Continuing his campaign to demonize immigrants as “rapists,” “killers,” and “bad hombres,” Trump unveiled on April 26 a hotline for victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.
As usual, the administration trotted out some of the very few victims of crimes committed by the undocumented in an attempt to lend credence to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly’s announcement about the new Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) office.
“Our mission is clear, and that is to acknowledge the exceptional damage caused by criminal illegal aliens and to support the victims of these preventable crimes,” Kelly said.
Immigrant supporters picked up on the repeated use of the term “alien” (which we’ve written about before) and flooded the hotline with calls about crimes committed by space aliens.
Cheers to the activists for their creativity. But the cleverness and humor of the response shouldn’t overshadow the real threat posed by this hotline.
“The goal of this program is to instill fear of non-white immigrants,” the National Day Laborer Organizing Network announced in a statement. “It is another deliberate step taken by the Trump administration towards creating institutions that legitimize racist propaganda… It is blatantly racist and a dangerous new tool for extremists and white supremacists.”
Those of us in Arizona are experiencing déjà vu remembering Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s hotline, which allowed people to report suspected undocumented immigrants. Since no member of the general public could possibly know whether another individual has proper immigration documentation, the hotline became a vehicle for reporting people based on the color of their skin and the way they spoke.
A Sun City woman who heard Spanish spoken at a McDonald’s asked Arpaio to rid the area of “illegal immigrants.” Another individual emailed the sheriff, saying, “If you have dark skin, then you have dark skin! Unfortunately, that is the look of the Mexican illegal who are here ILLEGALLY… I am begging you to come over to the 29th St/Greenway Pkwy area and round them all up!”
These phone calls and emails fueled Arpaio’s immigration raids. Trump’s hotline could spur the same racist paranoia. The premise of the hotline makes no logical sense. If someone is a victim of a crime, there is likely no way they could know whether the perpetrator is undocumented. Are they going to say, “Show me your papers” midway through the crime?
Furthermore, the propaganda behind this hotline serves to grossly exaggerate the incidence of crimes committed by immigrants. “All crime is terrible,” Homeland Security Secretary Kelly announced, “but these victims as represented here are unique, and they are all too often ignored. Until today these victims at the hands of illegal aliens had no point of contact in our federal government dedicated to this issue. That ends today.”
Far from being ignored, these victims typically receive outsized attention from both politicians and the media. Numerous studies have found that immigrants – whether documented or undocumented – commit crimes at a much lower rate than native-born U.S. citizens. Once again, Trump is building policy based on an alternate view of reality that is no more credible than space aliens invading our planet.