CLEVELAND – Amidst all the action on the Republican stage last night — Benghazi, B-celebrity speeches, Rudy Giuliani’s screeches, Melania Trump’s copy-and-paste pallooza — it was easy to overlook the segment that was devoted to the Trumpian proposition that undocumented immigrants are killers.
So before Night One recedes in the rear-view mirror, let’s take a look. If only because it’s yet another tawdry example of how Trump goes for the gut with no respect for factual context.
I respect the grief of the parents who took the stage. Mary Ann Mendoza’s son, Brandon, was a cop who was killed in an ’04 car accident with an undocumented immigrant. Sabine Durden’s son, Dom, was a 911 dispatcher whose motorcycle was struck by an undocumented immigrant with a DUI track record. Jamiel Shaw’s son, Jazz, was shot dead eight years ago by an undocumented gang member.
We all feel their pain, and they’re certainly entitled to express their partisan preferences. Durden praised Trump as “my lifesaver.” Mendoza says that Trump would be a president who “cares more about Americans than about illegals putting all of our children’s lives at risk.” Shaw said simply that “Trump is sent from God.”
Well. If that’s true, then perhaps God should warn His disciple that it’s amorally dangerous, and empirically incorrect, to smear 11 million undocumented immigrants for the criminal behavior of a miniscule few — essentially labeling all those immigrants as inherently criminal. In fact, here’s some handy material that would help God state His case:
According to a 2014 Northwestern University study, “There’s essentially no correlation between immigrants and violent crime.” According to a 2008 study by the Public Policy Institute of California, foreign-born immigrants in our biggest state, undocumented and otherwise, are strikingly law-abiding: “The incarceration rate is 297 per 100,000 in the population, compared (with) 813 per 100,000 for U.S.-born adults.”
According to two reports by the Immigration Policy Center, FBI data for undocumented immigrants shows that their violent crime rate – everything from aggravated assault to murder – fell 48 percent between 1990 and 2013. And that “incarceration rates among young men are lowest for immigrants. This holds especially true for the Mexicans, Salvadorans, and Guatemalans who make up the bulk of the undocumented population.”
Do undocumented immigrants sometimes fall through the cracks? Of course. But between 2010 and 2014, according to the Department of Homeland Security, a grand total of 121 people released from immigration custody were later charged with murder. That’s roughly that’s one-thousandth of a percent of all the undocumented immigrants in America.
But last night the Trump convention didn’t mention the other 99-plus percent. The message was simply, Be Very Afraid – which is boffo inside the conservative bubble, especially among whites, but to most Hispanics, and to those who work every day with Hispanics, it’s just another symptom of the Trump campaign’s endemic intolerance.
Today, I ran into Brent Wilkes, who’s treasurer of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, which is comprised of 40 Latino groups that continue to be troubled by the GOP’s hostile vibes. I’ll let him do the talking:
“I was very offended by that (convention) presentation. Yes, it’s horrific when a crime in this country is committed by anyone, and certainly when it’s a murder. We’re all against murders. But the message last night was that immigrants, undocumented immigrants, are more pre-disposed than others to commit murder. (Republicans) were blaming undocumented immigration generally for murders. That’s a serious charge, and it’s untrue.
“You are much more likely to be murdered by a U.S. citizen, somebody who was born here, than you are by an undocumented immigrant. And yet (Republicans) were implying the opposite of that. So, that’s character assassination. People should be judged on their own individual actions. You shouldn’t use a group identity, you shouldn’t blame everyone just because they share a background with (an offender).
“And for any candidate to suggest that just because a person has committed a crime, that that crime can then also be used to debase everyone else (in that ethnic group) – it’s very offensive. Frankly, it’s racist. And I certainly hope that message changes.”
Don’t hope too hard.