In the aftermath of the Des Moines Register running an op-ed by Rob Tibbetts calling for politicians to cease referring to his daughter, Mollie Tibbetts, in the immigration debate, two CNN personalities have repeated the questionable claims that illegal immigrants have a lower rate of committing crimes than native-born U.S. citizens.
Additionally, the networks conflated opposition to illegal immigration with being "anti-immigrant" or "racist" toward Hispanics generally.
On Erin Burnett Outfront, during a debate between conservative CNN contributor Ben Ferguson and former Barack Obama White House communications director Jen Psaki, fill-in host Kate Bolduan at one point injected: "One fact -- data point it is important to point out is that, by and large, illegal immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than American citizens commit crimes. The facts -- the data bears that out."
And on Anderson Cooper 360, during a similar debate, left-leaning CNN political analyst Kirsten Powers cited a CATO Institute study from earlier this year:
The statistics are very clear -- which is that undocumented immigrants and legal immigrants commit crimes at much lower rates than the average American. That's from the CATO Institute, which is a conservative libertarian think tank. There's another study in criminology that found a similar outcome.
She added: "So this isn't really up for debate. This is an old story. We've seen it a million times -- demonizing people that are different and saying -- whether it's Italians or Jews, Irish. Now, it's people from Central America and Mexico."
But, as previously documented by NewsBusters, one likely flaw in the CATO Institute study is that it did not make a distinction between illegal immigrants who sneak across the border and those who overstay visas. Those who cross without permission are able to avoid the criminal background check process, while those who enter legally have background checks conducted in their home countries before they leave, so it is not surprising that legal immigrants and visa overstays would have a relatively low crime rate.
Illegal border crossers probably have a higher crime rate than visas overstays, which is still an argument in favor of more effective border security.
Additionally, on FNC's Tucker Carlson Tonight, former George W. Bush administration official Peter Kirsanow recently argued that the CATO study focused on a geographic area where illegal immigrant crime is relatively lower than other places as he argued that crime rates for illegals are substantially higher.
And there are other studies like that of crime researcher John Lott which found a significantly higher crime rate by illegal immigrants as compared to U.S. citizens.
And in 2017, the Justice Department released a report finding that about 20 percent federal prison inmates are illegal immigrants.
Most other studies sometimes cited by liberals do not make a distinction between legal and illegal immigrants in calculating crime rates. Over the weekend, the CBS Weekend News even cited crime statistics for immigrants generally as being low as if it were an argument against illegal immigrants having a higher rate.
CBS correspondent Tony Dokoupil misleadingly recalled: "National crime data shows that immigrants actually commit fewer crimes, not more, than those born in the U.S."