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All tortoises are turtles, but only some turtles are tortoises. You’ve probably encountered this aphorism and if you are even passingly familiar with reptiles and the order of Testudines you understand what it means. Tortoises are generally turtles that live on dry land, while turtles that live mainly in water are just — well, turtles.

I mention this because of President Trump’s latest diatribe on immigrants and border security. Just this week he Tweeted, “Democrats are the problem. They don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13.”

As a 10-pound turtle might say poking out of his shell, “Oof! There is a lot to unpack here!”

First, I’ve met plenty of Democrats over a lifetime of reporting. Some are very strong on fighting crime and harsh punishment, some less so, but I’ve never met one who wanted criminals to “infest” America … let alone a brutally violent syndicate like MS-13.

 

More troubling than Trump’s exact words, however, is his implication that anyone entering the country illegally is an inherent threat to the rest of us because A) if he or she is brazen enough to flaunt the law and come skipping across the border then B) he or she is likely to be a violent criminal.

Really? There is nothing to back this up. No creditable data. No provable trends.

Now certainly, some people in this country illegally have committed heinous crimes, and it is tragic, maddening, and frustrating. But researchers have found the rate of violent crime for these immigrants not significantly different than for native-born Americans, and to suggest immigrants — as a group — are somehow intrinsically more violent is misleading.

Argue they should wait in line, that you don’t want them, that they strain resources or take jobs. All of those are at least debatable points. But crossing the border without documents, while it is a civil violation under our law, is not a criminal offense. In other words, while some violent criminals are immigrants, not all immigrants — not even close — are violent criminals. And that makes a world of difference.