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Dana Milbank misleads about Arizona and immigration crime (for the most part)

[IMPORTANT UPDATE BELOW]

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post offers "Headless bodies and other immigration tall tales in Arizona" (link) in which he misleads about some aspects of immigration crime in that state, even if he gets some things right. He also helps reveal problems that supporters of Arizona's new immigration law have; more on that below. And, of course, he illustrates again just how much disdain the Beltway establishment has for the concerns of those in border states.

I'll stipulate that Milbank is probably correct about Jan Brewer's claims about decapitations, however he cranks it up a notch by sarcastically asking whether "dark-skinned foreigners are now severing the heads of fair-haired Americans" when in fact many victims of crimes committed by smugglers would be "dark-skinned foreigners"; Milbank doesn't have much concern for the victims of such crimes, regardless of their skin color.

Then:

Border violence on the rise? Phoenix becoming the world's No. 2 kidnapping capital? Illegal immigrants responsible for most police killings? The majority of those crossing the border are drug mules? All wrong.

The first has already been discussed here; see that for how Milbank is misleading his readers. His claim that the second is wrong is based on an article by the non-credible Politifact [1]; they made their decision based not on statistics but on the fact that there's either an absence of statistics or not all kidnappings are reported. The last two he's probably correct on.

Then, Dana Milbank shows what little respect he has for immigration enforcement and immigration laws in general:

This matters, because it means the entire premise of the Arizona immigration law is a fallacy. Arizona officials say they've had to step in because federal officials aren't doing enough to stem increasing border violence. The scary claims of violence, in turn, explain why the American public supports the Arizona crackdown.

Whatever unspecified Arizona officials have said, there are plenty more reasons to reduce illegal immigration than simply border violence. There's also the fact that the Obama administration has in effect ceded control of part our territory to foreign criminals. And, even Milbank mentions the possibility that violent crime will spill over from Mexico into the U.S.; that's already happened in several instances but apparently he wants to wait until it gets worse and much harder to deal with before taking action. There's also the fact that Border Patrol agents have been discovered to have been in the pay of foreign criminals and the strong probability that local officials have also been compromised. And, of course, there's the impact of massive illegal immigration on our own high unemployment and the large amount of spending involved. Milbank delusionally thinks that if Arizona officials portrayed the border area in his corrupt, naive way then support for the law would drop.

Regarding the "mules" claim, Milbank says:

The Border Patrol's Tucson Sector has apprehended more than 170,000 undocumented immigrants since Oct. 1, but only about 1,100 drug prosecutions have been filed in Arizona in that time.

Shouldn't anyone who pretends to know anything about this issue realize that prosecutions don't necessarily reflect the number of actual crimes? See, for instance, this from March:

Two years ago, an understaffed U.S. Attorney's Office in Tucson would have likely declined such a case - the office had a 500-pound threshold for marijuana cases... Not anymore - the threshold is history... Thanks to an influx of funds from the Justice Department's initiative to fight border-related crime, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tucson has nearly double the prosecutors it had three years ago. The office is prosecuting drug cases at a record clip - and going after people with smaller loads... The U.S. Attorney's Office in Tucson prosecuted 1,298 felony drug cases in 2009 - more than double the 521 prosecuted in 2008...

Even if "the threshold is history" there are only so many cases they can prosecute; if they had more funds they could no doubt increase it well above the 1,298. That doesn't mean that all illegal aliens are being used as "mules", just that Milbank is pawning off a misleading statistic.

The Milbank column, unfortunately, illustrates two major problems that supporters of the Arizona law have:

1. Those like Brewer need to bear in mind that everything they say will be picked apart by massive/illegal immigration supporters like Milbank and dozens of others who have a megaphone. They need to be very careful to only make statements that they can back up.

2. Many supporters of the law have donated to Arizona's legal defense fund, and some of the tea parties types have signed petitions in support of Arizona and so on. However, that's not enough. Things like the supposed low crime rates along the border are propaganda that those like Milbank use, yet few besides me are trying to strike against that propaganda and I didn't get any help that I know of with my discussion of the Associated Press article. If I had - if those trained in statistics had shown how the AP article is wrong - we might have prevented it being used not just by those like Milbank but also by Barack Obama. Simply standing around waving signs or signing petitions isn't enough: people also need to intellectually engage the other side and show how they're wrong. Unfortunately, the loudest opposition to the other side - the tea partiers and rightwing bloggers - are generally incapable of doing that.

UPDATE: So much for Milbank's conceit (link). Congressman Rob Bishop has confirmed that a beheading victim was found on an Arizona ranch in January and turned over to the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office. One of Milbank's sources is the Arizona Guardian (link), the same source that earlier smeared Brewer over a misconstrued quote. They claim to have contacted the coroner in Santa Cruz County and claim to have been told that no such cases had been handled there. Please contact Milbank using this form with the link to the Examiner article and suggest that he be intellectually honest enough to look into this matter.

UPDATE 2: There's another anecdotal case linked from here. Other anecdotal cases are linked from here, and that site also points out that the Arizona Guardian only claims to have asked about "immigration-related" cases and not those related to drugs. Would the Guardian - which smeared Brewer as linked above - stoop even lower and deliberately only ask about one set of data when the other is equally important? If anyone calls the same counties in Arizona and has conflicting information please leave a comment.

UPDATE 3: The report in the first update might be in error; see this. Fox News says the head found might have been separated by an animal:

When pressed to indicate if decapitated bodies had been found in Arizona, Senseman continued: "[Brewer is] referring, in general, to the increasing violence across the border."

Meanwhile, officials at six medical examiners' offices in Arizona -- Yuma, Pima, Santa Cruz, Cochise, Pinal and Maricopa -- confirmed that they had no records of decapitated bodies.

...[In the case in the first update above, the rancher] notified officials at the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office, who went to the ranch and took possession of the head.

Dr. Bruce Parks, who serves as the chief medical examiner for Pima and Santa Cruz counties, confirmed to FoxNews.com that the head was identified through DNA testing as that of 43-year-old Francisco Fuentes Dominguez, who was not a U.S. citizen. Parks said a cause of death was not determined, but there was no evidence of decapitation. Other "badly decomposed" parts of Dominguez's body were found nearby earlier in the year, he said.

[1] politifact.com/texas/statements/2010/jun/28/john-mccain/
mccain-says-phoenix-second-kidnapping-capital-worl

Fri, 07/09/2010 - 15:27 · Importance: 4