Whenever a police officer fatally shoots an unarmed black man, progressives suggest it is emblematic of a national crisis. Whenever an illegal immigrant murders an American, those same voices argue it is an isolated incident.
Consider Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) reacting this week to the alleged murder of Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts by a Mexican man named Cristhian Bahena Rivera. Warren expressed sympathy for the victim and her family but then quickly added that “one of the things we have to remember is we need an immigration system that is effective, that focuses on where real problems are.”
It is important, Warren said, to keep the focus on not splitting up illegal immigrants and their families, and not painting the entire population with a broad brush.
Just a few weeks earlier, however, Warren was perfectly happy to use a very broad brush to describe police.
“The hard truth about our criminal justice system: It’s racist … I mean front to back,” the potential 2020 presidential candidate said during a speech at a historically black college in New Orleans.
And she took to Facebook to list the names of Michael Brown (pictured above left) and other unarmed black people who have died at the hands of police in recent years. She wrote that “we can no longer ignore this ugly reality. An ugly reality where too many parents must teach their children how ‘to try to survive’ an encounter with the police. An ugly reality where those same parents fear that even those lessons won’t be enough.”
In July 2016, Warren tweeted, “We’ve seen the sickening videos of black Americans killed in traffic stops. Lives ended by those sworn to protect them.”
Judging from Warren’s disparate reactions, a viewer might think America is awash in black people gunned down by racist cops and illegal immigrant crime is a regrettable but almost unheard-of occurrence.
The Data Are Unambiguous
The data tell another story, however.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) statistics indicate that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers arrested 1,886 criminal aliens in fiscal year 2017 who had either pending homicide charges or convictions.
In that same period from October 2016 to September 2017, according to a database maintained by The Washington Post, the sum total of unarmed black people shot to death by police? Sixteen.
In fact, in that fiscal year, the total number of people killed by police was 971. That includes people of all races and criminals who were shooting at the cops or threatening them in some other way.
“Their belief system does not match what’s going on … People just aren’t willing, sometimes, to believe the reports.”
David Cross, who closely monitors crime data in Oregon, said 136 illegal immigrants as of July were in prison in his state alone on homicide charges. Two of them, he added, had been convicted of killing police officers.
Cross, a spokesman for Oregonians for Immigration Reform, said Warren and other progressives suffer from “cognitive dissonance” when it comes to the issue.
“Their belief system does not match what’s going on … People just aren’t willing, sometimes, to believe the reports,” he said.
In one way, comparing criminal alien crimes to police shootings is apples to oranges. The illegal immigrant population, after all, greatly exceeds the number of police officers. But even after controlling for that fact, homicides by noncitizens are far more common.
There are roughly 750,000 sworn police officers in the United States. That works out to a rate of 2.13 per 100,000 officers who killed an unarmed black person in fiscal year 2017. Using the common estimate of 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, the 1,886 homicide-related arrests work out to a rate of 17.15 per 100,000.
The 1,886 figure includes 1,531 people with homicide records, meaning the crimes likely occurred over the course of many years. But even focusing only on the 355 who had pending homicides charges produces a rate of 3.22 per 100,000.
Warren Not Alone
But Warren is far from the only prominent figure with split-screen rhetoric. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in December 2015, while campaigning for president, blamed racism for the death of Sandra Bland in police custody in Texas.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that she, like too many African-Americans who die in police custody, would be alive today if she were a white woman,” he said in a statement. He tweeted in 2016 that police violence against blacks “has become an all too common occurrence for people of color and IT. MUST. STOP.”
His campaign website disputed the notion that police shootings are rare: “We should not fool ourselves into thinking that this violence only affects those whose names have appeared on TV or in the newspaper.”
Two months ago, however, Sanders downplayed crimes by illegal immigrants. He said the crime rate was lower among illegal immigrants than among native-born Americans.
Crime is terrible. Murder is terrible,” he said during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Let’s deal with those issues, and let’s not suggest that the only causes of crime are coming from undocumented people.”
Symone Sanders, who served as national press secretary for the senator’s presidential campaign, displayed the same double standard. She tweeted that people should not “defile” the life of Tibbetts (pictured above right) with “racist garbage.”
But Sanders, now a CNN commentator, suggested on the network in March that the shooting by police of Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man in Sacramento, California, was part of a national problem that President Donald Trump should address.
“The idea that this is a local matter is laughable,” she said.
It is not just politicians. CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Thursday accused the Trump administration of “waving like a flag” in politicizing the Iowa slaying.
“How dare you and how dare the president and you do that,” he said to White House counselor Kellyanne Conway.