This Facebook status has over 50,000 shares: https://facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10155478870771603&id=520116602&refid=52

It states:

Undocumented immigrants commit crimes at a considerably lower rate than the election campaign staff of Donald J. Trump.

Is the claim true, statistically speaking? Are plea deals and guilty pleas counted in the crime rate for each group? Just how large is the Trump election campaign staff population, anyway?

What if we "crime" rate is replaced with the rate of felonies?

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    @JanDoggen I opened a meta post about this. In the case of this question, the claim seems rather vague (as OP noted as well), but it seems borderline on-topic to me. – tim Aug 24 '18 at 8:53
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    This sounds like a joke to me, though. But, perhaps, we can debunk it anyways. – Sklivvz Aug 24 '18 at 12:28
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    @Sklivvz I personally shared it because I thought it was true, but when I tried to verify it I ran into the obvious problem of not having an easy way to calculate the "crime rate" for the campaign staff. – Kyle Strand Aug 24 '18 at 12:53
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    I'm voting to close; not because notability wasn't shown (I think facebook likes can do that), but because the claim is just too vague to properly examine. As OP noted, we don't know what "crime rate" means here (people convicted? accused? arrested?), who "election campaign staff" are, what crimes count (crimes committed before people became campaign staff? Crimes at any point in a persons lifetime? Is illegally immigrating a crime? etc). I also think that Sklivvz has a point that this might not actually be a factual claim, but more of a joke. – tim Aug 24 '18 at 17:24
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    @tim - But isn't this exactly the kind of claims that Skeptics.SE is all about? Claims that are patently true or patently false are off topic. It's the claims that are widely disseminated but are perhaps a bit loose with the truth that are this site's bread and butter. – David Hammen Aug 24 '18 at 19:23

Is the crime rate for undocumented immigrants “considerably lower” than that of Trump campaign staffers?

Caveat: Strictly speaking, the crime rate for undocumented immigrants is rather high. While being in the country illegally is a civil infraction rather than a crime, entering the country illegally is a crime. Moreover, all male illegal immigrants between the age of 18 and 25 must register for the Selective Service. I shall ignore these crimes, which is obviously the intent of the meme.

TL;DR: A ridiculously narrow view of what it meant to be on Trump's campaign staff is required to give this meme any plausibility, and that very narrow point of view would necessarily exclude some of those associated with the Trump campaign who have either pleaded guilty or have been found guilty.

According to the CATO Institute, the rate at which illegal immigrants were arrested in Texas in 2015 was 2149 per 100,000 illegal immigrants while the incarceration rate in 2016 was 800 per 100,000. The arrest rate is a bit high; it includes people who were not charged with any crime or were found not guilty. The incarceration rate is a bit low; it excludes people who did commit crimes but only received a fine.

To date, there have been five convictions or guilty pleas of Trump staffers: George Papadopoulos, Michael Flynn, Rick Gates, Paul Manafort, and Michael Cohen. This means Trump's "campaign staff" would have to be at least 233 people (5*100000/2149) to falsify the meme of the higher arrest rate is used, 625 (5*100000/800) people if the lower incarceration rate is used.

The issue then is who qualifies as being a member of Trump's "campaign staff". The claim is false if one includes the untold thousands of people who self-volunteered to aid Trump's election. The claim is also false if one includes the 4,500 trained organizers who did not receive a salary but who did receive formal training and were sometimes reimbursed for expenses. The claim is also false if one includes the paid staff at the national and state levels of the Republican party whose focus was to get Trump elected (previous reference, and also NBC News).

If, however, one excludes all of those people and instead only counts the people who received a salary directly from the Trump campaign, then Trump's campaign staff was rather small, by design: Trump outsourced the vast majority of his campaign efforts. His direct staff include but 68 people at the end of June, 2016, 130 (previously cited NBC News article) at the end of September, and 168 by the middle of October, the last set of published data I could find. Sorting through the 5255 itemized disbursements for the November 2016 results in 198 people who were categorized as "PAYROLL". This very narrow view of Trump's campaign staff would exclude some of those who have either pleaded guilty or have been found guilty as not being members of the campaign staff. Not one of the five guilty persons were on this final list, and Papadopoulos at a minimum would never have been on this list.

Bottom line: Whether the claim is true or false depends on one's definition of "campaign staff". It takes a very narrow point of view to make the claim appear to be true, and this very narrow point of view would necessarily exclude some of the guilty parties.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Oddthinking Aug 25 '18 at 7:24
  • Sorry, but this answer does not account for the fact that it's highly misleading to imply that crime rate for undocumented immigrants tracks with arrests. Most crime by illegal aliens is most likely against other illegal aliens, who are very unlikely to either report it in the first place, or even when reported, to cooperate with police to help catch the criminals. As such, any crime rate using arrests or incarceration likely highly under counts real crime rate. – user5341 Aug 26 '18 at 12:37
  • The real problem is that "crime rate" is a specific statistical measure which simply does not exist for Trump's campaign. You sort of emulate that by taking some specific examples, but that's not how crime rate is calculated, it's based on survey, statistics and corrections (see e.g. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_statistics). Also, even if it was correct, it's still a time based measure, so you can't just compare two numbers as it's cherry picking. – Sklivvz Aug 26 '18 at 17:12
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    A central idea of this answer is wrong: "there have been five convictions or guilty pleas of Trump staffers" is incorrect. Correct version: "there have been five widely reported convictions or guilty pleas of Trump staffers". Given that the average incarceration rate in the US is 655 per 100,000, it is likely that several of the hundreds or thousands of lesser known staffers committed crimes as well. We'd need much more thorough research and calculations to answer this question with reasonable precision. – jcsahnwaldt says GoFundMonica Aug 30 '18 at 15:51

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