Sipa USA via AP

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order instructing federal agencies to publish a weekly list of crimes allegedly committed by undocumented people in sanctuary cities refusing to cooperate with federal deportation efforts.

Trump has been using the claim that immigrants, and especially undocumented Mexican immigrants, are a threat to public safety because they're more likely to commit crimes.

Advertisement

"When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best," he infamously said on the campaign trail. "They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists."

The executive order reads:

To better inform the public regarding the public safety threats associated with sanctuary jurisdictions, the Secretary shall utilize the Declined Detainer Outcome Report or its equivalent and, on a weekly basis, make public a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens and any jurisdiction that ignored or otherwise failed to honor any detainers with respect to such aliens.

The idea that immigrants to the United States are more likely to commit crimes has been debunked by several studies. The New York Times reports that undocumented immigrants are generally less likely to commit crimes than Americans born in the U.S.:

Analyses of census data from 1980 through 2010 show that among men ages 18 to 49, immigrants were one-half to one-fifth as likely to be incarcerated as those born in the United States. Across all ages and sexes, about 7 percent of the nation’s population are noncitizens, while figures from the Justice Department show that about 5 percent of inmates in state and federal prisons are noncitizens.

Opponents of immigration often point out that in federal prisons, a much higher share of inmates, 22 percent, are noncitizens. But federal prisons hold a small fraction of the nation’s inmates, and in many ways, it is an unusual population. About one-third of noncitizen federal inmates are serving time for immigration offenses — usually re-entering the country illegally after being deported — that are not covered by state law.

A Pew Research Center graph, based on statistics from Justice Quarterly, backs up the fact that first-generation immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, are less likely to commit crimes than people born in America:

As the Times points out, that doesn't mean there aren't any immigrants living in the U.S. with criminal convictions:

The Department of Homeland Security has estimated that 1.9 million noncitizens living in the United States — whether legally or illegally — have been convicted of criminal offenses and could be deported. The Migration Policy Institute, a research group that does not advocate immigration policies, estimated that 820,000 of those people were in the country illegally, including 300,000 with felony convictions.

But Trump's rhetoric and executive action vastly overstates the situation as an epidemic—one that experts and studies have said throughout the years to just not exist.

Advertisement

The mayors of sanctuary cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, which the executive order targets, have said they're committed to resisting efforts to deport their residents, despite Trump's threats that he will cut off federal funds for the cities.