Donald Trump sparked controversy recently with remarks that linked undocumented immigrants to a rise in violent crime in the United States.
“They’re bringing drugs,” the real estate big-wig told a crowd last month. “They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”
The claims left pro-immigrant groups outraged, jumping to defend immigrant communities across the country.
“There are great businesses. There are hardworking people,” said Angela Franco of the Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “Making such a generalized comment, really, I don’t think it’s respectful.”
And research shows that Trump’s comments just aren’t true.
NBC Bay Area looked at over a dozen studies and nearly 30 years in U.S. Census Report data. The results?
A number of studies show that a rise in immigration rates actually corresponds to a decrease in violent crime, while the majority of academic research on this topic finds no correlation between immigration patterns and increased violent crime rates.
A study by The Pew Research Center from 2013 concluded that first generation immigrants have much lower crime rates than native-born citizens, and another recent study from the University of Chicago Crime Lab further emphasized Trump’s falsehoods.
The study’s author, Aaron Chalfin, found that a 1 percentage point rise in immigration led to a 13 percent drop in rape and two percent drop in murder.
The study also found a 19 percent rise in aggravated assault, but Chalfin stressed that his overall conclusions match the majority of academic research on this topic.
“I think the best interpretation of my paper and others in literature is that there’s no robust evidence of an effect [of immigration on crime]” he said. “When we think about what’s driving crime, we definitely don’t think of immigration on our list. That’s pretty well settled,” he added.
Robert Weisberg, Faculty Co-Director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, agrees. Immigration rates in the U.S. were on the rise starting in the early 1990’s, he said, and that pattern actually corresponded with a decrease in crime.
“That period matched perfectly with the most dramatic crime reduction in modern American history,” Weisberg said. “That’s a crude measure, but it does tell you that an increase in immigration isn’t associated with an increase in crime, generally,” he added.
But years of academic research haven’t forced Trump to change his tune.
He continued to draw a connection between immigrants and crime following the tragic death of Kate Steinle, a Pleasanton woman who was shot and killed in San Francisco earlier this month.
The police termed the incident a random shooting linked to an undocumented immigrant, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez.
"We're talking about crime,” Trump told reporters outside a charity golf event last week. “You saw what happened with the young lady in San Francisco. It's a disgrace."
The controversial remarks by the presidential hopeful have left many Republicans on the local and national scale defending the party’s views on immigration.
“I think he should have toned it back,” said Howard Epstein, former chair of the San Francisco Republican Party. “You know, there’s a problem along our border. We need to seal our border. I don’t have any problems with Mr. Trump saying that, but it’s the way he said it that will turn people against the party.”