La Opinion, Los Angeles, California, Saturday June 11, 1996, pp. 11A, (Editorial). 11A, (Editorial).
A recent report by the grand jury in Orange County provide figures that have nothing to do with the reality of the county jail. This report erroneously states that about 27% of convicts are undocumented immigrants. The Orange County Sheriff's office says that they do not exceed 6%.
It is possible, as the person in charge of the grand jury stated, that the wrong data has been the product of a "bona fide error."
However, we must not forget that these are the kind of distorted reports used and encouraged in the virulent anti-immigrant campaign in progress.
These are very serious allegations put forth by community leaders in Orange County and this report is lacking scientific rigor and its sole purpose is to respond to certain political interests to get fuel to the fire of the anti-immigrant sentiment that prevails in California
Exagerated figures such as the those in this report issued by the grand jury give the false impression that there is a relationship between crime and immigration. The reality is that crime rates among immigrants are much lower than the percentage they have in the total population.
It is these distorted claims that allow ordinary citizens, already alarmed by the high levels of crime, thoughtlessly accept as a truth the false claim that immigrants are prone to crime, and come to this country for that purpose in mind.
The Grand Jury's concern for the prison is understandable. However, the jail's problem of lack space and funds is not caused by undocumented immigrants. The problem is the result of the increased population of the county, and that no jails have been built in proportion with the needs of this demographic population growth reality.
It is also reasonable that the Grand Jury recommend that the federal government assume some financial responsibility for the cost caused by undocumented prisoners, but this demand can be raised without resorting to exagerating the problem and without fanning the flames of prejudice, intolerance and racial division.