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Fact check: US border violence actually on the decline

By John Byrne
Thursday, May 20, 2010 9:47 EDT
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Arizona’s Republican governor, Jan Brewer, would have you believe that Arizona is the repeated victim of terrorism at the hands of marauding illegal immigrant gangs.

“Arizona has been under terrorist attacks, if you will, with all of this illegal immigration that has been taking place on our very porous border,” Brewer told a Fox News anchor earlier this month.

But a new analysis by ABC News based on numbers alone suggests that the situation is almost the reverse of what its Republican critics allege.

Crime in US border towns is down. Tucson and Laredo, Texas have all reported a reduction in violent crime in the past year, while El Paso has one of the lowest violent crime rates of all American cities.

And more than 20,000 border patrol agents now guard the border — an 80 percent increase since 2004 and the largest number in history, according to ABC.

ABC also notes:

* The number of illegal immigrants apprehended along the border, which CBP uses to gauge the flow of migrants, is down nearly 55 percent from 2005. The agency captured 540,865 last year.

* Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained and deported a record 387,790 unauthorized immigrants across the U.S. in 2009, and is on pace to set a new record in 2010.

* The growing number of deportations comes as the overall size of the U.S. illegal immigrant population — 62 percent of which hails from Mexico — continues to decline. The U.S. unauthorized population in 2009 was 10.8 million, down from 11.8 million in 2007.

Drug-related violence in Mexican border communities certainly continues apace, with tens of thousands of Mexicans killed in the last ten years. But the analysis shows that most of it has remained on the Mexican side of the border. Observers speculate that one of the reasons illegal immigration has gotten such a high profile in recent months is because of a spate of high-profile incidents in the news.

In one particularly notable incident, an Arizona cattle rancher was recently shot dead by a man who was believed to have been a scout for illegal drug smugglers.

Politicians have fueled the rancor against immigrants, leading to passage of an Arizona law which allows law enforcement to stop individuals they suspect of being illegally in the United States, and requires non-citizens to carry immigration papers with them.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) even went so far as to suggest that immigrants were causing traffic violence.

“It’s the drive-by that — the drivers of cars with illegals in it that are intentionally causing accidents on the freeway,” the onetime Republican presidential nominee told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly in late April.

“The state of Arizona is acting and doing what they feel they need to do in light of the fact that the federal government is not fulfilling its fundamental responsibility to secure our borders,” McCain added. “Look, our border is not secured. Our citizens are not safe.”

ABC News, however, says its analysis is more in line with a recent comment by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who said the US border is more “secure now as it has ever been.”

 
 
 
 
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