Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
State Representative Geoff Diehl, in an effort to ramp up immigration-focused attacks on US Senator Elizabeth Warren, released a campaign video Friday that claims that 20 people a day — or the equivalent of “over 7,000 people every year” — are killed by undocumented immigrants.
But there are no federal data to back up the assertion, and Diehl’s campaign, in arguing that it’s true, pointed to a jumble of information, including figures from unnamed sheriffs, a two-year-old Fox News article on driving deaths, and drug overdose death rates.
The claim is included in a roughly minute-long spot released by Diehl, one of three Republicans running in the Sept. 4 primary to face Warren in November. It features Maureen Maloney of Milford, whose 23-year-old son, Matthew J. Denice, was killed in 2011 by an undocumented immigrant who struck Denice’s motorcycle with a truck and dragged him for nearly a quarter-mile.
“The only thing that has changed since Matthew’s death is the death toll,” Maloney says in the video. “It is estimated that there are 20 people a day killed by illegal aliens. That’s over 7,000 people every year.”
Maloney goes on to say that her son is dead “because too many politicians . . . put illegal aliens ahead of Americans,” before cutting to a clip of Warren on CNN discussing the death of Mollie Tibbetts, a 20-year-old Iowa college student who was allegedly killed by an undocumented immigrant.
Asked to provide the underlying data for Maloney’s claim, Holly Robichaud, a Diehl adviser, initially responded in a text that “sheriffs say 25 per day.” She did not provide any further information on which sheriffs have made the claim.
Robichaud later e-mailed a link to a 2016 Fox News article that appears to provide similar numbers to those offered by Maloney, but instead cites deaths tied to unlicensed drivers, not undocumented immigrants.
“As many as 7,500 Americans — 20 per day — are killed annually by unlicensed drivers,” according to the report. It cites research done by Don Rosenberg, whose son was killed in 2010 by an undocumented immigrant and claimed “that more than half [of the 7,500] are the victims of illegal immigrants.”
But the report notes, and Robichaud also acknowledged, that there is no federal data that specifically tracks how many of those unlicensed drivers are undocumented.
Nonetheless, Robichaud called the figures “alarming. That’s why Maureen Maloney said them.”
“There is no federal tracking of all the data. Hence, the numbers have been debated,” she added. “However, if one family member dies, it is too many.”
Jessica Vaughan — the director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors tighter immigration controls — said she hasn’t seen any methodology measuring how many fatal crashes involve unlicensed, undocumented drivers.
“I’m not aware of how he would make that assumption,” she said.
Walter Ewing, an editor and writer at the American Immigration Council, which advocates on behalf of immigrants, was more blunt.
“It sounds like they’re grasping at straws,” he said.
Pressed on how those figures support the video’s claim, Robichaud also pointed to a 2005 Government Accountability Office report on homicide arrests of “criminal aliens,” suggesting that contributed to the 20-per-day tally.
But in citing that report, she appeared to copy and paste paragraphs from a recent Washington Post article that focused, in part, on an analysis that US Representative Steve King, an Iowa Republican, did of the data. King, a staunch advocate for tougher immigration laws, calculated there were “25,064 homicide arrests of criminal aliens since 1955.”
Those figures, Robichaud said, “are a starting point.”
“Then,” she said, “there are all the drug deaths,” following with another link, this time to drug overdose data — though none of it included connections to immigration.
She instead pointed to two US Immigration and Customs Enforcements press releases about undocumented immigrants who were convicted of drug trafficking. “There have been hundreds of articles about this problem of drugs.”
But at that point, Robichaud said she was finished providing on-the-record responses about the video.
“I have more than provided you with enough data,” she told a Globe reporter.
Diehl is running against longtime GOP activist Beth Lindstrom and Winchester businessman John Kingston in the Sept. 4 primary.
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