According to a recent report, House Republicans are being instructed to push out stories of immigrant crime to justify President Trump’s immigration agenda.
The Intercept’s Lee Fang initially reported on a memo that was being circulated by Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming), who chairs the House Republican Conference. The memo includes instances of immigrant crime, sorted by date and Congressional District, dating back to 2007.
“Remember these horrific stories when Nancy Pelosi and the extremists in her caucus call physical barriers ‘immoral,’ ” the memo read. “What’s truly immoral is refusing to secure our southern border to prevent this from happening again.”
Rep. Cheney’s memo is merely the latest example of Republicans attempting to frame the immigration debate in their terms using crime statistics. President Trump did something similar in launching his VOICE initiative (Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement) in 2017. VOICE, which is run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), was created via executive order and charged with “mak[ing] public a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens and any jurisdiction that ignored or otherwise failed to honor any detainers with respect to such aliens.”
In a 2017 interview with Democracy Now to talk about her book One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps, author Andrea Pitzer likened the Trump administration’s efforts to hype immigrant crime as a move “to isolate and identify and then vilify a vulnerable minority community in order to move against it.” She pointed out that during Adolf Hitler’s reign, Nazi Germany took similar efforts to paint Jews in a negative light by publishing the graphic details of crimes they committed.
“[I]n Nazi Germany there was a paper called—a Nazi paper called Der Stürmer, and they had a department called “Letter Box,” and readers were invited to send in stories of supposed Jewish crimes. And Der Stürmer would publish them, and they would include some pretty horrific graphic illustrations of these crimes, as well. And there was even a sort of a lite version of it, if you will, racism lite, in which the Neues Volk, which was more like a Look or a Life magazine, which normally highlighted beautiful Aryan families and their beautiful homes, would run a feature like “The Criminal Jew,” and they would show photos of “Jewish-looking,” as they called it, people who represented different kinds of crimes that one ought to watch out for from Jews.”
Pitzer went on to remind viewers that similar efforts in America to demean immigrants for political purposes also happened under a Democratic administration. While President Franklin Roosevelt was preparing to carry out his policy of interning Japanese Americans in various camps throughout the United States, newspapers often undertook efforts to publish crimes committed by Japanese Americans in the camps and elsewhere.
“Before Japanese-American internment, you had newspapers like the San Francisco Chronicle running about the unassimilability of the Japanese immigrants and also the crime tendencies and depravities they had, which were distinguished from the main American population,” Pitzer said.
And while Trump and Republicans are trying to paint immigrants as criminals, they do so in defiance of actual crime statistics. As The Washington Post reported in 2018, undocumented immigrants committed crimes at a far lower rate than U.S. citizens going by a study conducted in Texas — one border state Trump has frequently visited.
The memo’s inclusion of crimes dating back to 2007 also suggests that the paper’s authors went out of their way to overhype immigrant crime. In just the first 36 days of 2019, there have been 31 mass shootings according to the Gun Violence Archive, which defines a mass shooting as any event in which four or more people are killed or injured by gunfire, not including the shooter. Only eight of those mass shootings happened in border states, suggesting that the 23 others would not have been prevented with a wall. Not one perpetrator in any of the 31 mass shootings was an undocumented immigrant.
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.