Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day. Yesterday, however, Donald Trump decided to “celebrate” a day early by signing an executive order requiring the Secretary of Homeland Security to “make public a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens” — which is a thing the Nazis did back during the days of the Third Reich in a little magazine known as “The Criminal Jew!” Trump hopes this will convince people that all the immigrants are bad criminals whom we should hate, just as the Nazis… well, you know.
The order also targets sanctuary cities! Like San Francisco, and Chicago — where I live.
“To better inform the public regarding the public safety threats associated with sanctuary jurisdictions, the Secretary shall utilize the Declined Detainer Outcome Report or its equivalent and, on a weekly basis, make public a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens and any jurisdiction that ignored or otherwise failed to honor any detainers with respect to such aliens.”
You know, for people who loooooove small government, you think they’d be happy to leave us alone and let us do what we want. We don’t want to deport our friends and neighbors just to make people who don’t even live here happy. The good news is that mayors of many “sanctuary cities” are already planning to fight the order in the courts, because it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.
The biggest problem with this, of course, is that it is essentially a quick and easy way to increase violence against immigrants, or anyone who looks like they might be an immigrant. Not only that, but painting an entire group of people as somehow more prone to violence and criminal behavior is a great way to make people see that group as violent, prone to criminal behavior, somehow less than human and also less deserving of justice and fairness than people not belonging to that group. Trump is essentially putting people’s lives in danger to “prove” an incredibly stupid point.
Immigrants do not commit crimes more than non-immigrants do. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Studies show that neighborhoods with large immigrant populations actually tend to have less crime, not more, and immigrants — whether they are here legally or not — commit fewer crimes than native citizens. Not entirely surprising, given that those who are undocumented are hardly running around trying to catch the attention of the police.
However, by making a list of “immigrant criminal activity” that stands alone without any reference to the crimes committed by native citizens, Trump can paint a skewed picture of the immigrant populace. Why would he want to do this? Because getting poor people in America to focus on how mad they are about immigrants — who, really, are not a problem of any kind — means they won’t be getting mad at rich people, or their huge tax cuts.
Convincing poor people their biggest problem is other poor people is the best way for the powerful to stay in power. Back in the day, factory owners would purposely sow discord and distrust between different immigrant populations in order to keep them from forming unions. And one of the first things European immigrants learned about becoming American was to hate African Americans. “These people are the real threat to you! Not me!” This was how the Chinese Exclusion Act passed in 1882 — getting other immigrant populations all worked up and worried about Chinese laborers being willing to work for less money was great politics. Why get angry at factory owners unwilling to pay decent wages when it was obvious the real problem was those other poor people and immigrants who got here after your family did?
Making people afraid of the criminality of other populations hurts those populations — that is clear. From making them more vulnerable to violence from people enraged by propaganda, to making it almost impossible for them to get a fair trial (this can even happen to white people too — see, Sacco and Vanzetti) by a jury of “peers.” But it also hurts people who buy into the propaganda, because that shit is poisonous. It poisons you, it makes you unable to think clearly, it makes you unable to see the truth of the situation — and perhaps most cruelly, it keeps you from advocating for things that might actually help your situation. (Hi, Kansas! What’s the matter with you?)
Hitler and the Nazis knew what they were doing when they published “The Criminal Jew,” when they blamed the burning of the Reichstag on communist Jews, and Donald Trump knows what he is doing now. He wants everyone to join him in declaring immigrants to be our worst problem, he wants to justify taking federal funds away from sanctuary cities, because he wants people paying attention to that and not to his plans to totally fuck our entire country.
In other news, Godwin’s Law is officially irrelevant.