Wall or No Wall, Study Suggests Mexico Isn’t Sending its Murderers

For even Trump’s ardent supporters, a bit of thought should be given to one narrative that he has pushed as supporting evidence that a border wall is necessary: that Mexico is actively siphoning murderers across the border to rid the nation of its worst citizens.

It’s a difficult point to prove, but one that makes sense when examined only at the shallowest levels. Of course any nation would have incentive to export perpetual offenders who clog the prison systems and display recidivist tendencies. Murderers would be tops on a list of get-em-the-hell-outta-heres.

The sentiment is not without historical precedent, either. In April of 1980, when Fidel Castro declared that Cubans would be free to immigrate to America and should make their way to the Mariel Port near Havana if they wished to do so, many did not realize that many of the 125,000 Cubans estimated to have made their way to Miami had been released from prisons and mental wards. Crime is a burden on any nation, and any honest leader would say that, if another nation was willing to accept their dregs, they would pass them along with little thought.

But in the case of Mexico, there’s a problem with the murderers-as-an-export narrative. And it’s a point that President Trump recently cited, not for the first time. Yesterday, at 4 A.M., the president Tweeted accurately that the Mexican murder rate is on a rapid incline compared with last year.

‘One of the reasons we need Great Border Security is that Mexico’s murder rate in 2017 increased by 27% to 31,174 people killed, a record! The Democrats want Open Borders. I want Maximum Border Security and respect for ICE and our great Law Enforcement Professionals! @FoxNews

Border walls are par for the course in most nations where outsiders have proven eager to get in. This is not an argument against the border wall. But, critics of this particular justification for the wall bring up a good point.

If crime in Mexico is on a rapid ascent, wouldn’t it suggest that Mexico’s worst still reside in Mexico?

Think about it. If you were a career criminal, especially one that would resort to murder, would you be more inclined to operate in a nation that has proven incapable of fighting back against the cartels with any effectiveness, or would you take your talents north of the border, subjecting yourself to the rule of more well-equipped police forces, immigration patrols, and courts?

While there are exceptions that will find reason to make their way across the Charmin-soft border fence that ineffectively stands on the States’ southern border as the last defense against illegal immigration, by and large criminals who virtually run Mexico should have little incentive to leave. As the prime example, El Chapo had to be extracted from Mexico – he wasn’t exactly eager to walk his way over the border, he had to be extradited.

And, the murder statistics would suggest that the El Chapo wannabes haven’t left the country either, as much as the Mexican government likely wishes them away.

Perhaps the President is aware of this. We know that he is adept at employing political gamesmanship, and is not hesitant to do so. The day before his Tweet, he espoused a willingness to endure a government shutdown if “border security” is not addressed by the September 12th budget appropriations deadline.

“If we don’t get border security after many, many years of talk within the United States, I would have no problem doing a shutdown,” Mr. Trump said during a 40-minute news conference with Giuseppe Conte, the visiting Italian prime minister. “We’re the laughingstock of the world.” (New York Times)

However, if the President does believe his words about Mexico exporting their murders to the United States, an original study from the right-leaning Cato Institute might serve to change his mind. The study suggests that assumptions of crime – murder in particular – necessarily bleeding north into the U.S. may be misguided.

Researchers Alex Nowrasteh and Andrew Forrester ran a regression analysis comparing crime in regions in close proximity to the border, comparing a location in Northern Mexico with one in the Southwestern United States, nearly or directly adjacent to the border. Using data from the Mexican National Institute of Statistics and Geography and the American Uniform Crime Reporting statistics at the FBI, they compared homicide rates in each location per 100,000 citizens from 1997 through 2016.

One finding is that, contrary to the President’s implicit assertion that higher crime rates in Mexico would correlate with higher rates of crime bleeding over into neighboring regions in the States, the opposite proved true, at least within the confines of the study.

‘Although we did not include other controls, there is a negative relationship between homicides on the American side and the Mexican side.  In other words, when Mexican homicide rates go up then American rates tend to go down and vice versa.’ (Cato Institute)

Additionally, even though Mexican homicide rates have fluctuated over time, American homicide rates in the neighboring regions have experienced a steady decline.

The authors of the study admit that no study is perfect nor able to capture the entire picture, including theirs. However, their various models all suggest that increases in Mexican homicide rates are either not correlated or negatively correlated with trends in the States adjacent to the Mexican regions. Perhaps the President is working from a different dataset, or perhaps he is engaging in political posturing.

All of this lies aside from the reality that a border wall can be justified. His staunch rhetoric is reflective of the reality that his base expected progress on the wall to begin long ago, and it is one of the issues in which many of his voters are most invested. However, when it comes to data made available to the public, it seems that out of the many valid reasons to construct a border wall, an influx of native Mexicans wreaking homicidal havoc is not one of them.

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