|Damon Winter/The New York Times|
Trump's case against illegal immigration partly turns on the fact that sometimes illegal immigrants commit crimes. He furiously shouted every bit of the speech, but especially ranted about a "border-crosser" who murdered a young woman named Sara Root in Nebraska--someone who had just graduated from college with a 4.0 GPA (he said). Of course this is very, very awful, but does it create a strong case against illegal immigration?
For some reason, it's tempting to think so, but the logic here is fraught with problems. One issue is whether illegal immigrants commit more crimes than people here legally. Apparently, they don't--in fact, they commit fewer crimes, as David Brooks has pointed out. I suppose you could say the lower rate doesn't matter, that any crimes committed by illegal immigrants should be held against allowing them to stay or making it harder for them to enter the US. But there's another issue here.
If the bad deeds of illegal immigrants are a reason to keep them out, then how could you avoid thinking the good deeds of illegal immigrants are a reason to let them in? A couple of good deed stories were in the news recently--the valedictorians at two high schools turned out to be illegal immigrants. Even more impressively, if you google "illegal immigrant saves life" you come up with plenty of examples.
A curious inconsistency is that when conservatives talk about abortion, they sometimes have just the opposite focus. Abortion might have eliminated the best among us. I hear this sort of thing from students sometimes. What if an abortion had eliminated Martin Luther King or Steve Jobs or even that genius, Donald Trump? Tougher immigration laws, on the other hand, would eliminate the worst among us!
No. If you're going think about the crimes committed by illegal immigrants, you really do have to think about their good deeds as well. You might not think the bad deeds are exactly cancelled out by the good deeds (does one saving-of-a-life cancel out one murder?) but it makes no sense at all to only focus on the bad deeds.