- Kelly Lytle Hernándezassociate professor in the UCLA Department of History. She is the author of Migra!: A History of the U.S. Border Patrol and the forthcoming book, City of Inmates: Conquest and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles.
- Jeffrey Sachsleading economist and the director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University. He’s the author of many books, including, most recently, Building the New American Economy: Smart, Fair, and Sustainable. The book’s foreword is by Sen. Bernie Sanders.
During President Trump’s speech to the joint session of Congress last night, he announced plans to create a new office called VOICE—that’s Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement. Trump has previously directed the Department of Homeland Security to publish a list of crimes committed by immigrants—which some historians have compared to Germany’s Nazi-era policy of publishing lists of crimes committed by Jews. We air Trump’s comment and hear from Andrea Pitzer, author of the upcoming book, “One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps.”
AMY GOODMAN: Well, let’s go to Donald Trump calling for this new government agency for victims of crime by immigrants.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And we must support the victims of crime. I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to serve American victims. The office is called VOICE, Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement. We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media and silenced by special interests.
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Kelly Lytle Hernández, your comments on this, the idea that President Trump has repeatedly trumpeted that immigrants commit more crimes?
KELLY LYTLE HERNÁNDEZ: Well, that’s factually untrue. We have research out of the Pew Research Center and out of the TRAC researchers from Syracuse University and many others, who have repeatedly documented that immigrants have a lower crime rate than native-born U.S. citizens. So, that is just factually untrue.
What’s really happening here is a demonization campaign and a criminalization campaign, trying to lift up and put a spotlight on a small number of tragic crimes impacting U.S. citizens, meaning the usually—he’s talking about the killing of U.S. citizens by undocumented immigrants. And he’s highlighting it in a way to demonize an entire population, immigrant population, namely Muslim and Latino immigrants—I would suspect, to shore up his broader policies on immigration restriction.
So, this is a historically familiar act, that these kinds of criminalization campaigns have always preceded immigrant exclusion. We can go back to the Chinese Exclusion Acts, where folks in the American West, in particular, demonized Chinese immigrants as opium dealers, and then that led to support for the Chinese Exclusion Acts and mass deportation of Chinese immigrants. We can also go back to the early 20th century, when Italian immigrants were demonized as being biologically criminal and inferior, leading to the Immigration Control Act or the National Origins Act of 1924, which largely prohibited Italian immigrants from entering the United States. So this is historically consistent.
AMY GOODMAN: And scholars also say Trump’s proposed list of crimes committed by immigrants recalls Nazi Germany-era policy, where the Nazi Institute for Research on the Jewish Question kept files on crimes committed by Jews. We recently spoke to Andrea Pitzer. Her upcoming book is called One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps.
ANDREA PITZER: This weekly report that he has called for recalls a number of things from the past that we have seen before, which is this move to isolate and identify and then vilify a vulnerable minority community in order to move against it. When he—I just went back last night and reread his speech from when he declared his candidacy, and the Mexican rapist comment was in from the beginning, and so this has been a theme throughout. And we see back in Nazi Germany there was a paper called—a Nazi paper called Der Stürmer, and they had a department called “Letter Box,” and readers were invited to send in stories of supposed Jewish crimes. And Der Stürmer would publish them, and they would include some pretty horrific graphic illustrations of these crimes, as well. And there was even a sort of a lite version of it, if you will, racism lite, in which the Neues Volk, which was more like a Look or a Life magazine, which normally highlighted beautiful Aryan families and their beautiful homes, would run a feature like “The Criminal Jew,” and they would show photos of “Jewish-looking,” as they called it, people who represented different kinds of crimes that one ought to watch out for from Jews. So this preoccupation with focusing in on one subset of the population’s crimes and then depicting that as somehow depraved and abnormal from the main population is something we’ve seen quite a bit in the past.
AMY GOODMAN: So that’s Andrea Pitzer. Her upcoming book, One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps. Again, we’re talking about President Trump announcing he has set up the VOICE office, ”VOICE” standing for Victims of Immigration—Immigrant Crime Engagement. Professor Sachs?
JEFFREY SACHS: I thought what was interesting was there was a loud groan when he said that, throughout the chamber, not an applause, nothing, because that one is so absurd, so transparently phony, that while the Republicans were jumping up and down at every bit of nonsense, that was nonsense too far.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and then come back. We want to talk about the Affordable Care Act, and also, what got the most sustained applause was the widow of the Navy SEAL who was killed in Yemen. President Trump called it “highly successful” raid. Many others have called it a botched catastrophe, including the victim’s father. We’re talking to Jeffrey Sachs, Linda Sarsour, William Hartung, Kelly Lytle Hernández, and we’ll be joined by someone who was in the chamber last night, in a moment.