Students are entitled to their free speech, but it’s unbefitting of them to use that freedom to propagate false facts.
Last week, the Bruin Republicans student group held an event titled, “Sabine Durden: An Illegal Immigrant Killed My Child,” featuring a mother whose son was killed in a drunken driving car accident by an undocumented immigrant.
The event meant to spark discussion about the issue of undocumented immigration, according to Haley Nieves, external vice president of Bruin Republicans. The third-year political science student added that undocumented immigrants need to be criminalized in order to reduce their “influence in society,” and that she hoped the event would change students’ perspectives on the issue.
Unfortunately, however, the facts speak against the Bruin Republicans. The truth is, despite the story the Bruin Republicans attempted to depict, undocumented immigrants are not the habitual, violent criminals they are portrayed as.
City and state prisons are disproportionately less likely to have immigrants, undocumented or documented, in them, according to Marc Rosenblum, a member of the Migration Policy Institute – a non-partisan think tank that studies migration patterns of people throughout the world. Rosenblum added that cities with more immigrants are shown not to have significantly more crime than cities with smaller immigrant populations.
In addition, while a U.S. Interior Immigration Enforcement report found that in 2010, undocumented immigrants comprised 22.7 percent of the federal prison population, only 0.4 percent of them were incarcerated because of violent crimes such as murder or manslaughter. A vast majority of those sentenced were due to immigration crimes – fraudulent immigration documents or making false immigration statements.
The report also goes on to state that “a body of evidence,” including an analysis of the California prison population, backs up the claim that those born outside of the U.S. are less likely to commit crimes than U.S. citizens. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics data in 2009, the most recent figure available, undocumented immigrants comprised 7.2 percent of the total prison population, which is about as proportional to the ratio between total number of undocumented immigrants and total U.S. population.
Certainly, however, there is no disputing that an undocumented immigrant killed Durden’s son. The loss of life is tragic and needs to be respected, but that does not give grounds to make overarching – and mostly false – generalizations about undocumented immigrants. Especially in a college setting where students are urged to think critically about rhetoric and information they come across, it is ignorant of the Bruin Republicans to attempt to appeal to raw emotion and show disregard for fact and reason.
Students are permitted to have different stances on undocumented immigration. However, it is inappropriate of students to propagate their viewpoints without acknowledging the facts – especially when talk of deporting fellow students can jeopardize their well-being and futures.