we would be the richest city in the country.

    The fact is that poor people give less in taxes than they receive in benefits. It’s as simple as that. Argument over. Nothing else matters to me. Not to mention, and no offense to all the friends I have had who are/were illegal at one point, but I don’t want a bunch of people who can barely speak English with no real education in American history to be able to set policy in any way shape or form in the US.

    Ideally, I would say screen them all and let the serious people come here and work. They can pay taxes like everyone else, but should receive no benefits. And no citizenship.

    However, until we get to that point, I take a zero tolerance on illegals. Deport them all. They broke the law and don’t deserve or have a right to be here. They need to get in line like everyone else. And being against the illegal immigrant chaos does not make one a racist. I think being in favor of what is defacto unlimited and unregulated immigration for Hispanics, but against unrestricted illegal immigration from other countries is racist.

  7. I consider that comment by Tom Tancredo to be true. There is more evidence that what he said is true than, for instance, than for your belief that America is a racist country.

    Now I think there is a distinction to be made. Most illegals obviously don’t murder or deal drugs, but all that stuff is very real and exists as part of the whole illegal immigration culture that exists today.

  8. And one more thing, let’s say everything else was exactly the same regarding illegal immigration, but they were heavily Republican instead of Democrat. I think the discussion would be very very different from both sides. And yes, I know illegals don’t really vote, but they eventually can assuming they become citizens and I also know of some non-citizens who have been explicitly told by Democratic operatives that they were allowed to vote. Just a thought.

  9. Thanks for the FYI… You’ve heard all the arguments in support of undocumented (sure you hate the term) immigrants. I think I understand your frustration. Be practical though. What you are describing sounds like the Platonic form of border watching for ultraconservatives… hardly a plausible approach to a real problem.

  10. shady Democratic operatives are never fun around election time… they are an embarrassment to the party… But the issue here is not really which way a naturalized citizen would vote… it is about the erroneous idea that immigration = crime.

  11. The way they vote is everything.

    Illegal immigration is a crime. No one I know of ever said legal immigration is a crime.

    I think our current immigration laws are reasonable, and I think that anyone who (for really no good reason) wants people from Hispanic countries to have a blank check to break our laws is completely unreasonable. I can’t state enough that I really do not believe there are any good reasons to let in millions of illegals. I honestly think the crux of the issue comes to Democrats wanting more votes.

    The best way to get the illegals out is to seriously fine the businesses that hire them. I think it is reasonable and there would be no need for a police state to enforce the laws.

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