Fourth-generation Arizona rancher Robert Krentz was found murdered March 27, slumped over his all-terrain vehicle. Authorities traced the suspected killer’s footsteps to the Mexican border 15 miles from Krentz’s ranch.
The killing shocked Arizonans, many of whom were already fed up with problems created by illegal immigration. Less than a month later, state lawmakers passed and Gov. Jan Brewer signed a new immigration enforcement statute. The law takes significant steps toward doing in Arizona what the federal government hasn’t done, which is enforce current federal laws against the flood of illegal immigrants coming into the U.S. from Mexico.
Arizona has since become the target of boycotts and, as we recently learned from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in an interview with Ecuadorean television, will soon become the defendant in a federal lawsuit filed by President Barack Obama. The Obama suit will charge that Arizona’s statute is unconstitutional because it usurps federal immigration enforcement laws.
Meanwhile, critics insist that Arizona’s law is not needed and reactionary, as seen in a recent New York Times article, “On Border Violence, Truth Pales Compared to Ideas.”
The Times reported that FBI statistics showed that crime in Arizona declined between 2000 and 2008 and inferred from the data that there is no connection between increased illegal immigration and crime.
“That Mr. Krentz’s death nevertheless churned the emotionally charged immigration debate points to a fundamental truth: Perception often trumps reality, sometimes affecting laws and society in the process,” wrote Times reporter Randal C. Archibold.
Indeed, perception often trumps reality, especially when statistics are involved. FBI figures do show crime declining during an eight-year period in Arizona, as it did across the country overall. But blogger Tom Maguire at Just One Minute took a closer look at the stats. Crime in Arizona was down 20 percent in the larger cities, but it was up outside major metropolitan areas and in rural counties, 39 and 45 percent, respectively. Clearly, FBI data demonstrate that crime is up significantly in the border regions of Arizona.
As any good statistician will tell you, correlation doesn’t equal causation. But, surely we can agree that those in the Arizona statehouse have a better vantage point to assess the causes of the problems in their own backyard than newspaper offices in Midtown Manhattan or 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Much of the immigration debate concerns issues that are subject to legitimate disagreement, but the concrete link between illegal immigration and rising crime isn’t one of them.