Donald Trump launched his presidential campaign in 2015 with a direct, blatant racist appeal. A 2018 study by the Proceedings of the Academy of Sciences found it was that fascist oriented ideological appeal that drove many white voters to the polls in key states that gave the presidential election to Trump over Hillary Clinton.
Trump waged a racist, fear-mongering campaign to get elected, and he has steadfastly stoked the flames of racism during his first two years in office. For example, he blames the nation’s violent crime problem on undocumented persons living in the United States—crime, he said, they brought here from their native Latin American countries.
In 2016, the year Trump campaigned for and secured the American presidency, the FBI reported there were 17,250 murders committed in the U.S.
Trump promised to put an end to that violent crime. What did he deliver?
Murder Rate Up Slightly Under Trump
Statista.com reported there were 17,284 murders committed in the U.S. 2017—an increase of 34 murders under the Trump administration over President Obama’s last year in office.
In fact, Statista reported that eight of the ten states with the highest murder rates in 2017 were under Republican control, accounting for 6,394 of those murders. The remaining two Democratic controlled states, California and Illinois, accounted for 2,827 of the murders.
More Lies and Exaggerations
President Trump kicked off his 2020 bid for reelection on February10 in an El Paso arena filled with roughly 6000 people, many of whom do not live in the iconic Texas border city. Once again, as he did throughout his 2016 campaign, the president kicked off his campaign with lies. He first claimed there were 35,000 people in the El Paso County Coliseum that has a seating capacity of no more than 6,500 people before replacing it with another lie that 10,000 people squeezed into the arena.
Since his State of the Union Address, Trump has perpetuated the lie that El Paso was one of the nation’s most violent cities before a fence was erected in 2009 between the city and the Mexican border. The truth is that before the 2006 Secure Fence Act was enacted, the city’s violent crime rate had decreased 34 percent. In fact, El Paso’s violent crimes actually increased 17 percent during the two-year period after the fence was erected.
How can the American public secure a safe, meaningful border security/immigration policy when the nation’s president infects the public discourse on the subject with blatant lies, deliberate misrepresentations, and calculated deceit in order to perpetuate his racist political agenda—an agenda supported by a majority of the Republican Party and every single race-hating white nationalist in the country.
So what are the facts?
Crime Rates Lower in Undocumented Immigrants than Native Born
Texas is the only state in the nation that keeps specific data on the kind and number of convictions obtained against undocumented persons. This data, reports the Cato Institute, supports the conclusion that undocumented persons are less likely to be incarcerated in the U.S. than are native born citizens.
The American Immigration Council (“AIC”) reported in October 2017 that there were 1.7 million “undocumented immigrants” residing in Texas in 2014. The Cato Institute found that the homicide conviction rate among these undocumented persons is 1.8 per 100,000 while the conviction rate among native born Americans in the state is 3.8 percent per 100,000.
In raw numbers, there were 806 homicide convictions in 2016 in Texas; only 32 of which were undocumented persons while 746 were against native born Texans and the remaining 28 were legal immigrants.
Crime Rates Lower in Immigrant Communities
Reputable studies, as reported in the Oxford Research Encyclopedias (“CRE”), have found that as foreign-born, immigrant population in cities across the nation increased, the violent crime rate went down in those cities. The CRE pointed out that, “Citizens in the United States have been concerned, since Colonial days, with crime and worry that they will be victimized by immigrants … This concern is based on the belief that foreign-born individuals are members of a criminal class who threaten community cohesion by committing a disproportionately large number of violent and property crimes.”
Deep Seated. Irrational Fears Die Hard
Today’s fear of immigration/crime is inherited from deep-seated fears in the guilty hearts of white American colonists—this country’s original immigrants who murdered, raped, and robbed Native-Americans, all the while calling them “savages;” who bought, sold, and enslaved Africans in a forced labor system whose torture still defies comprehension to this very day; and who exploited the blood and sweat of new arrivals to the U.S., like the Irish and Italians, in order to keep them impoverished, un-educated, and politically powerless.
The hardcore base of Trump’s political support, those who embrace the ideology of white nationalism, trumpet the crimes of the original colonists as “making America great.” Trump is exploiting these old colonialist fears about immigration to bolster his false narrative that crime, drugs, and sex trafficking are pouring into the United States across the Mexican border.
In his new book, “How Fascism Works: The Politics of US and Them,” Jason Stanley writes: “Fascist politics replace reasoned debate with fear and anger. When it is successful, its audience is left with a destabilized sense of loss, and a well of mistrust and anger against those who it has been told are responsible for that loss.”
Enraged Trump Supporter Attacks Reporter
This basic guide to Mussolini-styled governance is precisely what President Trump is doing with the border security/immigration debate in this country. The president in fact got his border-wall supporters so riled with anger and rage during the El Paso rally that one of them wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat invaded the press section in the arena, attacked a BBC cameraman and cursed the rest of the sealed off press corp.
President Trump has demonized the media, the FBI, the Justice Department, the intelligence community, the Democratic Party, and anyone else who dares to defy or refute what he says. He is the only president in U.S. history that prompted the press to assign personnel to track his false and/or misleading statements.
Lies: 8,100 and Growing
As of January 21, 2019, the Washington Post had documented 8,158 false and/or misleading claims the president has made during his first two years in office.
The president’s incurable propensity for lying, misrepresenting and exaggerating political issues that demand honest public discourse makes it impossible to establish a coherent border security/immigration policy. For example, the president and his administration routinely parrot the false narrative that one in five federal inmates are foreign-born who have committed violent crimes.
The truth is, as Tom Jawetz, vice president for immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, told the New York Times in 2017: “The vast majority of immigrants in federal prison are there for crimes that only immigrants can be charged with – illegal entry and illegal entry after removal. When you cook the books you shouldn’t pretend to be surprised by the results.”
Increase in Undocumented Immigrant Population, Decrease in Violent Crime
Last month CNN cited a 25-year study of crime and immigration data published in the journal Criminology that found, “Increases in the undocumented immigrant population within states are associated with significant decreases in the prevalence of violence.”
In May of last year, NPR found “four academic studies [which] show that illegal immigration does not increase the prevalence of violent crime or drug and alcohol problems. In the slew of research, motivated by Trump’s rhetoric, social scientists set out to answer the question: Are undocumented immigrants more likely to break the law?”
As criminal defense attorneys, we have a vested interest in truth prevailing not only in the nation’s criminal justice system but in any public debate that impacts that system. The truth here is that undocumented persons are not as criminal and violent as native born Americans. The United States has 5 percent of the world’s human population but incarcerate 25 percent of its inmate population. Politicians have for the past 100 years exploited this nation’s innate fear of crime to not only secure but maintain power.
President Donald J. Trump has taken the exploitation of that crime fear to a new level—a level never before seen or even imagined in this nation’s brutal and violent history.
We do not believe this country’s border security/immigration problem is a threat to our national security. We do believe, however, that the president’s fear mongering, racism, and calculated incitement of violence are such a threat because they constitute a full frontal assault on the Democratic ideals we profess to cherish.