Washington Post Columnist is Entitled to His Own Opinion, Not His Own Facts

613445810_2249c2d193_bWashington Post columnist Harold Meyerson offers up perhaps the most tired of all the tired old argument against enforcing immigration laws: They tried to keep out the Irish, they tried to keep out the Italians, they tried to keep out the Poles, they tried to keep out the Jews…

Of course, 2015 isn’t 1850 or 1900, the United States isn’t a big unpopulated continent, and succeeding in our economy today takes more than just a strong back and a strong work ethic. But never mind. He’s entitled to his opinion and the Washington Post is free to publish it.

What Meyerson isn’t entitled to do is to pass off opinion as fact. Without any supporting evidence of cause and effect, Meyerson writes, “Indeed, the growing number of the foreign-born over the past quarter-century goes a long way to explaining the huge drop in crime and violence that the nation has experienced during that time. The number of murders in New York City dropped from 2,245 in 1990 to 328 last year; in Los Angeles County it fell from 1,944 in 1993 to 551 last year, even as the number and share of their foreign-born residents skyrocketed.”

It is indeed true that there has been a drop in crime over the past 25 years. It is also true that there has been a huge increase in the foreign born population. But to suggest that the drop in crime is a direct result of the increase in immigrants living in our country is absurd.

To disprove Meyerson’s cause-and-effect assertion, one has to go way back – like, about three weeks ago – to find government data that suggests precisely the opposite. According to the government’s own crime statistics, while illegal aliens make up about 3.5 percent of the U.S. population, they account for 12 percent of murder sentences, 20 percent of kidnapping sentences, and 16 percent of drug trafficking sentences. And, just this week, the government revealed that one-third of the criminals who will be released from prison as part of the effort to reduce the nation’s prison population are illegal aliens.

There are a lot of things that explain the drop in crime since 1990 that have nothing to do with the growing presence of immigrants. The large baby boom generation was moving beyond their prime crime-committing years and we began locking up more criminals for longer periods of time, meaning they were in jail and not on streets.

Specifically, with regard to New York City, the early 1990s coincided with the election of Mayor Rudy Giuliani who implemented his “broken windows” approach to crime that essentially drained the swamp that incubated more serious types of crime. It was a policy that was emulated by a lot of big city mayors. (Current Mayor Bill DeBlasio has reversed many of those policies and, guess what? Violent crime is once again on the rise in New York City.)

Let’s be clear: The vast majority of immigrants, including illegal aliens, are not violent criminals. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t enforce immigration laws. But let’s also be clear about the facts. Illegal immigration does pose a clear threat to public safety and there is no evidence to back up Meyerson’s assertion that mass immigration has caused a reduction in crime.

About Author


Ira joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 1986 with experience as a journalist, professor of journalism, special assistant to Gov. Richard Lamm (Colorado), and press secretary of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. His columns have appeared in National Review, LA Times, NY Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, and more. He is an experienced TV and radio commentator.


  1. avatar
    Frank Mitchell on

    Ironically, the “Broken Windows Theory” is most evident in our lack of immigration law enforcement.
    The concept was that allowing an environment of minor crimes such as vandalism and urban disorder spawned an overall lawlessness. New York City clamped down on minor crimes, which lead to the reduction of major crimes and the city’s crime rates plummeted.
    The same situation is currently prevalent in the US regarding illegal aliens. They feel because we have not been strict enough in enforcing our EXISTING Immigration Laws, that they are no longer applicable. They somehow now have a Right to Break our Laws, even as they wish to reap the benefits of living in a Country ruled by Laws. Their arrogance is astounding.
    Fix & fully implement E-Verify. Fine and imprison employers who employ illegal aliens. Deport illegal aliens quickly, humanely and efficiently. Enforce our EXISTING Immigration Laws!
    They self-imported, they can self-deport (after the jobs dry up).

  2. avatar

    To state what should be obvious: ANY crime committed by an illegal alien is too many, since s/he shouldn’t be here in the first place.

  3. avatar

    Obeying America’s Laws is FAR Easier

    Than this continuously skipping vinyl record. We’re spending MASS time and taxes on trying to run things without enforcing the laws. It’s totally inefficient and heading us to a worse state.

  4. avatar

    The three strikes you’re out laws had a lot to do with it. It locked up the chronic offenders.
    And the majority of healthcare fraud in Florida is committed by Cubans, according to the Sun-Sentinel in January of this year.

  5. avatar
    Concerned Citizen on

    So the Washington Post remains a left wing propaganda mouthpiece under its new ownership? That’s a shame, because Amazon.com has enjoyed a reputation for even-handedness.

    This Washington Post article is a thinly veiled attempt to deny the national security risks that come with unchecked, mass immigration. As Ira Mehlman rightly points out, illegal immigrants commit a disproportionate amount of violent crime.

    The problem is not just with illegal immigrants, either. As Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev proved, admitting refugees on the basis of compassion is naive and stupid if they hate America and decide to blow the legs off of innocent citizens. The national security risks of mass immigration are evident for any thinking, feeling American to see, even if pundits try to shame and guilt us into submission.

  6. avatar

    I disagree Ira…..did you live back then?….he is correct…..he is passing a fact which you see as an opinion….no differently from your article….the same sentiment was back them and same mentality about population and resources……….

    So what really, it appears he hit a nerve of yours……you think “our time” is the worst time or unique…..not really..there has been and there will be worse ad better times….all he is doing is just offering a perspective like you are here.

    you need to back up your statement:

    “while illegal aliens make up about 3.5 percent of the U.S. population, they account for 12 percent of murder sentences, 20 percent of kidnapping sentences, and 16 percent of drug trafficking sentences”

    Based on what population, and if so the actions of certain people are not a burden or blame on its population. The bombing go Oklahoma does not mean all Americans are terrorists….correct?….

    You can take all the good illegals out….you will still have the bad ones in………….

    I find hard to believe that in 320M people with 3-6% of illegals…you claim 12% of all criminals are illegals…..either
    your math or your info is not accurate.


    Giuliani continued to highlight crime reduction and law enforcement as central missions of his mayoralty throughout both terms. These efforts were largely successful.[
    In Giuliani’s first term as mayor the New York City Police Department, under Giuliani appointee Commissioner Bill Bratton, adopted an aggressive enforcement and deterrence strategy based on James Q. Wilson’s Broken Windows research. This involved crackdowns on relatively minor offenses such as graffiti, turnstile jumping, and aggressive “squeegeemen,” on the principle that this would send a message that order would be maintained and that the city would be “cleaned up.”

    • avatar

      I lived in NY and I saw this personally……Giuliani cleaned the streets……but I must say he was not well-liked………