At the very beginning of his run for president, Donald Trump portrayed immigrants–especially those from Mexico–as hardened criminals and rapists. On Tuesday evening, before a joint session of Congress, President Trump continued to connect the word
“immigrant” with criminal activities. As proof of how dangerous immigrants are, Congress was introduced to several victims of immigrant crime: a man whose son was killed by an “illegal immigrant” and the wife of a police officer who was killed by “two illegal immigrants.” Because “our citizens” are at such high risk, Trump announced the creation of a new office within the Department of Homeland Security–Victims Of Immigrant Crime Engagement (VOICE)–that would address the supposed epidemic of immigrant criminality.
Yet, a 2014 study published in the journal Justice Quarterly concluded that immigrants “exhibit remarkably low levels of involvement in crime across their life course” and are less likely to commit crimes than native-born U.S. Citizens. (source: AP)
So why is Trump insistent upon telling the “immigrant as criminal” storyline? Is he articulating a narrative about immigrants that he will use to justify state-sanctioned actions against them? Likely. By constantly connecting the words “immigrant” and “criminal,” Trump plants the seeds of suspicion and fear into the minds and hearts of the public–seeds that will bear the fruit of hatred and discrimination and that will lead to public support for deportation, incarceration or worse. It’s happened before.
Question for reflection:
When you hear the word “immigrant” what are your first thoughts? Who do you picture? What are they like?
Do you have a counter-narrative to the “immigrant as criminal” storyline? What is it?
Link to the related article by the Associated Press.