From John Ray's shorter notes

5 August, 2012

Immigration and crime: Has Ron Unz built his castle on sand?

Among his many worthy attributes, Ron Unz, publisher of The American Conservative, is an expert on the statistics of Hispanic crime. He concludes that Hispanics are not as crime-prone as many people think.

I have neither the time nor the inclination to match his expertise and one reason why is that many of the available statistics that form the fodder for analysis of Hispanic crime are very likely hopelessly wrong. They are sandy ground on which to build anything.

I confess that I have myself used official U.S. census data to look at Hispanic crime but reflection tells me that I was pissing into the wind. Using surveys and censuses to study a group who have a fervent desire to stay beneath official notice is surely a foolish enterprise. A huge slice of the target group will simply be missed by surveys and censuses. It is presumably for that reason that the year 2000 US census showed only 0.7% of Mexican born males aged 18-35 as having a criminal record. And other Hispanic groups are similar. That compares with 3.04% of the male population as a whole in that age group. According to the census, Hispanics in the USA are super-law-abiding. You don't have to be very cynical to conclude from that that the boot is on the other foot: Only unusually law-abiding Hispanics fill out the census.

But Ron Unz does not confine his attention to surveys and censuses. He also uses what prison statistics he can get his hands on. So perhaps he still has something. If he does, Obama is a colossal liar.

Now I don't rule that out. I think Obama is only as honest as it suits him. But his oft-repeated claim that he deports 400,000 illegals a year has never been challenged to my knowledge and it is surely something that could fairly easily be challenged by anyone in touch with such matters if it were grossly inaccurate. It is, moreover, only a small increase over what was recorded in the Bush years. And Obama assures us not only that the deportees are all criminals but that they are SERIOUS criminals. Minor offenders are let off. But 400,000 is 3.3% of the approximately 12 million Hispanics in the USA. And that 3.3% is being repeated EVERY year. So over a 10 year period a THIRD of the Hispanic population would have been deported. So is it 33.3% of the Hispanic population rather than 0.7% who have criminal records?

I put the Obama claims to Ron Unz in correspondence and his reply was: "Relying upon the Obama deportation data as evidence of "serious criminality" is totally absurd: the deportations involve things like traffic tickets, driving without a license (illegals being unable to obtain licenses), or lying about immigration status"

So I guess it's his word against Obama's. Not an easy choice in the circumstances. Given Obama's obvious reluctance to deport, I find it hard to believe that he does so on trivial grounds. I am inclined to think that the Hispanic community would have rumbled him by now were he doing so -- JR


I posted the article above elsewhere yesterday so already have a reply to it from Ron Unz. He has emailed me the following curiously "ad hominem" reply as follows:

I do agree that if I'm correct then the public speeches of President Obama would be "colossal lies," though probably no more than the political rhetoric of most politicians.

However, perhaps being a psychometrician in Australia you are perhaps unfamiliar with the dynamics of the American criminal justice system. In particular, illegal immigrants who commit "serious crimes" are NOT immediately deported, and never have been. Instead, they are *prosecuted* and sent to prison. Sometimes, after they have finished their lengthy prison sentence (for a "serious crime"), they are then afterward deported.

Think a bit about it. Suppose an illegal immigrant raped or killed someone. If he were just deported instead of being punished, he might very well just sneak back again, and once he turned up in the same neighborhood, having escaped any punishment for his crimes, the public outcry would be enormous and all the responsible politicians would be defeated for reelection.

From what you say, you are a trained psychometrian and have every right to dispute my IQ analysis on technical grounds. If you invest some time and effort, you could certainly familiarize yourself with the detailed evidence on Hispanic crime rates to challenge my article (which, incidentally, has over the last couple of years persuaded pretty much everyone of an open mind).

But you make yourself look extraordinarily foolish when you take a political campaign phrase by President Obama that he has only been deporting illegal immigrants who are "serious criminals" to therefore conclude that at least 10% of all illegal immigrants are "serious criminals."

If you bothered reading any of the hundreds or thousands of major newspaper articles on this contentious subject, you would quickly see it was absurd. I'm not sure that I can think of even a single American-based rightwing blogger or writer---no matter how fanatically anti-immigrant or extreme in views---who has ever made the claim that you make.

I don't claim to be an expert on Australian society, but I'm sure if I'm tried I could take some random phrase by some local politican and use it to draw social conclusions which were utterly absurd and ridiculous, making me look like an idiot. I strongly suggest that you focus on your areas of expertise.

Ron Unz

My reply to the above was as follows:


So you are telling me that MY castle is built on sand because I live in Australia!

I don't think I was overlooking anything. I actually have a blog called "Gun Watch" that posts daily on American crimes of violence so I think I am pretty aware of what goes on in American courts. I think that does in its way give me some small expertise on the subject. I certainly read a lot of cases.

And a key observation is that most offenders receive only short jail terms, and under plea bargains, may spend no time in jail at all. So some offenders rack up a huge "rap sheet". In other words, there are a lot of "serious criminals" wandering around America.

One thing for certain is that ICE is very picky about whom they deport. They have too few resources to deport everyone who comes to light. And when people like sheriff Joe try to send them illegals they often delay until the offender has to be released.

So I actually support Obama's various edicts that only serious offenders who are presented to them should be deported. And such presentations can come off the street or at the time of jail release

So I see Obama as having a consistent and sensible policy that is the result of a lot of heavily contested political debate and believe what he says in this instance. It is core policy, not some random utterance

I presume that Ron Unz will now turn his data-analytical virtuosity to a dissection of Obama's deportation statistics. He would do us all a great favour if he did that. CIS already have a heap of data on immigration so with their help he should be able to get access to the raw data fairly readily, one imagines -- JR


I have found what sound like some better statistics on illegal immigrants than what can be inferred from Obama's broad brush claim that he "only" deports serious criminals. We read:
"The 2011 figures show slightly more undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes were deported last year than in the prior year. ICE reported that 216,698 of the unauthorized immigrants removed in the 2011 fiscal year were convicted of felonies or misdemeanors, making up about 55 percent of the total removals"
Even so, if we scale up 216,698 over just 10 years we still have 2 million out of 12 million illegals who are offenders, and that is not at all consonant with claims by Ron Unz and others that offending among illegals is rare.

All statistics in this field have to be regarded as wobbly but deportation statistics would seem most likely to be solidly grounded -- JR

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