Donald Trump loves to talk about how too many people get murdered in Chicago. Whether he’s addressing the Republican National Convention, live-tweeting an episode of The O’Reilly Factor, giving an interview to ABC News, honoring Black History Month, or talking shop with a conference of sheriffs in D.C., the president makes sure to note that a lot of people get killed in the Windy City, and someone should really do something about it.
Most of the time, that someone is himself — but the something is left opaque. Trump has vowed to “send in the feds” if conditions don’t improve, but whether this means increasing federal assistance to Chicago — or occupying the city with federal troops — is unclear.
Regardless, Rahm Emanuel asked Trump for federal aid to combat homicide, at a face-to-face meeting in December. That request has, thus far, been denied. In fact, the president has actually threatened to cut federal aid to Chicago, unless the city ceases providing “sanctuary” to undocumented immigrants.
But on Wednesday, Trump suggested that such coercion might be just what Chicago needs to solve its homicide problem.
“You look at Chicago, and you look at other places,” Trump told a law-enforcement conference in Washington. “So many of the problems are caused by gang members, many of whom are not even legally in our country.”
If this were true, then forcing Chicago to crack down on illegal immigration would be an easy way for the federal government to address its homicide problem. And if checking Twitter were a good way to build muscle mass, I would have killer biceps.
Alas, we do not live in that beautiful world. There is little evidence that undocumented immigrants commit crimes at a disproportionately high rate — and no evidence, whatsoever, that they are responsible for gang violence in Chicago.
Further, “sanctuary cities” — municipalities that refuse the request of federal authorities to detain undocumented immigrants — tend to have lower crime rates than other cities. Per NPR:
On average, counties that did not comply with ICE requests experienced 35.5 fewer crimes per 10,000 people than those that did … Research has shown that working with federal immigration enforcement made it harder for local police agencies to investigate crimes because witnesses and victims who were in the country illegally would be less likely to come forward if they thought they risked being detained and deported.
Chicago does have a homicide problem. As do many other urban communities where there is concentrated poverty, racial segregation, easily accessible firearms, and low homicide-clearance rates. If Trump wants to make America safer, he will push for federal policies that reduce the number of neighborhoods defined by those conditions.
By contrast, if he wants to scapegoat those with the least political power in America for all the nation’s problems, he will carry on pushing for more draconian policies toward the undocumented.
Who can guess which he will choose?