KYL KEEPS FIBBING ABOUT CRIME IN ARIZONA…. There’s been a fair amount of attention surrounding Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl’s (R-Ariz.) comments yesterday about ending birthright citizenship, as guaranteed by the 14th amendment. And it’s true — the fact that a once-obscure right-wing dream has quickly become a common talking point for the Republican leadership is pretty interesting.

But during Kyl’s interview with CBS’s Harry Smith on “Face the Nation,” there was another exchange (pdf) that stood out.

SMITH: [O]ne of the things that’s come to light over the last couple of weeks is in some of these border towns that were thought to be susceptible to law-breaking of illegal immigrants, crime is actually down. Crime in Phoenix, for instance, is down significantly over the last couple of years.

KYL: Well that’s — that’s a gross generalization. Property crimes are up. Certain violent crimes on certain parts of the citizenry are up.


KYL: Phoenix is the — it is a very large source of kidnapping. It’s called the kidnapping capital of the United States because the illegal immigrants who are brought to Phoenix for distribution throughout the country are held in drop houses, and they are mistreated, horribly treated. They are held for ransom for their families back in Mexico or in El Salvador, or wherever to send more money or they won’t be released and so on. So there’s a great deal of violence and crime associated with the presence of illegal immigrants.

There’s quite a few problems with this, which Kyl is probably aware of.

For example, talking about a significant decrease in crime along the border isn’t a “gross generalization”; it’s reality. Crime in Arizona border towns, for example, has been “essentially flat for the past decade.” According to the FBI, violent crime is lower now than a decade ago in every state along the U.S./Mexico border.

But it was more interesting to hear Kyl bring up Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) favorite talking point: Arizona is “the kidnapping capital of the United States.” The claim has already been debunked, but notice how Kyl changes the talking point — he said yesterday that kidnapping is a problem in Phoenix because of “the illegal immigrants who are brought to Phoenix.”

That’s never been the right-wing argument. The whole idea is to scare the bejesus out of people, giving the impression that local residents are routinely plucked off the streets of Phoenix by marauding bands of dangerous Mexicans.

But note how Kyl is changing it up — he’s not arguing that people in Phoenix are being kidnapped; he’s arguing that people are kidnapped and brought to Phoenix. By this reasoning, it’s not a city for kidnapping; it’s a city for kidnappers.

I realize Kyl is playing a bit of a game, using demagoguery to support an odious anti-immigrant state law, and making excuses to oppose comprehensive reform. But as the interview shows, his talking points need some work.

Steve Benen

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.