Crime, immigration and the peaceful transfer of power
Molineaux is co-publisher of The Fulcrum and president/CEO of the Bridge Alliance Education Fund.
Turn to right-wing media outlets and one narrative you’ll hear is about a “crime wave,” especially in progressive cities and the need for an authoritarian to provide safety. At least, that’s what I hear, with chagrin. Dig into the statistics, and there’s another story that emerges about the data itself, from which these “news” reports are derived.
First and foremost, national statistics for 2022 are not yet available. The latest data available is for 2021 and when reporting on crime rates, most media compare statistics from 2020 to previous years. In other words, the data is not current. And in 2020, as has been reported, there was a significant increase in violent crime, especially murder. Crime statistics for 2021 and 2022 are not yet fully available. This is due to a change in how we collect the data. For years, we’ve heard about the inconsistent (and voluntary) submission of crime data by law enforcement agencies to the FBI for national analysis. The Department of Justice has worked to solve this dilemma by creating a new database, which began collecting data in 2021. Even so, in 2021, only 11,794 of 18,806 law enforcement agencies complied by reporting data. As an example, Los Angeles and New York City have not reported 2021 data as of October 2022.
So what is the truth? It’s complicated. Several news reports focus on big cities, others on medium size cities. One report contains a city by city breakdown from January - June of 2022 compared to 2021. It was the most current data I could find. This preliminary counting (as reported to the new national database) shows an overall decrease in murders and sexual assault, but an increase in robbery and aggravated assault. You can see for yourself, each city has its own ups and downs.
Between 2010 and 2020, violent crime rates peaked in 2010 at 405 offenses per 100,000 people. In 2014, it dipped to 362. By 2020, it had risen to 398. Within that 10 year period, 405 to 398 is statistically insignificant at approximately 1%. Regardless of what the data is, we often prefer to play the blame game, or counter the blame game. We would be better served by addressing the issue on the merits.
Immigration has been a hotly debated topic for over two centuries. As a young nation, citizens often espoused the “keep them out” mantra due to economic or racial fears. And politicians have used these fears to whip up support by promising to protect their voters from “those people.” While African Americans were already in the nation, waves of people looking for opportunity came to the U.S. from 1820-1924 without a formal immigration process. People arrived from Ireland, Germany, China, Italy, Eastern Europe and Russia (including Jews), Mexico and beyond. The Chinese exclusion act of 1880 prohibited anyone of Asian descent for 10 years from entering our shores. This was a xenophobic closed door policy, not an immigration policy. In 1924, our first immigration policy was enacted; a quota system to slow down (or stop) the arrival of new immigrants. It was a bad policy then, and the subsequent evolution of laws has never slowed immigration or treated immigrants equally, regardless of country of origin.
The last immigration legislation was passed during the Reagan administration in 1986. Three subsequent enforcement laws (1996, 2002, 2006) added staff, surveillance equipment and fencing to combat illegal immigration, but did not change the how and who of immigration policy. Two subsequent presidents have issued two Executive Orders each (DACA and DAPA), with Trump’s orders canceling Obama’s.
In other words, we keep putting bandaids on an obviously broken system with no systemic solutions in sight. Every day, thousands of people want to come to the United States and that will continue. How do we decide who to let in and who to exclude? Asylum seekers and refugees are different from other immigrants in our policy solutions. There is a mix of skilled and unskilled workers; those with family residing in the U.S. and those who want their family to follow them. Unfortunately, as so often happens in politics many people are pointing fingers with few willing to tackle the underlying causes.
This political hot potato, like crime statistics, becomes another tool of heated rhetoric. Lots of hot air. No commitments. And who benefits? Not us, the people of the United States.
Peaceful Transfer of Power
All of this was on my mind as I watched the 15 rounds of nominations for Speaker of the House. It was a good exercise for the American people to witness. It was a demonstration of the peaceful transfer of power and using the constitutional process we have to reach an agreement in a nonviolent way. The rhetoric of the six GOP holdouts (and some of the Dems, too!) was pure propaganda and blame-casting for issues that remain unresolved after decades. Their use of the power they held was annoying to many, but it was also masterful. And now a minority of six members of Congress have dictated the rules of the House for the other 429 members.
The moderates of both parties missed an opportunity to form a powerful coalition. I fully understand the political risks that both the Democrats and Republicans will face in opposing the party leadership and choosing to work together. For those of us who believe in finding common ground it is imperative that we thwart the power of the extremes on both sides. The extremes have made cooperation or compromise with the other party an act of political suicide. No one seems to have the courage to act on what is obvious to the exhausted majority: Congress is dysfunctional and we need to work together to fix it.
It is time for real leaders to step forward and to put our country before their party loyalty. We call on the moderates of both parties to have courage and trust in those who elected them. We, the exhausted majority, want solutions.
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