Trump Falsely Cites Immigrant Crime Wave in Germany

President Trump got his facts wrong on Tuesday, when he claimed that Germany is experiencing more lawlessness because of its liberal immigration policies.

“Crime in Germany is up 10 percent plus (officials do not want to report these crimes) since migrants were accepted,” he tweeted. “Other countries are even worse. Be smart America!”

Trump refused to retract the statement even after European officials pointed out that in 2017 Germany's crime rate dropped to its lowest point in a quarter-century.

Numerous outlets, including the Hill and Vox have pointed out that Trump's 10 percent statistic was possibly taken from this government-sponsored report from January that showed violent crime increased 10 percent between 2015 and 2016 in the single German state of Lower Saxony. It is true that the study attributed 90 percent of the increase in violent crime to young male refugees, but there are a number of reasons why this is misleading. 

First and foremost, treating a 10 percent increase from 2 years ago within a single German state as more important than last year's most up to date statistics about crime in the country as a whole should be an obvious non-starter. Secondly, it's clear that even within the study that found the 10 percent increase in crime, this is not the whole story. The 2015-2016 study suggested that language classes, sports, and job opportunities would likely curb the rise in crime, and also suggested reuniting these people with their families. This is far from the way the data was being used in the Trump tweet.

More interesting still is the 2017 data about the decline in crime in Germany as a whole, which according to Politico showed a decrease in politically motivated crimes of 4.9 percent, following four years of increases. It is also interesting to note that while incidents involving the political left rose by 3.9 percent (attributed mainly to G20 protests in Hamburg), they still numbered at less than half of those associated with the political right, which saw around 20, 520 incidents. The German interior ministry responsible for the study noted that most politically motivated crimes were related to the use of propaganda. 

Finally, while the majority of the crime statistics from the 2017 study showed decreases, one notable area of increase was in Anti-Semitic crimes, with close to 95 percent of cases attributable to supporters of the political right. Therefore, not only does Trump's use of the German political situation misrepresent that nature of immigration-related crime, it conveniently ignores the fact that most of the politically motivated crime in Germany is associated with the right. 

This begs the question - why use the misleading statistic? The president appeared to be defending his own administration's immigration policies, which have come under increased scrutiny since outlets began reporting on the separation of migrant families at the Mexican border.

“We must always arrest people coming into our Country illegally,” Trump tweeted. “Of the 12,000 children, 10,000 are being sent by their parents on a very dangerous trip, and only 2,000 are with their parents, many of whom have tried to enter our Country illegally on numerous occasions.”

The administration's “zero-tolerance” approach to the issue also includes prosecuting every migrant caught crossing the border illegally. That has resulted in a backlog of cases at federal courts in Texas and other border states.

On Monday, Trump and two cabinet secretaries spoke out in defense of the administration's treatment of immigrant families. “They could be murderers and thieves and so much else,” the president warned. “We want a safe country, and it starts with the borders, and that’s the way it is.” Sessions told reporters that “we do not want to separate parents from their children,” but showed no intention of changing the policy.

Homeland Security Department Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen maintained during a press briefing at the White House that the children are receiving fair treatment. “Parents who entered illegally are by definition criminals,” she said. “By entering our country illegally, often in dangerous circumstances, illegal immigrants have put their children at risk.”

Among those who have denounced the administration are all four living former first ladies. Rosalynn Carter issued a written statement declaring: “The practice and policy today of removing children from their parents’ care at our border with Mexico is disgraceful and a shame to our country.”

Congressman Steve Stivers of Ohio, who chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee, vowed “to stop unnecessary separation of children from their parents.” Another GOP lawmaker, Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, called the policy an “ugly and inhumane practice.”

Republican Congresswoman Mia Love of Utah, whose parents came to the United States from Haiti, described the tearing apart of families as “horrible.” She added: “As a mother of three children and daughter of immigrant parents, this is something that’s both very tangible and heartbreaking to me. This is not a partisan issue. It’s an issue of right or wrong.”

GOP Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas pledged to introduce a bill calling for twice as many federal immigration judges to handle asylum requests. He said his measure also would sanction the construction of temporary shelters where families could remain together until their cases are resolved.

All the Democrats in the Senate have added their names to legislation sponsored by California's Dianne Feinstein to limit family separations. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., was set to introduce a similar bill in the House.

Trump is blaming Democrats for the controversy, wrongly claiming that they passed a law requiring the separation of migrant families when they held the majority in Congress. The New York Times noted that no such law exists, but there are other regulations relating to the matter. A consent decree known as the Flores settlement requires that children be released from immigration detention sites within 20 days.

In 2008, President George W. Bush signed a law stipulating that unaccompanied minors may not be jailed for more than 72 hours. President Obama ordered officials to hold parents and their children together in family detention centers.

A judge decided that the Flores settlement called for separating the families, even though the decree actually stated that the practice was permitted but not mandated. The Obama administration responded by releasing asylum seekers until their applications were settled. That approach continued until the Trump administration's recent actions.

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