[Note: Since this article was first published, CATO revised its study after receiving corrected numbers. See below for more.]
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.
On Monday morning, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough spent time highlighting a study by the libertarian CATO Institute which reported that illegal immigrants in Texas have in recent years had a lower rate of convictions for homicides than the native population. But 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.
Original: [The study recalls that legal immigrants have a low rate of committing homicides of 0:51 per 100,000, in contrast with the 3.88 rate of the native population. This part should not be shocking since legal immigrants undergo criminal background checks before getting permission to enter the country.]
As the report also recounts that the homicide rate for illegal immigrants is 2.9, it does not make a distinction between those who entered the country legally but have expired visas, versus those who sneaked across the border without ever passing a background check, making this distinction important.
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.]
Revised August 24: [After CATO revised its study, it turns out that the homicide conviction rate is 1 per 100,000 for legal immigrants, 2.6 for illegal immigrants, and 3.1 for native-born residents. By the same logic as above, since it is estimated that around half of illegals originally entered the country legally, if the crime rate for visas overstays turns out to be closer to the 1 level in line with legal immigrants, that means that the portion of illegal imimigrants who sneaked across the border without undergoing background checks might plausibly have a homicide rate as high as 4.2.]
But on Monday's Morning Joe, Scarborough lectured his fellow conservatives as he crowed over the CATO finding: "And undocumented immigrants -- this is going to shock you, friends and family." He added:
Undocumented immigrants commit less crime than we Americans that were born here. You see that? Undocumented immigrants that Donald Trump is holding press conferences about on Friday to try to cover up the fact that he's snatching three-month-old babies who are breast-feeding from their mothers -- undocumented immigrants commit less crime than native-born citizens.
Over the weekend, MSNBC host Joy Reid did not make a distinction between legals and illegals as she misleadingly recalled: "Never mind the fact that evidence suggests that immigration does not increase crime rates. In fact, immigrants are significantly less likely to commit crimes."
But, not mentioned by any of the more liberal journalists or MSNBC-style Republicans, is 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.
Also of note, on the AM Joy show, correspondent Jacob Soboroff again complained about the U.S. deporting MS-13 gang members, suggesting America was to blame for Central America's MS-13 problem driving refugees from those countries.