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Sunday, January 20, 2019
MRC Uses Dubious Study To Deny Illegal Immigrants Commit Crime At Lower Rates
Topic: Media Research Center

The Media Research Center's Brad Wilmouth is best known here as the guy who keeps insisting that Republican Rep. Steve Scalise never spoke to a David Duke-led white nationalist group despite the fact that Scalise apologized for doing so, and for claiming that Donald Trump never called for the Central Park Five to receive the death penalty for their alleged involvement in a rape (a claim for which they were later exonerated) despite the fact that Trump effectively did so.

Now, Wilmouth is obsessing over the quesiton of how often illegal immigrants commit crimes -- and attacking anyone who says they do it a lower rate.

Back in June, Wilmouth complained:

Over the past week, as the dominant media have been fixated on President Donald Trump's push to more aggressively prosecute those who cross the border illegally, there have again been questionable claims that illegal immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than the native-born population.

But the studies cited either do not make a distinction between legal and illegal immigrants, or do not look at whether those who sneak across the border illegally have a higher crime rate than those who simply overstay visas. The media also continued to ignore other studies which suggest illegal immigrants do, in fact, exhibit a higher crime rate.

He was particularly incensed at a Cato institute study showing that illegal immigrants had a lower crime rate than native population. He insisted that "the study has a giant gap that may, in fact, lead one to logically conclude that those who sneak into the country illegally have an unusually high crime rate":

Recent reports suggest that about half of all illegal immigrants are visas overstays, so, if this substantial portion of the illegal immigrant population has a homicide rate comparable to those who are still legal, the conflation of both groups of illegals could be masking a substantially higher homicide rate perpetrated by those who sneaked across the border.

If one makes the educated guess that half of Texas illegals originally entered legally on a visa, and that this group's homicide rate is only about 0.51, one can deduce that the homicide rate of the other half of illegals (those who crossed the border illegally) could plausibly be as high as 5.3 -- substantially higher than the 3.88 rate of the native population. The CATO study does not address this logical possibility.

Wilmouth even updated his post two months later after Cato revised its numbers, claiming that his "plausible" homicide rate by illiegal immigrants would now be "as high as 4.2."

Wilmouth then asserted that "there have been a couple of studies that have found the opposite on the subject of illegal immigrants and crime. A Governmant Accountability Office report in 2011 suggested that illegal immigrants made up somewhere around 20-30 percent of the prison population, and a study by John Lott of the Crime Prevention Research Center this year also suggested a higher crime rate by illegals."

But as we pointed out when Wilmouth promoted Lott's study when it came out in February 2018, Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute -- who, it turns out, wrote the above study that Wilmouth attacked -- found significant flaws in Lott's work that raise questions about its findings, which are considered an outlier to actual, peer-reviewed research. Additionally, Lott's research track record, which usually produces right-wing-friendly findings about guns, is questionable at best.

We could find no post by Wilmouth or anyone else at the MRC that told its readers about those questions about Lott and his work, despite his efforts to raise questions about the Cato study that had results that contradicted his right-wing agenda.

Nevertheless, Wilmouth has been clinging to his dubious narrative ever since.

In September, he complained that CNN guests "have repeated the questionable claims that illegal immigrants have a lower rate of committing crimes than native-born U.S. citizens," again attacking the Cato study because "it did not make a distinction between illegal immigrants who sneak across the border and those who overstay visas" and vaguely insisting that "Illegal border crossers probably have a higher crime rate than visas overstays, which is still an argument in favor of more effective border security." He then referenced "studies like that of crime researcher John Lott which found a significantly higher crime rate by illegal immigrants as compared to U.S. citizens."

In November, Wilmouth attacked the Cato study again, adding: "CNN has had a history of repeatedly claiming that illegal immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than U.S. citizens without acknowledging the existence of studies by right-leaning researchers like John Lott and Peter Kirsanow that conclude the opposite." But Kirsanow did not conduct a "study" per se; he write a blog post for National Review cherry-picking statistics on the number of "criminal aliens" in state prisons. Cato's Nowrasteh detailed how thost stats were misleading. (At least Wilmouth admitted that Lott and Kirsanow are "right-leaning," so that's something.)

And Wilmouth did it again on Jan. 9, huffing that "Between Monday evening and Wednesday morning, a significant number of journalists and regular commentators across CNN, MSNBC, and even Fox News have cited claims from a handful of flawed studies claiming that illegal immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than do American citizens." He then added: "One bright spote [sic] this week occurred when FNC host Laura Ingraham cited a study by right-leaning crime analyst John Lott finding that illegals in Arizona are incarcerated at a higher rate." But he didn't mention the fact that Lott's study is flawed too.

Posted by Terry K. at 7:36 PM EST

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