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King's remarks bring bias, misinformation into immigration debate

Representative Steve King of Iowa, who has previously referred to unauthorized immigrants as drug mules with “calves the size of cantaloupes,” has brought a new level of misinformation and immigrant discrimination into our nation’s ongoing debate about comprehensive immigration reform. Sadly, King went so far as to invoke the 9/11 tragedy to spread his anti-immigrant bias.

He also used false statistics in an attempt to show that immigrants pose a murderous threat to other Americans. At a recent rally for the anti-immigrant group the Federation for American Immigration Reform, King misquoted a study by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office to claim that 25,064 unauthorized immigrants were arrested for murder between 2004 and 2008 -- implying they were responsible for eight times more deaths than the 9/11 terrorists.

In fact, the, that GAO study indeed found that 25,064 undocumented immigrants were indeed arrested for homicide -- between 1955 and 2010. That’s 51 years, not four.

That puts the average annual arrests (not convictions) of undocumented migrants at 492 arrests. Contrast that with data from the Bureau of Justice statistics on the annual number of only those homicides involving firearms -- 11,000 in 2011, which is still a huge drop from their 1993 peak  of 18,253.

Even when the immigration-restriction lobbying group the Center for Immigration Studies studied the issue, “we found no strong evidence one way or the other for the notion that immigrants commit either more or less crime than the American population,” according to its director of policy studies.

Shamefully, King apparently clearly knew he was misquoting the statistics, because he’s cited them before. In 2011, he gave a speech on the House floor in which he correctly cited the period studied as beginning in 1955.

As our country considers how to fix our broken immigration laws, we need to rely on truthful information and a serious discussion of the problem, not discrimination against immigrants, misinformation and inflammatory speeches.

Source: Think Progress, “Rep. King Cites Flawed Statistics To Suggest Undocumented Immigrants Kill More People Than Died 9/11,” Esther Yu-Hsi Lee, Sept. 19, 2013

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