Steinberg: Trump twists crime numbers to demonize immigrants

SHARE Steinberg: Trump twists crime numbers to demonize immigrants

| AP file photo

Follow @neilsteinbergThe realm of integers — numbers such as 1, 2, 3, 4 — is perfectly divided between odd and even. There are as many even whole numbers as odd. That isn’t my opinion. It’s just a fact.

Were you to respond, “Oh yeah, what about 13? Kinda blows your theory out of the water, Neil, don’t it?” you would be a fool, because focusing on 13 does not change the larger situation. Were you to add, “And don’t forget 15. And 17. And 19, 21, and 23. I rest my case,” you would not be cementing your victory, but further illustrating your folly.

Because evidence is not proof. This is easy to see in math, where emotion is at a minimum. In politics, however, as the Season of Trump illustrates to our daily amazement, emotion reigns supreme. People pretend to be analyzing when, in fact, they are buttressing their own rigid beliefs with cherry-picked data points.

Regular readers might have noticed that I don’t visit Trumpland much lately. For the simple reason that the media is turning a thousand spotlights on the flaming disaster, and my adding one more wouldn’t provide additional light. Repetition becomes dull, and readers deserve regular relief from our national agony.

However, some things are so horrible that every responsible American must point at them and scream “NO!” Such a pressing wrong is Trump’s Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement Office, or “VOICE,” a government agency designed to demonize undocumented immigrants by drawing attention to crimes committed by them, in an attempt to justify his anti-immigration policies. Trump highlighted VOICE in his address to a joint session of Congress Feb. 28.


Follow @neilsteinberg“I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to serve American victims,” Trump said. “We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests.”

The first list was published last Monday, concentrating on crimes in sanctuary cities. If you read it closely, you see another instance of how facts undermine Trump’s deceptive rhetoric. Trump focuses on murders and rapes, but the actual crimes scraped together by his new effort are mostly low-level, nonviolent drug offenses and traffic violations. At least they haven’t started making up imaginary crimes. Yet.

Immigrants, being human beings, commit crimes. But studies show that not only do they not commit more crime than the general population, they commit less. Even illegal immigrants. That’s why Donald Trump is drawing attention to what crimes they do commit.

Why? Part of his promise to return America to its imagined Mayberry past is pushing out Hispanic and Muslim immigrants. He is stoking fear. It’s exactly what the Nazis did: publicize Jewish crime in an attempt to smear them as an unwelcome element. “Jews are criminal by disposition,” a Nazi directive read. “The Jews are not a nation like other nations but bearers of hereditary criminality.”

Of course the United States has not sunk into the dark realm the Nazis occupied. Not yet. But we are definitely rolling down the gentle slope. VOICE was noted in the days after the speech, then lost in the commotion over the failed Republican scuttling of Obamacare.

Now, before the next crisis erupts over the next disastrous misstep, we should remind ourselves what is at stake here. Last week it was announced that Cook County lost 21,000 people in 2016. Without immigration that number would have almost doubled. Western industrial countries that restrict immigration — Japan is the prime example — are in demographic death spirals due to the low birth rates of affluent nations.

Not only are immigrants not an excessive source of crime, but they keep our country strong economically and, I would argue, given the sinkhole of ethical depravity that WASPs represent in our present administration, morally too. Someday, when America looks back in shame over our era, VOICE will be singled out, set alongside the Japanese concentration camps and the Tuskegee experiment as low points when America betrayed her values.

Oh, and returning to mathematics, zero is an even number, according to mathematicians. But if it weren’t, finding an exception, or pointing to a perceived flaw, doesn’t refute an argument either. Just sayin’.

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