Losing their heads

LOSING THEIR HEADS…. We talked a week ago about Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) trying to defend her anti-immigrant policies, prompting her to argue that immigrants entering the U.S. illegally are responsible for “beheadings.” All available evidence suggests Brewer just made it up, and her office hasn’t been able to substantiate the claim.

But Brewer seems to be leading a larger crusade among Arizona Republicans, making it seem as if their state is on the verge of immigrant-based anarchy, overrun with immigrant drug trafficking, kidnappings, and police shootings. The more the rest of the country hears about these nightmare scenarios, the more they’re inclined to support measures like the odious Arizona immigration law.

Dana Milbank explained today, “Last year gave us death panels and granny killings, but compared with the nonsense justifying the immigration crackdown, the health-care debate was an evening at the Oxford Union Society.”

Two months ago, the Arizona Republic published an exhaustive report that found that, according to statistics from the FBI and Arizona police agencies, crime in Arizona border towns has been “essentially flat for the past decade.” For example, “In 2000, there were 23 rapes, robberies and murders in Nogales, Ariz. Last year, despite nearly a decade of population growth, there were 19 such crimes.” The Pima County sheriff reported that “the border has never been more secure.”

FBI statistics show violent crime rates in all of the border states are lower than they were a decade ago — yet Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) reports that the violence is “the worst I have ever seen.” President Obama justifiably asserted last week that “the southern border is more secure today than any time in the past 20 years,” yet Rush Limbaugh judged the president to be “fit for the psycho ward” on the basis of that remark.

The “beheadings” lie was amusing in its hyperbole, but we’re reaching a point at which nearly every claim made by Arizona Republicans and their allies is simply, demonstrably wrong. Violence from Mexican drug cartels is spreading north? There’s no evidence of that. Phoenix, according to McCain, is the “No. 2 kidnapping capital of the world”? No, it’s not. Most immigrants from Mexico are drug mules? That’s wrong, too. Most law-enforcement shootings are at the hands of undocumented immigrants? Total bunk.

At this point, I’m hard pressed to find any GOP talking points on immigration policy that aren’t made up. We can’t even have an honest debate on the issue because one side of the divide is living in fantasy land.

As for the real-world effects of rhetoric from Brewer, McCain, and their allies, it seems the only obvious consequence is a drop in the number of people who actually want to visit the state of Arizona. After all, why would tourists want to go to a place its own leaders describe as some kind of lawless, violent dystopia?