President Trump’s latest “analysis” of immigrant-related crime is Exhibit A in fake news. But it’s worth examining how the White House’s xenophobic propaganda crusade has perfected the manipulation of stereotypes to a science.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) and Homeland Security’s new report on crime and terrorism presents professionally cherry-picked data to bolster the perception that the country is under siege from hordes of foreign criminals. The data compilation, a product of Trump’s executive order on “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” is supposed to make the case for Trump’s crackdown on the border, mass raids, and deportations, and the banning of travelers from various Muslim-majority countries. But even a cursory glance at the numbers the DOJ provides shows how junk statistics help stoke the deep racism of Trump’s anti-immigration agenda, using the same rhetoric that the alt-right deploys to twist notions of “social science” to justify racist discrimination and oppression.
Ultraconservative Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the report with a call to action: “…it is simply not reasonable to keep asking [officials] to risk their lives to enforce the law while we admit thousands every year without sufficient knowledge about their backgrounds. The pillars of President Trump’s immigration policy…will make their jobs easier and make the United States a safer place.” The statistics were presented with dubiously elastic links to policies Trump hates, like the “diversity lottery” program, which has been connected to the Afghanistan-born suspect of the recent Manhattan terrorist attack, and to justify rolling back due process and drastically expanding domestic enforcement raids and mass detentions, which are now terrorizing immigrant communities nationwide. In reality, nothing presented in the report remotely justifies the current level of enforcement, much less expanding existing policies, which have upended both the previous administration’s civil-rights protections and the Bill of Rights as a whole.