We echoed the audible gasp in the U.S. House chambers Tuesday night when President Donald Trump announced the formation of an office to investigate crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. Trump punctuated this next step of immigration policy with theatrics that involved pointing out four people whose families were victims by undocumented individuals.
The whole affair smacked of opportunism. The four individuals Trump pointed out surely deserve justice. But Trump used their pain as pawns in his own misdirected political game. His campaign and now his presidency have been built on pitting people, and parties, against one another. Whether it’s immigrants, Muslims or Democrats, the lynchpin of Trump’s messaging has been blaming one group of people for complex, multifaceted issues. By parading out the four victims like he did, and announcing the formation of his ironically named VOICE program, Trump sought to demonstrate the truth in his overly simplistic logic. It was almost as if he was saying, “Look, these people will tell you ‘illegals’ are bad dudes, too!”
If he really wanted to put a human face to a genuine American problem, maybe he should have brought out some of the Jewish families whose late loved ones’ graves and memories were desecrated. Just this week in Philadelphia, 100 graves at a Jewish cemetery were vandalized, mirroring a disturbing national trend. Or he could have invited the families of the two Indian men who were gunned down because of their race.
Instead, Trump referenced the spate of anti-Semitic violence and the shooting in his opening lines, throwing a bone (albeit a tiny one) to critics who decried his silence on the issue. And then that was it.
It cannot be denied that Trump’s victory has played a role in the drastic uptick in hate crimes in the past four months. Devoting two sentences to the topic is woefully inadequate — and is transparently politically motivated, especially coming hours after reports that Trump suggested anti-Semitic crimes were staged.
Trump had an opportunity to promote actual unity and, not surprisingly, he intentionally missed it. And not only missed it, but continued the divisive tactics that have enabled and empowered such hateful violence to spread.