“Every day, all along border states, maybe other places, there are murders by people who have been arrested coming into this country, who have been released by the Obama administration, I believe in violation of the law, who are murdering Americans all over our cities. We hold the Democrat Party and the president personally accountable for this action.”
— Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.), remarks in a House Rules Committee hearing, Feb. 26, 2015
This was a rather striking statement made by the chairman of the House Rules Commitee — that there is a murder committed “every day” in cities across the nation by an illegal immigrant released by the Obama administration.
A reader was dubious of this claim, and we certainly were skeptical. What data could he be pointing to?
There are on average 44 murders a day in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Assuming murders by illegal immigrants were prorated as a percentage of the U.S. population, it is not unreasonable to assume one to two murders a day are committed by illegal immigrants.
But that’s just a straight-line calculation — and Sessions was not talking about the 11 million or so illegal immigrants, but about the 130,000, including 30,000 with previous criminal records, that the Obama administration released in the 2014 fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30.
(We should note that immigration agents removed nearly 316,000 people in the fiscal year that ended in 2014, most of whom were convicted of a crime. That was a decrease of 14 percent from the previous year.)
Since there are no nationwide data kept on murders committed by illegal immigrants, let alone on immigrants who are released by the Obama administration, Sessions’s staff struggled to come up with something that would confirm his assertion.
“Thousands of illegal immigrants have been convicted of crimes, and President Obama has allowed them to stay in the United States of America, and the president’s unwise, unlawful and unconstitutional executive actions on immigration will only cause an increase in risk to our public safety,” said a Sessions spokesman who declined to be identified.
Note that the statement actually tries to subtly change the meaning of Sessions’s remarks — that Obama is allowing immigrants who have been convicted of crimes to stay in the United States, not that people released by the Obama administration have committed crimes.
The spokesman also passed along a pie chart produced by the Texas Department of Public Safety purporting to show that aliens were accused of committing 3,000 homicides in 2014. (In U.S. law, “alien” means any person in the country who is not a U.S. citizen or national.) But it turned out this was data over a six-year period — 2008 to 2014 — and the Department of Public Safety at the time did not know which of these people arrested were in the country illegally; it only knew they were not U.S. citizens. In fact, the chart was so old that it no longer appears on the agency’s Web site.
Instead, the agency has overhauled the crime data to track immigration status dating from June 2011. “We reprogrammed our own criminal records system to identify the DHS immigration status code on all the available historical responses and all hits responses going forward,” said spokesman Tom Vinger. This resulted in a dramatic reduction in the numbers, because of a short time frame and confirmed immigration status.
Thus, over a 43-month period, 795 aliens were accused of homicide, and 336 were convicted. Of the charges, Vinger said 561 (71 percent) are attributed to foreign nationals illegally in the country and 234 (29 percent) are attributed to legally present foreign nationals. A breakdown of actual convictions was not immediately available, but assuming the same percentage, that would mean 239 illegal aliens were convicted of murder over a 43-month period. (Note: These numbers are for arrests and convictions, not the number of people.)
That works out to about one murder every five days, not every day, from every illegal immigrant, not just those released by the administration — and Texas has a much larger share of the illegal immigrant population than most states. Even if you wanted to do a simple straight-line calculation based on the fact that Texas is about 8.4 percent of the U.S. population, that adds up to about two murders a day. But as we noted above, that’s just about what one would expect given the size of the illegal population and average murder rates in the United States.
Remember that Sessions was talking about murders committed by people released by the administration, which is a much smaller universe. Indeed, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in January released a report tracking crimes committed by 36,000 illegal immigrants who had criminal records and were released in 2013. One thousand of these one-time criminals had added to their criminal record, including such charges as assault with a deadly weapon, terrorist threats, failure to register as a sex offender, and spousal rape. But murder or homicide was not even on the list.
The Pinocchio Test
As always, the burden of proof rests with the speaker. Sessions failed to provide any convincing evidence to show that illegal immigrants released by the Obama administration are committing a murder a day. He earns Four Pinocchios.
One can debate the merits of the administration’s immigration policies without resorting to nonsense facts. Sessions is a committee chairman, and he should know better.
Send us facts to check by filling out this form