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August 22, 2019

8/9/2019 10:21:00 AM
Statistics can be so misleading

Dear Editor:
We all have to be cautious about the source of our "news," particularly when we are sharing our thoughts with others. A recent Chronicle letter to the editor quoted extensively from a group called Judicial Watch which is well known for its strong emotional language, anti-immigrant rhetoric and emotionally charged accusations and lawsuits (the vast majority of which have been thrown out of court) against people they consider to be their enemies.
So as I was reading the letter to the editor I was skeptical. Then I discovered their trick. Like much propaganda, the letter contained a germ of truth but its spirit was grossly misleading.
The intent was obviously to stoke fear against immigrants by claiming they cause a high percentage of federal crime. Here's the Catch 22. Immigration violations are one of the few crimes that are federal. To put it another way, federal arrests are predominantly for crimes that only immigrants can be charged with.
The vast majority of violent crimes - murder, burglary, assault, etc. - are handled by state and local courts, most of which do not keep records of the ethnicity of the person arrested. What we do know is that the overall crime rate in the U.S. has fallen sharply over the last several decades at the same time that the number of immigrants coming to this country has increased.
It's sad to note that El Paso, Texas, was until last week one of the safest cities in the United States with a homicide rate of 2.4 per 100,000. Yet it has a very high percentage of Hispanic residents. Only a few American cities have a lower homicide rate and many of them have a sizable Mexican population. Of course, these records were shattered by last week's mass shooting allegedly committed by a young Caucasian man who was violently anti-immigrant.
I salute the Dodgeville Chronicle for being willing to print all letters. But as readers we are responsible for questioning what we read. Of course, we want to believe the statistics that reflect our own point of view. But don't we owe it to ourselves and the readers of the Chronicle to be as careful as we can about where we get our information?

Shirley Barnes

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