Fabiola Santiago

Fabiola Santiago: One crime, many anti-immigrant bills

MAKING A STATEMENT: A young immigrant makes clear why he is in the United States.
MAKING A STATEMENT: A young immigrant makes clear why he is in the United States. sedonaobserver.com

As if the offensive loud-mouth Donald Trump weren’t enough of a political liability in the 2016 election, members of Congress from the self-destructing Republican Party are pushing through a slew of new anti-immigrant bills.

The latest excuse for hatred-inspired legislation clearing committees is a single crime: The deadly shooting of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle while strolling with her father in San Francisco.

It was a heinous and senseless act. Suspect Francisco Sanchez, an undocumented Mexican immigrant with a drug record, had been deported five times, and each time had crossed the border and returned. Police picked him up for marijuana possession, but released him instead of notifying immigration authorities, following San Francisco’s sanctuary-city laws.

And so, a Congress that has repeatedly refused to pass bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform — one that rewards good people with a path to citizenship and secures the borders so the likes of Sanchez can’t return — has hijacked one crime and turned it into a reason for a verbal and legislative assault on a class of people.

If shootings were the real motive to legislate in Congress, gun-control measures would by now have sailed through and been signed into law.

Yet not even the slaughter of 20 children and six educators in a Connecticut elementary school led to the most minimal reform — sane measures such as keeping guns away from the mentally ill and high-powered weapons from criminals.

Continuing the trend, not a single Republican member of Congress spoke up after yet another mass shooting on Thursday night to say, “Hmmm, maybe we really do need to do something about guns.” No elected officials are pounding the pavement to lament that another native-born, white male — the 59-year-old drifter who killed two women and wounded nine others in a Lafayette, La., theater — had committed the crime.

Over and over, theaters, churches, malls, and schools are violated by angry white males and nobody is demonizing or profiling native-born white male drifters or white male mentally ill young men, or angry white male racists — or passing laws to give police more authority over the fate of their daily lives as a group.

And yet a single criminal case has given politicians the opportunity to rein in undocumented immigrants and would-be immigrants, not just with legislation but with rousing speeches in Congress and on the campaign trail that tap into paranoia and outright xenophobia.

It’s not an accident that Trump is leading the polls in the Republican presidential race. He’s only the most famous face of a pack already elected to office.

Rep. Trey Gowdy — a South Carolina Republican who should be more concerned about white supremacists like Dylann Roof, who gunned down nine black worshippers in Charleston — is instead sponsoring a bill that seeks to undo President Barack Obama’s executive order protecting DREAMer kids and their parents from deportation.

In a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, a House immigration subcommittee hearing and on the House floor this week, GOP members of Congress delivered Trump-style, immigrant-demonizing rants.

For starters, there’s the use of the term “aliens” to dehumanize, in one loaded word, the desperate men, women and children who flee their homelands seeking better lives and the much-touted freedoms that America offers.

“The appetite for amnesty has diminished dramatically after we see the carnage in the streets of America at the hands of criminal aliens that should have been removed from the country,” said Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican who likened crime by undocumented immigrants to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“Carnage” at the hands of undocumented immigrants? Hardly.

The same evening King spewed his hatred of immigrants, another American community, this time in Louisiana, suffered another spasm of violence, this time at the hands of a gun-toting, white American who, according to reports, liked to spout anti-gay, pro-Hitler drivel.

Even coming from a congressman, hate speech can’t change these facts.

Carnage in this country has a face, but it’s not that of an undocumented immigrant.