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As the deadlock over funding of a border wall drags on, an already-debunked claim about the dangers of immigrants is getting new attention.
"On Sept. 11th, 2001 2,996 people died," reads a Dec. 31 Facebook post. "Since 2001, 63,000 of us were murdered by illegal aliens. That’s equal to 21 9/11 attacks."
This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
We asked U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement about the claim and, on Jan. 7, Vincent Picard, a deputy assistant director at ICE’s public affairs office, directed PolitiFact to two reports by the agency. According to the fiscal year 2018 ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations report, the criminal records of people arrested by ICE for being illegally in the country included 2,028 homicide offenses (387 charges and 1,641 convictions). According to the fiscal year 2017 report, the criminal record of people arrested included 1,886 homicide offenses.
Those offenses didn’t necessarily happen during that fiscal year—it just means they were on someone’s arrest record when they were picked up that year. Still, what about the years prior?
Picard said he didn’t have anything going back to 2001, but he said there might be more information on a Department of Homeland Security web page about immigration data and statistics. The website has immigration enforcement actions reports going back to 2004, but they don’t mention murder or homicide.
Alex Nowrasteh, a senior immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute, a Libertarian think-tank, called the number nonsense, and pointed to a June 22 Washington Post article about the claim.
Back in June, President Donald Trump said that at least 63,000 Americans had been killed since 9/11. But, the Post reports, the stat dates back to a 2005 blog post written by Rep. Steve King, who "seems to have basically made the number up … and, since there isn’t good data on the number of crimes committed by people who immigrated illegally, it was embraced by those looking to put a number to it."
Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, said no one keeps track of murders committed by undocumented immigrants.
"I believe the 63,000 figure is meant to include deaths, not just homicides," she said in an email, "but I don’t know where you are getting these figures."
Neither did we, so we asked others who study immigration to weigh in.
"I can’t think of any evidence that could support a number like 63,000," said Randy Capps, director of research for U.S. programs at the Migration Policy Institute.
Elizabeth Cohen, a political science professor at Syracuse University, said the statement "has repeatedly been shown not just to be baseless, but to be impossible to the point of being absurd."
"It has no relation to any actual crime data," she said.
We rate this claim False.
Facebook post, Dec. 31, 2018
Email correspondence with Alex Nowrasteh, senior immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute, Jan. 7, 2018
Fiscal Year 2018 ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations Report, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Fiscal Year 2017 ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations Report, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Email interview with Vincent Picard, deputy assistant director, Office of Public Affairs, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Jan. 7, 2019
Email interview with Elizabeth Cohen, assistant professor of political science, Syracuse University, Jan. 8, 2018
Email interview with Randy Capps, director of research for U.S. Programs, Migration Policy Institute, Jan. 7, 2018
Email interview with Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies, Center for Immigration Studies, Jan. 7, 2018
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