The president addressed Congress for the first time in a joint session on Tuesday. Included in Donald Trump's guest list was Jessica Davis, the widow of Michael Davis, a police officer who, along with another officer named Danny Oliver, was killed in 2014. The significance to Trump? They were reportedly killed by an undocumented immigrant. Oliver's widow, Susan Oliver, was also a guest. Along with these two women, Jamiel Shaw Sr., the father of Jamiel Jr., who was shot to death by undocumented immigrants, will attend the event as well.
Throughout his campaign, Trump regularly cited cases in which American citizens were killed by "illegal" immigrants, as he described them. In a speech focused on immigration last August, he brought up the murder of 25-year-old Casey Chadwick. In the same speech, he proposed the Davis-Oliver bill, "named for detective Michael Davis and Deputy Sheriff Danny Oliver, two law enforcement officers recently killed by a previously deported illegal immigrant." During the Republican National Convention, Trump referenced the deaths of Sarah Root, Brandon Mendoza, and Dominic Durden; their families were actually guests at the convention. Kathryn Steinle's death also made its way into his talks.
Trump's decision to invite the loved ones of these victims suggests his speech will touch heavily on his unpopular immigration policy plans. The presence of Davis and Oliver will surely get a visceral reaction from many viewers — Trump's supporters will likely feel a strengthening of their support for the president's proposals, and his opponents will be forced to acknowledge the tragedy suffered by his guests.
While Davis and Oliver's losses are undeniably tragic and unjust, President Trump's use of their husbands' deaths as political playing cards is still wrong. The fact is, undocumented immigrants commit crimes at very low rates. To use the grieving relatives of victims who were targeted by exceptions to the rule for leverage is opportunistic and unfair. Promoting laws that affect a massive group of people based on the actions of a small number is the definition of stereotyping and racial discrimination.
Soon after being inaugurated, Trump signed an executive order asking his staff to come up with a budget and logistical plan for the building of his infamous border wall. He has given no sign of softening his stance on some of his more extreme campaign promises targeting immigrants.