© 2023 All Rights reserved WUSF
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

PolitiFact Florida On Immigrant Crime; Rubio's Big Oil Dalliance

Photo Courtesy PolitiFact Florida/Miami Herald
State Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, joined by Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey, speaks about his bill that would allow concealed-carry permit-holders to openly carry their weapons in Florida during a press conference Oct. 6, 2015

The subject of illegal immigration is never far from the front burner of politics, especially in the wake of President Trump's recent decision to look at rescinding DACA. That could revoke the legal status of children brought illegally into the country.

Now Panhandle Congressman Matt Gaetz, a Republican, is stirring the pot a bit more.

"State and local governments that do not comply with our immigration laws are putting American citizens at risk. The facts are clear: the U.S. Sentencing Commission found that in 2014, 75 percent of all criminal defendants who were convicted and sentenced for federal drug offenses were illegal aliens," Gaetz said in an Aug. 18 email newsletter. "As of 2014, illegal aliens made up roughly 3.5 percent of our population, and committed over 10 percent of all murders."

Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling:

In 2014 immigrants unauthorized to live in the country did account for "roughly 3.5 percent" of the population. In recent years the number of immigrants living in the United States illegally has been estimated at around 11 million. The nation’s total population in 2014 was just under 320 million.
Was that 3.5 percent responsible for more than 10 percent of murders in 2014, as Gaetz said? There is no conclusive data supporting this claim.
Gaetz’s office pointed us to a September 2015 FoxNews.com report by Malia Zimmerman, headlined, "Elusive crime wave data shows frightening toll of illegal immigrant criminals."
"Statistics show the estimated 11.7 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. account for 13.6 percent of all offenders sentenced for crimes committed in the U.S. Twelve percent of murder sentences, 20 percent of kidnapping sentences and 16 percent of drug trafficking sentences are meted out to illegal immigrants," FoxNews.com reported, though it did not specify to which year those sentences correspond.
Gaetz’s newsletter cites U.S. Sentencing Commission findings for 2014, so we took a look at the commission’s data report for fiscal year 2014, which details information on federal sentences including citizenship of offenders per primary offense category.
The commission reported that in fiscal year 2014, 75 people were sentenced for murder: 64 of them were U.S. citizens and 11 noncitizen. (The noncitizen category includes "resident alien," "illegal alien," "extradited alien," and "non-U.S. citizen, alien status unknown.") Another, more detailed table provided to PolitiFact by the commission showed that of the 75 people sentenced, 9 of them, or 12 percent, were an "illegal alien."
But it’s important to note that murder convictions and sentences are mostly handed at the local and state level, not federal. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program collects crime information voluntarily provided by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. It reported an estimated 14,249 murders in 2014. Information is available regarding the age, sex, race and ethnicity of the offenders, but not on their immigration status.
The commission’s data is "a very small subset," and most of the serious, violent crime convictions happen at the state level, said Charis E. Kubrin, a professor of criminology, law and society at the University of California-Irvine, who recently examined 51 studies on the relationship between immigration and crime, mainly finding no correlation.
"It is misleading to make assumptions, to make inferences (based on the commission’s report) because it’s such unique data," Kubrin said.
Gaetz’s statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.

Next up, let's check out the truthfulness of a heckler who accused U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of cozying up a little too much to the oil industry.

A college student and climate activist interrupted Rubio during a recent Seminole County GOP fundraiser in Altamonte Springs.

He interrupted the speech, saying: "Senator, if you really care about young Americans, why did you take three-quarters of a million dollars from fossil fuel executives in your last Senate election?"

Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling:

The heckler, September Porras, told PolitiFact that she obtained the dollar amount from the Center for Responsive Politics, an independent clearinghouse for campaign finance data that publishes its data at opensecrets.org.
The center’s data for the top 20 recipients of oil and gas donations during the 2016 cycle showed that Rubio received $753,201. That amount put Rubio in fourth place for oil and gas donations behind three other presidential candidates: U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Separately, the center compiled industry donations for the Florida Senate candidates in 2016. That analysis shows that Rubio received $524,877 from oil and gas. Rubio received more money from six other sectors, including retirees, security/investment and Republican/conservative.
Over Rubio’s career as a federal candidate and politician between 2009-18, he has taken $1.1 million from oil and gas.
(Porras cited Rubio’s oil and gas donations but coal is also a fossil fuel. The Center of Responsive Politics found Rubio got $48,800 from the coal industry in 2016.)
Compiling Rubio’s donations during the 2016 cycle is complicated because he ran in two elections -- presidential and Senate. The Center for Responsive Politics provided PolitiFact with a more specific breakdown for his oil and gas donations:
$339,194 - to his presidential campaign $207,500 - to outside groups that supported both his presidential and Senate runs $271,571 - to his Senate campaign and leadership PAC That adds up to $818,265. That’s higher than the other totals shown for Rubio because it is the center’s most up to date analysis.
So the dollar amount cited by Porras is valid, but while she referenced Rubio’s "last Senate election" the amount she cited included some donations to his presidential campaign.
While the heckler was referencing Rubio’s Senate election, that amount also includes donations to his presidential race. That's an important distinction, because presidential fundraising tends to draw more donations. The figure comes from an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics which found that Rubio received $753,201 during the 2016 cycle. 
We rate this claim Half True.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
WUSF 89.7 depends on donors for the funding it takes to provide you the most trusted source of news and information here in town, across our state, and around the world. Support WUSF now by giving monthly, or make a one-time donation online.