An earlier version of this article was published in the On the Trail 2024 newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox on Tuesday and Friday mornings here. To submit a question to next week’s Friday Mailbag, email onthetrail@deseretnews.com.

Hello, friends. If you want to watch something inspirational, here’s a clip from the Vatican’s resident astronomer, explaining why he’s both a man of science and of faith.

3 things to know

  1. Trump-Kennedy 2024? Robert F. Kennedy Jr. claimed this week that Donald Trump’s “emissaries” asked him to be the former president’s VP. Several sources told me that those conversations occurred as recently as last week — and a call between Kennedy and Trump to discuss was in the works, before Kennedy backed out. Read more here.
  2. The great debate question: Will Trump and Joe Biden appear on a stage together this year? Trump keeps challenging Biden to debate, and Biden is noncommittal. The Atlantic’s David Frum argues that Biden shouldn’t normalize Trump by debating him; the Deseret News’ editorial board says America “needs” a debate from the two major-party candidates. Both opinions are worth considering. Read Deseret’s here.
  3. Will Trump endorse in the Utah Senate race to replace Mitt Romney? The verdict’s out. But several people in Trump’s orbit — including Kari Lake and Tommy Tuberville — are moving to endorse Riverton mayor Trent Staggs. Read more here.

The Big Idea

Debunking the ‘migrant crime’ myth

A few weeks ago, I attended a Trump rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The focus of my visit was to write about the religious ritual of the rally — the praying, the pleas for divine guidance, the Christian iconography. You can read more about that here. But my ears perked up midway through Trump’s speech when he began talking about immigration.

I’d driven to Green Bay from Whitewater, Wisconsin, a small town in the southern part of the state, where I’d spent several days writing about the growth of the immigration population there. In many ways, it felt like a microcosm of America’s current immigration debate, with all the common actors: concerned law enforcement, pent-up politicians, kind-hearted locals, and of course, the immigrants themselves. Whitewater, population 15,000, has welcomed somewhere between 800 and 1,000 new immigrants over the last few years, and the city has been, in many ways, a hallmark of handling the challenges of immigration in productive, humane ways.

But Whitewater has also become a political lightning rod. During Trump’s speech, I was surprised to hear Trump mention the town by name. “Look no further than the small town of Whitewater, Wisconsin,” he said. “Their police force is being diverted from traffic stops to migrant crime — our favorite term, ‘migrant crime.’ It’s a new category of crime.”

There were a few issues with Trump’s claims. Much of what he said about Whitewater wasn’t true, several community organizers told me. Even his pronouncement about the rise of crime in the city is questionable. I have a full story on Whitewater’s immigration surge, and what it says about the larger border debate, coming on Monday. Today, I want to dive a bit deeper on Trump’s idea of “migrant crime” across the country.

Over the past few months, we’ve seen a number of high-profile crimes committed by immigrants. In January, two New York police officers were assaulted outside of a migrant shelter. In February, a University of Georgia student, Laken Riley, was murdered by an undocumented immigrant. And earlier this month, a man who was in the country illegally killed a U.S. Senate adviser in a car wreck.

All of these horrible incidents have received prominent space in the news. Trump mentions them in his speeches; Biden, too, spoke about Riley’s death in his State of the Union. Often, they are used to conflate increased immigration with increased crime, suggesting that immigrants are more likely to be criminals. Many Americans believe this: A plurality think that immigrants make the U.S. economy and crime worse, but improve our food, art and music.

When it comes to immigrants and crime, the data doesn’t support this. Social science literature has long held that immigrants are less, not more, likely to commit crime in the U.S. (Remember that an immigration violation is a civil, not criminal, offense.) A recent Stanford University study looking at data since 1880, found that immigrant groups consistently had much lower incarceration rates than the native-born population. Today, immigrants are 30% less likely to be imprisoned than white Americans; when Black Americans are included, immigrants are 60% less likely.

A study from the libertarian Cato Institute backs this up: In Texas, immigrants — regardless of their legal status — are half as likely to be convicted of crime than their native-born counterparts.

While much has been made of immigrant crime in major U.S. cities this year, the data there is lacking, too. NBC News reviewed 2024 crime data from each of the major cities targeted by Texas Gov. Greg Abbot’s “Operation Lone Star,” which transported migrants from the border to Philadelphia, Chicago, Denver, New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. In each of those cities but D.C., crime is down year over year. Nationwide, the homicide rate has plummeted since 2020, even as immigration levels are at record highs.

No matter how the data is measured — at the individual, neighborhood, city, state or national level — more immigration corresponds with lower crime.

For those who are still skeptical, consider this: Second-generation immigrants have even higher crime rates than their parents — meaning, when immigrants have children in the U.S., those children’s crime rates catch up to the native-born rate. It’s the “dark side of assimilation.”

Why is this? That’s the question that social scientists are trying to answer. It’s possible that undocumented immigrants, for fear of deportation or other immigration enforcement acts, are more vigilant than native-born Americans in avoiding criminal activity. Some point to the culture in immigrants’ home countries; others suggest a self-selecting process inherent by the immigrants who are drawn to the U.S.

Whatever the case may be, the data is clear: Immigrants are less likely to commit crime than native-born Americans. That says nothing about the economic or social benefits of immigration — only that the claims that “migrant crime” is disproportionately sweeping the country are likely misguided.

Weekend reads

Two sides of your coins: Is the American economy bad or good? Or, perhaps better asked, are the people responding to constant polling that show widespread discontent with the U.S. economy misinformed? That’s the case that Jonathan Chait makes here, and argues — perhaps with a touch of arrogance — that people “just believe things that aren’t true.” (More here: Paul Krugman Is Right About the Economy, and the Polls Are Wrong — New York Magazine.) But the Financial Times’ editorial board digs into the data, and suggests that the economy isn’t in tip-top shape: Unemployment may be down, but more Americans are working multiple jobs; the cost of living is up; consumer spending numbers are being propped up by the wealthiest Americans: America’s robust national economy hides its weak spots (Financial Times).

Trump’s social media company, Truth Social, went public last month. Ever since, its stock has been plummeting. That’s led some investors — including longtime Trump supporters — to waver. Others are stalwart as ever: “This isn’t just another stock to me,” one said. “I feel like it was God Almighty that put it in my lap.” Small-time investors in Trump’s Truth Social reckon with stock collapse (Drew Harwell, The Washington Post).

Will Ukraine and Israel get more U.S. aid, at critical junctures in both wars? The House is set to vote on aid packages, and Biden made an impassioned plea for both in an op-ed this week. “There are moments in history that call for leadership and courage,” Biden wrote. “This is one of them.” Moment of Truth on Ukraine and Israel (Joe Biden, The Wall Street Journal).

See you on the trail.

Editor’s Note: The Deseret News is committed to covering issues of substance in the 2024 presidential race from its unique perspective and editorial values. Our team of political reporters will bring you in-depth coverage of the most relevant news and information to help you make an informed decision. Find our complete coverage of the election here.