Kirstjen Nielsen inspects concertina wire at border
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen inspects concertina wire installed by U.S. Marines at the border. Photo by Chris Stone

A significant portion of the federal government is closed, possibly well until the new year, because of President Trump’s demand for a border wall to stop what he calls “massive crime.”

“The most important way to stop gangs, drugs, human trafficking and massive crime is at our Southern Border. We need Border Security, and as EVERYONE knows, you can’t have Border Security without a Wall. The Drones & Technology are just bells and whistles. Safety for America!” he tweeted on Sunday.

That tweet is not fundamentally different from dozens, maybe hundreds, he has posted since he began his presidential campaign by labeling Mexican immigrants as “criminals” and “rapists.”

And he gets daily support for this view on Fox News, thanks to the chorus of Lou Dobbs, Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson. Just last week Carlson, who spent part of his childhood in La Jolla, blasted immigration for making America “poorer and dirtier and more divided.”

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But if this narrative is correct, why is America’s largest border city so safe?

report last week by New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice found that San Diego had both the lowest murder rate and overall violent crime rate of the 30 largest American cities in 2018.

San Diego is poised to end 2018 with 1.9 murders per 100,000 residents, compared to 23.1 per 100,000 in Indianapolis and 51.7 per 100,000 in Baltimore. That means a resident of Indianapolis is 12 times more likely to be murdered, a resident of Baltimore 27 times.

If the border crisis is real, wouldn’t the crime rate in San Diego reflect that? If illegal immigration is the existential threat that President Trump and conservative Republicans say it is, wouldn’t there be evidence in San Diego? Wouldn’t MS-13 gang members and drug traffickers be shooting people in downtown San Diego? Slashing hard working citizens in San Ysidro? Terrorizing the streets of La Jolla?

Maybe the rusting surplus helicopter landing pads used as a border barrier in the San Diego sector are doing the job. Or Customs and Border Protection personnel have succeeded in apprehending all criminals among the 100,000 people who cross daily at the world’s busiest land port.

But interestingly, other border cities are nearly as safe as San Diego. The murder rate in El Paso is 5.5 per 100,000 residents. In San Antonio it’s 6.8. And in Phoenix, a little farther from the border, it’s 7.8.

Perhaps immigrants with criminal intent don’t stop in border cities but immediately head north to cities like Indianapolis and Baltimore, causing the high crime rates reported there. In fact, it seems that the farther you get from the border in America, the higher the murder rate.

A more likely explanation is that the Trump and Fox News narrative is simply a big lie. Immigrants don’t increase the crime rate at all, but are simply convenient scapegoats.

President Trump may well get his wall before the current shutdown ends, and many Americans may feel safer as a result, but it won’t make any difference in America’s safest city.

Chris Jennewein is editor and publisher of Times of San Diego.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.