Of the myths surrounding American immigration policy, perhaps the most pernicious is the mistaken idea, promulgated by politicians of both major parties, that illegal immigrants from Mexico bring an inevitable increase in violent crime.
In 2009 Michael Sullivan, former director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, lamented the “escalation of violence” on “both sides of the border.” But according to a June review of crime data by the Associated Press, the four American cities with the lowest crime rates are El Paso, Austin, San Diego, and Phoenix—all in border states. El Paso sits directly across from Juarez, Mexico, one of the most violent cities in the hemisphere. And while anti-immigration activists frequently hyperventilate against a supposed epidemic of violence directed at Border Patrol agents, the A.P. found that border cops faced significantly less violence than their counterparts in police departments across the U.S.
According to data from 2009, only 3 percent of agents were assaulted while on duty, mostly with tossed stones, compared with 11 percent of police officers in general. In the words of Customs and Border Protection spokesman Lloyd Easterling, “The border is safer now than it’s ever been.”