President Trump declared Tuesday night that “we must support the victims of crime,” which sounds like a sensible and humane notion. But Trump didn’t have all crime victims in mind, just a certain type.
As he explained in his address to Congress, he wants to form a new agency within the Department of Homeland Security called VOICE, for Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement, to provide “a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests.” That follows his recent directive that Homeland Security collect and publish weekly data detailing crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.
That isn’t data collection, that’s propaganda, and a shameless effort to stoke fear and suspicion of our immigrant neighbors and co-workers.
Study after study has found that immigrants, with or without legal status, commit crimes at lower rates than native-born Americans. But Trump and his handlers have drawn an alternative conclusion, and now they want to shamelessly gin up the evidence. A silver lining: They’re likely to fail. Immigration status isn’t usually gathered at the time of arrest, and researchers say they already have an inordinate amount of trouble getting even basic arrest data in real time. If the administration somehow surmounted the technical challenges, it then would have to grapple with questions of principle. Would it post information based on an arrest, which is merely an accusation, or wait for a conviction? How big a bureaucracy would these small-government politicians create to achieve this?
As part of the effort, Trump wants Homeland Security to identify local law-enforcement agencies that refuse to gather such data — the “sanctuary city” bogeyman — for a separate list of the ostracized, which is further evidence that this is a political ploy rather than a sincere step toward a safer America.
If Trump were really interested in protecting Americans from violence, he would work with Congress to target the more immediate threat to our public safety: guns, which are used in about 70% of the nation’s 15,000 annual homicides. Yet congressionally imposed limits keep the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from studying the public health issues surrounding gun violence. Some private and state programs pick up a bit of the slack — for example, California recently established a $5-million research center at UC Davis — but the lack of robust data collection and analysis at the federal level make it harder to fully grasp what drives the problem and what steps might be taken to solve it.
Instead, we get a federal data-collection program that not only is empirically suspect, but designed to scapegoat the vulnerable by throwing the weight of the government behind an untruth. That is a crime worth railing against.