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Crowley vs. Perry on the 3000 Homicides Claim August 3, 2014

Posted by geoff in News.

So Candy Crowley jumped on Rick Perry’s claim that illegal immigrants have committed over 3000 homicides since 2008, claiming that “a number of fact-checkers have said that that 3,000-homicide figure is wildly off.” Well, I think PolitiFact is probably the leading fact-checker among those who might have taken a swing at this, and they left it to a young liberal fellow who awarded Perry a “pants-on-fire” rating.

Is Perry that wrong? Probably, but certainly not to the “pants-on-fire” level. You see, since 2008 Texas has been tracking the number of foreign nationals, legal or illegal, who are booked into Texas county jails under suspicion of murder. Now, if all those gentlemen were guilty and all of them were illegal aliens, then Perry would be correct. But that’s not likely, and that was the basis of PolitiFact’s rating.

Still, the possibility that he was correct means that PolitiFact failed to prove that Perry’s pants were on fire.

So what’s a reasonable estimate of how many homicides were committed by illegal aliens booked into Texas county jails since 2008? Let’s assume that on average every homicide had one guilty party and one arrested party, and that the demographics of arrestees are the same as those of the guilty parties. That is, even if there are a number of innocent people among the arrestees, the guilty people corresponding to those crimes have identical demographics to the innocent people.

Then we note that there are 1.7 million illegal immigrants and 1.3 million legal foreign nationals in Texas. So out of the 3000 arrests that were mentioned, 1700 were likely to be illegal immigrants. This crude estimate says that Perry should have said “1700” rather than “3000.”

Is that deserving of a “pants-on-fire” rating? I don’t think so.

What really happened here is that somebody looked at the Texas web page, saw “criminal aliens,” and thought that it meant “illegal aliens” rather than aliens (legal or illegal) who are criminal. A slight misread, but the fact is that Perry was off by less than a factor of 2, and the number is still shocking and substantial.

I think Crowley and PolitiFact deserve a worse rating than Governor Perry.


1. Cathy - August 4, 2014

I agree with your last statement. There are conservative activist groups here in Texas who have been screaming about the tragedies Texas faces due to illegal immigrants storming into our state, towns communities, homes, and lives. Perry is sensitive to these good folks and wants to listen and understand their plea. I think someone in the line of communication misread the stats and fed Perry the info the wrong way.

…and typical libs cut Perry no slack for the error.

2. Michael - August 4, 2014

Whence cometh what you say is an assumption that “the demographics of arrestees are the same as those of the guilty parties”? Seems highly questionable to me. One can just as easily and more plausibly assume the arrestees are disproportionately illegal aliens.

Perry made a statement about guilt based on data about the arrests of people who are innocent until proven guilty. The claim apparently is totally unsupported by any real number. That’s a mistake which gets pretty close to the pants on fire category in my book.

3. geoff - August 4, 2014

One can just as easily and more plausibly assume the arrestees are disproportionately illegal aliens.

Only if you assume that they’re profiling.

And that would be wrong.

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