From the moment that Donald Trump entered the political arena, there hasn't been a controversial or political statement that he's shied away from. Now, a video has added a dramatic turn to this pattern. A new ad from the Donald J. Trump for President campaign calls Democrats complicit in murder because of their policies on immigration.
The ad, released to coincide with Trump's one-year anniversary as president, hits a particular chord at this exact moment, when the government is shut down essentially because the two parties cannot agree on the issue of immigration.
Called "Complicit," the ad opens with footage from the trial of Luis Bracamontes, an undocumented immigrant who had been deported and then returned multiple times and who has been charged with killing two police deputies in California in 2014. The ad plays audio of some very inflammatory lines from Bracamontes, before labeling him as "pure evil." Bracamontes' lawyers, however, have argued that he is not mentally fit to stand trial, and that his outbursts were a a result of his mental illness.
The ad then turns to Trump's policies: building the wall, deporting criminals, stopping illegal immigration. the accompanying images consist of grainy footage of people climbing across the border or being accosted by law enforcement — their faces are blurred out, but the video clearly suggests they are Latino.
"Democrats who stand in our way will be complicit in every murder committed by illegal immigrants," the voiceover says.
During that voiceover, the ad shows clips of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin. At least in appearances, Trump has worked with each of those high-profile Democrats at various moments during his presidency. He has also, however, antagonized all of them; Pelosi and Schumer called off a meeting with Trump in November that would have covered the issue of immigration, and he recently said that Sen. Durbin "mischaracterized" the truth after Sen. Durbin maintained his assertion that Trump had referred to various nations as "shithole countries."
"President Trump will fix our borders and keep our families safe," the ad concludes, before Trump's message of approval.
Although it features just one case of an undocumented immigrant committing a serious crime, the overall unspoken message of the ad is that undocumented immigrants are likely to commit crimes, and that Democrats who support immigrants are then complicit in those crimes. This premise, however, ignores facts about both immigration and what the Democrats support.
Trump opened his campaign by calling Mexican immigrants "rapists" and criminals, but that statement wasn't based in the actual statistics about immigrants and crime. In fact, immigrants commit far fewer crimes than Americans born in the U.S., and are also less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans. They are jailed at much lower rates than native-born Americans, and they are extremely unlikely to commit terrorist acts. As immigrant population of the U.S. has gone steadily up over the last quarter century, the rate of violent crimes has gone steadily down.
Furthermore, the issue at the center of the government shutdown is DACA, the Obama-era program that grants undocumented immigrants brought in as children to stay in the U.S. and work legally. Trump moved to end DACA, throwing the fates of the almost 690,000 recipients into limbo. Democrats have worked to protect the Dreamers, as DACA recipients are called, who are indeed undocumented immigrants — but DACA recipients must have a clean criminal record. The immigrants at the core of the immigration debate that caused the government shutdown, then, are not among the small number of immigrants, undocumented or not, who have come to the U.S. and committed crimes.
Trump won the presidency, however, with anti-immigration rhetoric. While this ad does take a new step in blaming all serious crimes committed by immigrants on the Democratic members of Congress who are pushing for progressive immigration policies, it's really just more of the same.