Do as I say, not as I do…but actions speak louder than words

The scientist in me craves information. I want to know what’s going on and why. It’s undoubtedly what made science so attractive to me. It’s also what makes research with human subjects so unappealing to me. People lie, and can’t be trusted (of course I know that’s not entirely true, but when it comes to research, it’s a real problem and I’m continuously impressed by those who take on those problems). We know people lie because we see it all the time. This isn’t a misanthropic judgement, it’s just a statement about who we are. Most of it is unintentional, and we even lie to ourselves. How many times do we say that we don’t want to eat that last chocolate, but we eat it anyway? We say that we wanted to go to the gym, but we stayed on the couch instead. We become living contradictions. We have the verbal report (even the voice in our head) saying that want something (or don’t want something), but our behavior tells the opposite story. When faced with this contradiction, if we’re trying to figure out which is the real version (the not wanting to eat the chocolate, or the eating the chocolate), I think the behavior tells the real story. We may say or think that we don’t want to, and a piece of us might not want to, but if we eat the chocolate, we clearly wanted to more than we didn’t want to. To make it worse, how can I know if somebody is lying when they say that they don’t want to do something, but they do it anyway? Until we invent a mind-reader, and can be sure that we aren’t lying to ourselves, all I have is the action, and, to be as cliche as possible, actions speak louder than words. What makes me say this today? Sanctuary cities. It’s a stretch, but follow along if you want.

The Trump administration is clearly anti-immigrant. Some say that they are not really anti-immigrant, that they’re just anti-illegal immigration, but in the theme of actions being louder than words, it’s hard to ignore the plan from Tom Cotton and the White House that seeks to cut the number of legal immigrants. That’s not where I’m going with this though. Stay focused. Sanctuary Cities.

A “sanctuary city” is a city that has decided, based on policing priorities, that they are not going to expend resources to handle immigration laws. The argument is that policing immigration is the federal government’s job, and that state and local police have enough to worry about. Officials in these sanctuary cities say that it doesn’t just stretch their resources, but it also hurts community-police relations, and hurts their ability to deal with crimes that cause much more harm.

I think there’s something important to take away from this. There are people in the country who think that immigrants (especially illegal immigrants) are causing big problems. They’re blamed for stealing jobs, wasting public assistance money, lowering wages, and raising crime rates. These accusations can pretty much all be rebutted by actual data, but the fear persists.

But actions speak louder than words. Why would these cities go against the federal government and refuse to enforce immigration laws? The Justice Department has threatened these cities, saying that they will lose important funding if they don’t comply, and they are resisting. Why would they do this? If immigrants, even the illegal ones, are so horrible and cause so many problems, why would a city work so hard to fight against efforts to remove them? Maybe it’s because the more you live with people, the more you realize that they aren’t actually a threat. A Cato Institute (not exactly a liberal stronghold) analyst argues that crime rates are lower among immigrants than native born Americans, and a 2017 report analyzing 40 years of data found no support for immigration increasing crime. The conclusion of the study authors is that “immigration is consistently linked to decreases in violent (e.g., murder) and property (e.g., burglary) crime throughout the [40-year] time period.”

So actions speak louder than words. If immigrants were so horrible, wouldn’t the places with the most immigrants want to get rid of them?

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