Andres Oppenheimer

Trump’s office of anti-immigrant propaganda will hurt all immigrants

Activists hold signs during a protest outside the White House March 6, 2017, in Washington, D.C. Activists staged a protest against President Donald Trump's second Executive Order banning travel from certain muslim-majority countries.
Activists hold signs during a protest outside the White House March 6, 2017, in Washington, D.C. Activists staged a protest against President Donald Trump's second Executive Order banning travel from certain muslim-majority countries. Getty Images

President Trump has just announced the creation of a new government office that will document and publicize crimes committed by undocumented immigrants who, according to most studies, commit far fewer crimes than native-born Americans. So here’s my question to my friends who still support this president: If that’s not anti-immigrant fear-mongering, what is it?

Trump announced the creation of his office of anti-immigrant propaganda during his Feb. 28 address to the joint session of Congress.

“I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to serve American victims. The office is called VOICE, Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement,” he said. “We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media and silenced by special interests.”

Trump added that VOICE will help victims of crimes by undocumented immigrants track their cases and “make public a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens.”

To dramatize his point during his address to Congress, Trump introduced Jamiel Shaw, whose 17-year-old son was murdered by an undocumented immigrant gang member in Los Angeles, and two women whose husbands — “pillars of their community” — had also been killed by an undocumented immigrant with a criminal record.

Trouble is, virtually all serious studies show that undocumented immigrants tend to commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans. And there are good reasons for that: undocumented immigrants — the maids, gardeners, waiters and fruit pickers who do jobs few Americans want to do — fear being caught by police and being deported.

According to a study by the American Immigration Council , or AIC, a non-partisan Washington, D.C., think tank, U.S. Census data show that only 1.6 percent of immigrant males — both legal and illegally in the country — between the ages of 18 and 39 are incarcerated in U.S. prisons, compared to 3.3 percent of the native-born.

The AIC study reached the same conclusion when it looked specifically at young Mexican, Salvadoran and Guatemalan men without high school education, who make the bulk of undocumented migrants. They have significantly lower incarceration rates than U.S. born men without high school degrees, it said.

“Innumerable studies have confirmed two simple yet powerful truths about the relationship between immigration and crime: immigrants are less likely to commit serious crimes or be behind bars than the native born, and high rates of immigration are associated with lower rates of violent crime,” the report says.

So why is Trump singling out undocumented immigrants for America’s crime problems?

Why doesn’t he create an office of victims of racial hate crimes to single out white supremacist criminals and give a voice to the Muslims, Jews, Mexicans, Indians and other minorities who have been victims of an epidemic of hate crimes since Trump won the election?

Why doesn’t he create an office to highlight the contributions to society of the “dreamers” and other current and former undocumented migrants who, according to the Institute of Taxation & Economic Policy, pay an estimated $11.64 billion in state and local taxes every year? (While Trump, from what we know, has paid nothing in years.)

The answer is that Trump uses his fear-mongering narrative against immigrants — especially brown-skinned ones — to please the white male, working-class base that helped elect him.

Trouble is, with his new VOICE office, Trump will not only unfairly continue to demonize and dehumanize undocumented immigrants, but he will create a climate of suspicion and hatred against all immigrants.

“It will lead to more harassment, more hate crimes, more bullying, and more discrimination against anybody who looks like he may be an immigrant,” says Frank Sharry, head of America’s Voice, a pro-immigration advocacy group. “You could be a fifth generation Hispanic whose family has served in the military, but if you have a brown skin, you are going to be viewed by stupid people as a criminal and a threat.”

My opinion: I agree. Trump’s planned VOICE anti-immigrant propaganda office is one of the most un-American ideas this country has ever seen. Instead of fanning social hatred against a group that commits fewer crimes than native Americans, Trump should create a similar office to publicly denounce crimes by white supremacists, many of whom are his followers.

Watch the “Oppenheimer Presenta” TV show Sundays at 9 p.m. on CNN en Español. Twitter: @oppenheimera

Watch “Oppenheimer Presenta” Sundays at 9 p.m. on CNN en Español

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