President Trump has cast California as “out of control” because of proposed legislation that would make the entire state a sanctuary for illegal immigrants, who, he says, “breed crime.” But in reality, as California’s immigrant population has grown, its crime and violence rates have plummeted.
Let’s start with the demographics….Over the last two decades, California has seen an influx of 3.5 million immigrants, mostly Latino, and an outmigration of some 2 million residents, most of them white. An estimated 2.4 million undocumented immigrants also currently live in the state.
….And yet, according to data from the FBI, the California Department of Justice, and the Centers for Disease Control, the state has seen precipitous drops in every major category of crime and violence that can be reliably measured. In Trump terms, you might say that modern California is the opposite of “American carnage.”
It’s true. And since a picture is worth a thousand words, here’s a picture:
Apologies for the ugliness of the chart. Edward Tufte would be appalled. But here’s what it shows. The foreign-born share of the population has increased from 9 percent to 27 percent since 1970. However, from 1995 to 2015, violent crime in California has declined at a faster rate than in the US as a whole.1
So do immigrants cause an increase in violent crime? It doesn’t really look like it, does it? And yet, Bakersfield Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the current House majority leader, continues to warn his fellow Californians that they should be nicer to President Trump. At the same time, Trump continues to justify hiring 10,000 new immigration agents and changing the deportation rules based on the idea that it’s important to get rid of anyone who’s committed even a minor infraction. That might make the base happy, but it’s not going to make anybody safer.
1I was lazy and only looked up the crime rates for every five years. I imagine I could also dig up crime rates by state earlier than 1995 if I really tried, but I didn’t try very hard. If anybody has them, I’ll be happy to pop them into the chart.