Anatomy of a Racist, Fearmongering Smear Campaign

Anatomy of a Racist, Fearmongering Smear Campaign June 26, 2018

Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed that some 63,000 Americans have been killed by undocumented immigrants in this country since 9/11. If that seems like an impossibly high number, that’s because it is. Phillip Bump of the Washington Post traces the origin of the number and, predictably, it’s just something Trump heard once and keeps passing along despite it being completely false. Also predictably, it came from virulently racist Rep. Steve King.

He repeated it last week at a rally, and even said that this wildly inflated number is “very low because things aren’t reported.” So where did Trump hear it? From a woman named Mary Ann Mendoza, the mother of a man who was, in fact, killed by an undocumented immigrant in a drunk driving incident. At one of the many events at which he paraded out such people, she railed against sanctuary cities and used that “statistic.”

“I never heard the number 63,000 people killed by illegal immigrants,” Trump said in response. “Is that a known figure? Is that an acknowledged —”

“It’s an average of 12 Americans a day, which is how many are killed in the United States,” Mendoza replied.

“Boy. That is some number,” Trump said. “I’ve never heard that number before. That’s an incredible number.”

I like how he pretends to care whether the number is documented, which he proves is utter B.S. by mindlessly repeating it without ever bothering to find out if it’s backed up by evidence. So where did Mendoza get that number? From racist douchebag Rep. Steve King back in 2006, who said it in both a blog post and a speech on the House floor in response to pro-immigration protests going on at the time. And how did he arrive at it? With some hilariously stupid “math.”

“The crimes that are committed by those who enter this country illegally are in significantly greater numbers than the crimes that are committed by American citizens,” King said, “to the extent that 28 percent of the inmates in our prisons in the United States are criminal aliens, 28 percent.”

And that number came from a GAO report, but he had to distort them enough to make them completely fake and irrelevant to get there:

“At the federal level, the number of criminal aliens incarcerated increased from about 42,000 at the end of calendar year 2001 to about 49,000 at the end of calendar year 2004 — a 15 percent increase. The percentage of all federal prisoners who are criminal aliens has remained the same over the last 3 years — about 27 percent.”

Note the caveat: federal inmates. Only about 10% of all inmates are in federal prisons because the overwhelming majority of crimes are crimes at the state level. And guess which crimes are solely federal in nature and can only result in being sent to federal prison? Immigration crimes. Here’s what King said about those numbers:

” That means then that criminal aliens are committing 28 percent of the crimes in the United States. And so that means 28 percent of the murders, 28 percent of the rapes, 28 percent of the violence and the assaults and battery, first- and second-degree murder and also manslaughter attacks are committed by criminal aliens.”

Uh, no. It doesn’t mean that. It couldn’t possibly mean that. You know the old line Christians like to use about Jesus, that he was either a liar, the lord or a lunatic? Reading that paragraph we can accurately say that King is either a liar, an idiot or a demagogue. Actually, of course, he’s all three of those things. So he takes that 28% figure from federal prisons only, the overwhelming majority of whom are there on immigration charges, falsely extrapolates it to the vast array of heinous state-level crimes and dishonestly or illogically claims that undocumented immigrants must be responsible for 28% of all the crimes that they were never even charged with, much less convicted of.

To make this number even more ridiculous, the GAO figures he used also includes all legal immigrants. And even King seems to have changed his tune on this one, at least a bit. In 2011, he offered up a very different number, claiming that there had been about 25,000 murders by undocumented immigrants since 1955. That’s about 1/10th of the rate he was claiming in 2006. But there are two things that Trump simply cannot resist in life: Big Macs and useful lies. He will repeat a useful lie over and over again until the day he dies, knowing full well that his followers care as little about what is true and false as he does.

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