Giving a voice to the real targets of crime vs. silencing and demonizing immigrants

Human rights are critical. But they are being used to target and exploit minorities in a power grab, while ignoring the real facts.

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Image credit: Alisdare Hickson/Flickr

The author of the following article wishes to remain anonymous.

On Wednesday, the Office of Homeland Security opened VOICE – an office for Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement – to give “people victimized by illegal aliens for the first time a voice of their own.”

Amusingly, many people highlighted the term used by the right to demonize undocumented immigrants. They cited “green aliens from outer space,” Sigourney Weaver, and the movie “ET.”

Unfortunately, the context and framing of this initiative deserve more sober consideration, especially as the new initiative brings to mind the Nazi-era policy of providing the German public with lists of crimes committed by Jews.

We live in an era of violence against minorities and women, committed by whites and men (and often white men: yes, one can like them but also understand the demographics.)

Vandals have desecrated a series of Jewish cemeteries, hate groups are flourishing, and white supremacists have committed a shocking spate of racially-based crimes. Yet this violence – and the epidemic violence against women – has drawn neither the powerful censure nor the resources of this law-and-order administration.

It’s consistent with a policy where most violence isn’t condemned. Instead, it is used as a tool to demonize and silence groups. In August 2015 “Donald Trump Just Stopped Being Funny”, according to Matt Taibbi, when the Republican candidate described his supporters as “passionate” after they beat up a Hispanic man. Of course, he later described them as criminals. Now violent SWAT raids against undocumented persons are terrorizing numerous communities. The rhetoric – from the campaign on – has been to alternately glorify violence against, then blame it on Hispanic people and other minorities.

The nature of violent crime in America

But take a step back. Given the administrations strong touting of law and order, shouldn’t they – and we – seek to understand the nature of violent crime?

Of course, the focus on crime by Republican administrations is often politically motivated. Domestic Affairs Assistant to Richard Nixon John Ehrlichman talked about the targeting of two Nixon enemies: increasingly powerful black people and the anti-war left. “[B]y getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

Today, if one were to look at helping the most victimized groups – and one on the rise – one might easily pick women (with those with additional minority identities often raising their risk). The most frequent targets of violent crime: an approximate one in five is a victim of an assault or assault attempt, with many being victimized more than once.

Between 2001 and 2012, 11,866 women were killed by a current or former male partner. That’s almost twice the number of American troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan (6,488) and about four times as many who died in the World Trade Center attacks. Thousands more are assaulted on campuses nationwide each year, with extremely low conviction rates for the perpetrator.

The rise of women in our society has been phenomenal. High school girls now earn GPAs that are 0.3 points higher than men, on average, and comprise 50 percent more college graduates. There numbers are equal in many traditionally male-dominated fields. Yet even as they soar, they have been increasingly demeaned, as brutal violence against women has become common entertainment: permeating television, video games and porn.

The recent ousters of former Fox chairman Roger Ailes and host Bill O’Reilly and the attention on private schools for repeated offenses are certainly cause for hope.

But the question prompted by this “voice” effort, is one around institutional support. When is the administration effort going to address women who are targeted by men (who commit the vast majority of assaults, murders, mass murders, and sexual violence)?

Ironically, perhaps the first effort of the Trump administration was to slash funding for all grant programs managed by the Office on Violence Against Women.

The larger strategy of attack

There may be more important stories now – the signing of an executive order for greater offshore drilling, a new tax plan that could potentially starve the government of revenue (and inevitably eventually vulnerable populations), another botched execution, and a heightening of tensions with North Korea, among others.

And the Trump administration has done what many other illegitimate (the Crosscheck numbers alone prove this) administrations do. They have attempted to quickly push through a broad agenda to privatize national assets and shred the social safety net, bouncing from topic to topic in an attempt to divert attention from key proposal weaknesses and to distract their opposition. Key wins on the Women’s March, the March on Science, the killing of the health care bill, and the airport support show the strength of the resistance.

But even now it is being met with an assault on democracy. It is not just limited to voting roll purges (that target Democrats), redistricting and gerrymandering, and limiting voting access. So too are they demonizing key part of the electorate: immigrants end up incarcerated ½ to 1/5 as often as those born in America but, like women, are on the rise, with their newborns now outnumbering non-Hispanic whites.

Of course, perhaps the greatest irony is we are now governed by a party that decried highly discriminatory regimes abroad, their deep societal divisions, and illegitimate authoritarians. A different set of men here – mostly white and reactionary – are trying to shape women’s health, government revenues, and our national and global prospects. They unwisely choose war over diplomacy, isolation over integration, and devastation and exploitation over sustainability and equality.

Human rights are critical. But they are being used primarily to target and exploit minorities in a power grab, while ignoring the real facts. And that’s a desecration of our nation.

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