IMMIGRATION TALKING POINT FALLS APART…. For conservative proponents of the Arizona immigration measure, there’s one argument that trumps them all: the law is necessary to address a public safety crisis. There’s a drug war in Mexico, the argument goes, which in turn has led to deadly incidents in Arizona. Officials in Arizona, then, have no choice but to adopt extreme measures to protect the citizenry.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who frequently struggles with details and facts, insisted on the Senate floor last week that problems along the border have “led to violence — the worst I have ever seen.” Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) said her new state law is in response to a “crisis” borne of “border-related violence.”

The argument doesn’t stand up well to scrutiny. (thanks to reader P.O.)

Assistant Police Chief Roy Bermudez shakes his head and smiles when he hears politicians and pundits declaring that Mexican cartel violence is overrunning his Arizona border town.

“We have not, thank God, witnessed any spillover violence from Mexico,” Bermudez says emphatically. “You can look at the crime stats. I think Nogales, Arizona, is one of the safest places to live in all of America.”

FBI Uniform Crime Reports and statistics provided by police agencies, in fact, show that the crime rates in Nogales, Douglas, Yuma and other Arizona border towns have remained essentially flat for the past decade, even as drug-related violence has spiraled out of control on the other side of the international line. Statewide, rates of violent crime also are down.

This is more than just another instance of conservatives fudging the facts. Public safety is at the core of the defense of the Arizona law. It’s the driving force for the entire effort — but it’s wrong.

This isn’t to say crimes haven’t happened. The murder of Cochise County rancher Robert Krentz has been well reported. But the right has painted a picture of escalating violence, justifying overly-aggressive policymaking.

It’s just not true.

By many measures, Arizona has become safer since illegal immigrants began pouring into the state in the 1990s.

Crime has dropped all across the country since then, but the decrease has been as fast or faster in Arizona…. That’s no surprise to those who study immigration — both sides, whether for or against increased immigration, agree that immigrants tend to commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans. […]

What most in law enforcement here do agree on is that the victims of crime by illegal immigrants tend to be other immigrants. Community activists argue that the new law will make it worse for law-abiding immigrants because few immigrants, whether documented or not, will want to deal with police.

Better conservative talking points, please.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.