tie immigrants to sex crimes as politicians like
GOP gubernatorial hopeful McDonnell cash in on the
xenophobia they stir up.
far as P.R. goes, it was pretty slick. Bob
attorney general, got headlines throughout the
region Feb. 21 by showing he was tough on both
immigration and sex offenders. For an ambitious
Republican politician bent on the governor’s
office in 2009, it’s like hitting a double in
the early innings.
that his cooperation with federal and state law
enforcement authorities serves as a national model,
McDonnell said 171 immigrant sex
offenders had been identified and set up for
deportation. Newspaper headlines and local
television teasers wrapped immigrants, fairly or
not, in unwelcome negativity. The mantra was
recited once again: “Immigrants Equals Bad,”
thus garnering future votes for nativist
politicians, such as McDonnell, who play on
xenophobic fears they stir up.
you start to look at the McDonnell offensive,
however, it doesn’t seem so brilliant. Last
summer, McDonnell asked the State Police and U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement to check the
state sex-offender registry against lists of
people born outside the U.S. They came up with 527
names. One cut left them with 171 immigrants,
legal or illegal. Of those, 84 had left the U.S.
voluntarily or been deported, 132 were in state
prisons already and were ready to be deported. A whopping 36
dangerous sex maniacs actually became new arrests.
other words, the McDonnell campaign found that
most of the foreign-born people on the sex
offenders list weren’t here, had been deported
or were about to be deported. That’s hardly a
call to arms for ever tougher enforcement. But it
doesn’t matter because headlines equate
McDonnell, GOP gubernatorial candidate, with being
tough on immigrants. He’s already built a career
as Virginia Beach commonwealth’s attorney as
being tough on sex offenders.
question crossed my mind. Could it be that
immigrants are more prone to sex crimes than
native-born, baseball, hot dog and Chevrolet
Americans? To find out, I called David Clementson,
a spokesman for the attorney generals office, but
he didn’t know.
I turned to the Web. There is plenty posted by
conservatives. They all seem to cite a 2007 study
by Deborah Schurman-Kaulflin of the Violent Crimes
Institute of Atlanta. Her report, “The Dark Side
of Illegal Immigration,” reviewed 1,500 violent
crimes from January 1999 to April 2006. She
concluded that based on a figure of 12 million
illegal aliens, a greater percentage than usual
number commit sex crimes, including rapes, child
molestation and sexual homicides. Apparently, she
took the findings of her 1,500 violent cases and
extrapolated the estimate on the 12 million
illegal alien figure that is generally accepted.
have had a ball with the report. They love to cite
Schurman-Kauflin’s figure that there are 240,000
illegal immigrant sex-offenders in the U.S. One is
U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who would have you
believe that 12 Americans are murdered every day
by illegal immigrants.
more perspective, I searched further. One
scintillating report I saw claimed that veterans
of the U.S. Armed Forces, who happened to be
incarcerated for crimes, are also more likely to
be sex offenders. In 2004, according to the
report, there were 140,000 military veterans in
prison. Over half were in for violent crimes and
were twice as likely as non-veterans to be there
for committing sex offenses.
wonders why McDonnell does not likewise probe how
many U.S. military veterans are sex offenders. He
probably won't, though, as his political campaigns
have made a very big deal that he’s a retired
Army lieutenant colonel. Such an inquiry
wouldn’t go down well in military-oriented
also called Jeanne Butterfield, executive director
of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
She says that the McDonnell initiative shows an
effort to better coordinate data gathering among
state, local and federal law enforcement regarding
immigrants, and that’s not a bad thing. Here's
what worries her, however: “You are investing
power in local authorities that don’t have
expertise in various forms of immigration.” Also
upsetting is the trend towards the
“criminalization” and “politicization” of
immigration in general.
more issue is simply using the sex offender
registry. There are plenty of cases in which
people are listed unfairly or their crimes
involved being 15 and having consensual sex with a
16-year-old. There isn’t much differentiation
made between under-age sex and rape. Indeed, on
the McDonnell list, many of the foreign-born sex
offenders committed their crimes as long as a
decade ago, going back to 1996.
while we’re on the topic of Republican politics
and sex offenders, let’s not forget that former
Chesterfield Supervisor Edward B. Barber copped a
lesser plea last year when he faced sentence of
life in prison after his teen-aged step-daughter
accused him of sexual abuse. He recently settled a
lawsuit in the matter and is on the sex offender
about whether foreign-born individuals are more
prone to sex crimes than the U.S-born, Butterfield
replied that the Immigration Policy Center has
concluded that foreign-born are less inclined to
guess it all depends on whose report you believe.
Meanwhile, the likes of McDonnell are drumming up
xenophobic fears for obvious political purposes.
Was it Hitler who talked about the Big Lie? If you
keep repeating something enough, people will
February 25, 2008