During his first address to Congress, President Donald Trump claimed to remind us that "while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms." The only trouble there is that Trump doesn't seem to be condemning all forms of hate and evil equally or on the same terms. Trump dedicated a big portion of his speech to what he see's as a growing wave of violent crime, but even if that were true, Trump's answer, the VOICE agency, totally misses the mark.
There's a disconnect from reality in Trump's plans to fight violent crime. And don't get me wrong, even one rape or murder is one too many. But we are not seeing crime levels that even remotely approach the 1980s or even early 1990s. There was an uptick from 2014 to 2015 that was significant — but only when you look at those two years and not the larger trend. But let's forget context for a second and pretend that violent crime is the biggest issue facing Americans (just to be clear, it isn't — according to a Gallup poll on what the most important problem in America is, Americans said they are more worried about things like racism, healthcare, the economy, and poor government leadership than they are about crime/violence).
But let's pull a Trump and pretend violent crime levels are huge and he should address this. His VOICE agency wouldn't be the right solution. He said in his address that the we need to support specifically "American victims" of crime, and he would create an office in the Department of Homeland Security called the office of Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement.
He then referenced four Americans who were in the audience, who had been affected by violence committed by immigrants. Their experiences are absolutely awful. But statistically, it's not the immigrants who are committing violent crime in the United States.
The New York Times ran a piece in January referencing many studies over the years — and none of them point to immigrants being a proportionally large source of violent crime. In fact, immigrants are incarcerated at lower rates than the native-born population. Immigrants are one-fifth as likely to be incarcerated as a person born in the United States. That's huge. And cities with large immigrant populations tend to be safer, a 2006 study showed. So if anything more immigrants would lower the crime rate.
Homegrown extremists — let alone American-born criminals — are far more worrisome than immigrants. The comparisons to make here are difficult. But take these numbers into consideration: Over four years, from 2010 to 2014, 121 people were killed by people who had been released from immigration detention. Then in just two years, 2015 and 2016, 134 people were killed by homegrown extremists — among them white nationalists and anti-government extremists.
Trump pledges new agency directed at crimes by immigrants, who actually have lower crime rates than citizens. Pure fear-mongering. pic.twitter.com/EU8JNIAEQ1— Andrew Stroehlein (@astroehlein) March 1, 2017
Having the raw numbers would allow for an even clearer comparison. But in just two years, more people were killed by homegrown extremists than by immigrants released from ICE custody were in four years. Where is the office for victims of crime committed by Americans? Or for those killed by the police? More than 250 black Americans were shot by the police in 2016.
The only explanation for Trump's creation of this office is to stigmatize immigrants and make them a scapegoat for all the problems facing the United States — even those that they clearly aren't responsible for. America should be supporting immigrant communities, not ostracizing them. So stay tuned into the facts, and don't buy the VOICE office as anything more than propaganda.
Even if there were a surge in crime, this office wouldn't be the solution.