Facts show that Mexican immigrants have a lower rate of crime than native-born Americans, and that Mexican immigrants have half the rate of arrest for rape as do native-born Americans. Whether they are in this country legally or whether they are undocumented, Mexican immigrants are more law abiding than the average US born American. Facts show more Mexicans are now LEAVING the US than entering. The evidence shows the number of people living here undocumented is at its lowest since 2003, with Mexican immigrant levels at lows not seen since the 1940s. Extensive research also shows that immigrants are not taking jobs of native-born Americans in the longer term.
The crime facts were easily verifiable at the time Donald Trump announced his candidacy on June 16, 2015 by saying of Mexican immigrants, “They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” He claimed that 2-3 million criminals are “illegal aliens,” but the facts again, do not bear this out. He repeatedly says people are “pouring across” our borders.
By saying, “They’re rapists,” Trump imparted the most repugnant character trait to millions of people innocent of this most heinous of crimes. It was not enough that he added, “Some, I assume, are good people,” as it’s clear he meant that most Mexican immigrants are not good people. His speech was carefully planned and orchestrated, so it was equally clear that he intentionally misrepresented the truth.
That day, out of whole cloth, Donald Trump created the Myth of the Mexican Criminal, living amongst us and invading our country. He repeated the myth over and over until millions believed it, milking it to grow enthusiasm at rally after rally, using the lie to say he how much more he cared about Americans than his opponents did, and how he alone would protect and defend us. We need a wall to keep out the “bad hombres,” he said.
This falsehood turned ordinary people against Mexican immigrants, creating an atmosphere where others distrust, fear, and dislike Mexican immigrants for a reason that does not even exist. He used the lie to create fear and build power, using immigrants as a scapegoat for most of America’s problems, problems he alone could fix. His plans to build a wall and deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants were the pillars that helped propel him to victory. The actual facts about Mexican American immigrants being law-abiding were hardly ever mentioned by the media.
Trump’s first campaign ad depicted people swarming over a border fence, hence the need for a huge wall. (Never mind that the ad was later found to be footage from Morocco). Over and over, he led enthusiastic chants of “Build the Wall.” Even school children in Michigan picked up the hateful chant the day after the election, leaving Latino kids in tears. Now as president, he wants to publish a weekly list of “criminal actions committed by aliens,” fomenting more hatred and hysteria, and giving him an excuse to exercise more power.
Trump’s narrative is responsible for creating the rise in anti-immigrant sentiment and xenophobia that has spread to other people besides Mexican-American immigrants, including Jews. There’s been a spike of hate and harassment incidents after the election. Research has shown that white supremacist activity spikes when Trump talks anti-immigration. Examples of anti-immigrant harassment and crimes are happening everywhere now, even in diverse liberal enclaves such as my city of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Many perpetrators are citing Trump.
Now as Congress weighs paying the enormous costs of the wall and the mass deportations he champions, our failure to listen to the facts could make our nation quite a bit poorer, just as it’s dividing our country with a perceived rise in prejudice and hatred since Trump’s election, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll.
Trump can build a wall, he can deport 11 million people, and yet we will be no safer for it. Quite likely we will be even less safe. There are examples where Immigrants are afraid to report crimes and help solve them due to fear of deportation, and are afraid to report workplace safety violations as well. Already, domestic violence and sexual assaults are going unreported in among Los Angeles Latinos for this reason.
And we will all be quite a bit poorer. The Trump administration’s own estimates show the wall will cost $21.6 billion, and the cost of deportation is estimated at $4 billion per year in increased agents and billions more in detention center expenses. The center-right American Action Forum estimated deportations could shrink the economy by almost 6% in 20 years and could cost half a trillion dollars.
When confronted with the facts about immigration, shortly after his campaign announcement, Trump said: “I can’t apologize for the truth. I said tremendous crime is coming across. Everybody knows that’s true. And it’s happening all the time. So, why, when I mention, all of a sudden I’m a racist. I’m not a racist. I don’t have a racist bone in my body.” He made himself sound like he is the victim of slander instead of the perpetrator, and he made an outright lie sound like the unquestionable Truth. And millions believed him.
Now here we stand at the crossroads. Bids for the wall are rolling in, and Trump’s budget is poised to cut essential social programs to pay for the wall and the deportations. This expensive, divisive immigration policy was based entirely on a myth Trump created, a lie told to inflate his popularity at the expense of the reputation of law-abiding people. We have no choice but to pivot back to actual facts and make sure those facts are widely known. This may come as a disappointment to Trump voters, but they will be surely disappointed later, when we are not any safer, or have more jobs back, but when we are a whole lot poorer.
Let’s all come together and use facts to unite us, to show our strength as a nation. Let’s not let baseless hatred and prejudice sink us all.