Selectman’s fear-mongering

Monday, November 27, 2017

I am writing to respond to John O’Rourke’s letter in the Recorder published on Nov. 20. As a Conway resident, I find O’Rourke’s fear-mongering about immigrants both offensive and factually inaccurate.

O’Rourke begins his letter with a series of misleading statistics designed to create the impression that illegal immigration, and crimes committed by undocumented people, are growing threats to the United States. An entire paragraph of his letter citing statistics on incarceration rates for immigrants is plagiarized from the website of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, an anti-immigrant organization officially designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. This rhetorical sloppiness continues throughout O’Rourke’s letter.

The fact is that unauthorized immigration to the United States has actually declined over the past decade, according to research from the Pew Research Center. Far from being a drain on public coffers, as O’Rourke states, undocumented people in the U.S. actually pay an estimated $11.64 billion per year in taxes, according to research from the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy.

Sanctuary communities actually experience lower rates of crime than comparable communities, according to recent research from the Center for American Progress. This holds true even in rural areas. One possible reason for this is that undocumented people may be more likely to report crimes and cooperate with police to catch criminals if they are not worried about being deported for doing so.

I am not afraid of immigrants and believe that inaccurate, plagiarized and fear-mongering rhetoric by Selectman O’Rourke contributes to a climate of fear and distrust in our town. I fear more for immigrants who will feel less safe speaking up, both for their own safety and in reporting crimes to local law enforcement because of Selectman O’Rourke’s inflammatory rhetoric.

Brendan O’Connell