Trump Creates ‘Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement’

Erika Andiola says data shows undocumented immigrants commit fewer crimes than U.S. citizens, but Trump’s propaganda office “VOICE” is meant to create a climate of irrational fear

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Story Transcript

PAUL JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Baltimore.

One of the main things of President Trump’s speech to Congress on Tuesday night was how he’s going to deal with what he calls “illegal immigration”. Here are some clips from that speech.

DONALD TRUMP: By finally enforcing our immigration laws we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions and billions of dollars and make our communities safer for everyone.

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.

Joining us in the audience tonight are four very brave Americans whose government failed them.

PAUL JAY: Well, here are the… as he shows what he calls four brave Americans, who… These are people whose relatives were killed by, according to Trump, illegal immigrants.

Now joining us to talk about all of this, discuss Trump’s immigration policies, joining us from Washington, D.C., is Erika Andiola. Erika was Government Relations Director of the Dream Action Coalition and served as a National Latino Outreach Press Secretary for Bernie Sanders’ campaign. She’s now the Political Director of Our Revolution, a Bernie Sanders Inspired Organization. Thanks very much for joining us, Erika.

ERIKA ANDIOLA: Thank you for having me.

PAUL JAY: So let’s start with this thing he calls VOICE. He didn’t flesh out much of what it is, but it sounds like giving voice to people who have had relatives killed by, what he says are, illegal immigrants. So sounds like sort of a propaganda organization of some sort.

ERIKA ANDIOLA: Yeah, I mean, this is nothing new. This is something that the Tea Party and the far right Republicans have done for many, many years. Which is using narrative, using stories to paint this picture of undocumented immigrants throughout the country commit crime, you know, at higher rates. But the reality is that we know this President doesn’t really work with facts. Doesn’t really work with reality. And the reality is that, you know, actually immigrants tend to commit way less crime than native-born Americans. And so it’s definitely a way for a lot more people to fear the other, whether it’s Muslims, whether it’s immigrants, and we’re going to continue to see these tactics. I think, for us, it’s important to counteract that and to make sure that we’re actually sharing stories of people who are here undocumented who are being targeted by what he’s been saying, what he’s been doing with his executive actions.

PAUL JAY: He seems to be giving somewhat mixed messages. In the speech tonight there’s a big emphasis on this VOICE, giving voice to people who he says have lost relatives to illegal immigrants. If you can control illegal immigration, you can raise wages, solve unemployment… it goes on and on. On the other hand, on the same day, during the day Tuesday, Trump apparently met with some news anchors where he said that he actually might be open to a pathway to citizenship for non-criminal, undocumented — he used the word illegal immigrants not undocumented immigrants. What do you make of this and also, what’s really going on on the ground right now in the midst of all of this?

ERIKA ANDIOLA: Yeah, you know, I think, again, the devil is in the detail. You know, we don’t know what he means. We don’t know what he’s talking about. He could be talking about, you know, a very small portion… we don’t know. What we know is the reality of right now and that is that he has a plan, not just a plan, he has an executive order that has already been announced which could potentially target about eight million people. It could be anyone who could be picked up, literally, from crossing the street on a red light or anything that we, as undocumented people, do would be basically committing a crime, in his eyes, right, with executive orders that he just announced. And so that’s a reality that we have right now?

And one of these that we’re not going to let happen is him grabbing this narrative of the good versus the bad, the deserving versus the undeserving because the reality is that we know that our communities of color and immigrants tend to be criminalized for most of what we do. And so it’s definitely something that has been happening even under Democrats. And so right now, again, our challenge is to really show the other side of this and the reality, which is that the majority of undocumented immigrants here do contribute to this country. And, you know, statistics show that over and over again but obviously Mr. Trump does not like to talk about facts or statistics at all, during his campaign and right now as the President.

PAUL JAY: There was talk of even using National Guard troops to be involved in some of the rounding up of what he calls criminals and such, what is the community doing in terms of getting organized to resist this?

ERIKA ANDIOLA: Yeah, I mean, and you know, just to give you an example of what he means by, you know, a criminal alien, right, is one of our friends was just deported a couple of weeks ago, her name is Lupita from Arizona. She was here for 20 years. She came here when she was 15 years old. And you know, unfortunately, she was working because she obviously, as a mother, had to help her kids, she had to feed her kids and she was working, as many undocumented people, with a fake social security number. Which, by the way, there’s a lot of Americans who end up getting fake IDs to go to a bar, right? But, what she ended up getting was basically a deportation. Right? She has been deported, she’s in Mexico and she’s away from her two children who are U.S. citizens.

Those are the kinds of people that he’s talking about. People like my own mother, right, who came here as undocumented … proceedings. Or myself, that I’m a DACA recipient that could potentially also be deported or detained like a DACA recipient right now that is in Washington, D.C. detention centre, or Washington State. And so, that’s the actual reality and for us it’s important that we are teaching our people to defend themselves, how to organize in unity, and how to get other people to really help us push for sanctuary in every community across the country.

PAUL JAY: Jeff Sessions announced that he was going to reverse the policy that the Obama administration created, which was not to expand privatization of federal prisons and that they were going to expand, in fact now, privatization of federal prisons. And a lot of the use of these prisons is in fact for holding and then getting ready to deport undocumented workers. What is the community doing to respond to this and how big a deal is this?

ERIKA ANDIOLA: Yeah. You know, I think one of the things that I really appreciated from the Bernie campaign when we were campaigning last year, was that we continuously talked about, and the Senator continually talked about, what private prisons do and what they’re for. A lot of Americans, surprisingly don’t know that, you know, there’s literally private prisons are specifically for immigrants. And the fact that also the way in which they get their money is from government, right from our taxes to hold immigrants. And not only that, I mean, we know that the rate of incarceration here in the United States, the majority of people being incarcerated are African Americans and Latinos.

And so, for us, this really doesn’t necessarily just mean that they’re trying to go after the bad ones or the, you know, what they’re called the criminals, but they really want to continue to expand these prisons to get more and more people to fill them in. And the sad reality is that they’re for profit, right? They make money out of us. And this government is going to try to continue to do that.

PAUL JAY: In the speech he blames illegal immigrants for, in his terms, unemployment and low wages. And certainly a lot of American workers believe this and they see a lot of jobs have being taken. And, you know, one argument that’s given is that, yes they’re low wage jobs that a lot of American workers don’t want to do, but one argument is, if there weren’t illegal or undocumented workers the wages would have to be higher. For example, in California agriculture as such, what do you make of that?

ERIKA ANDIOLA: Yeah. There was an article about a couple of years ago that came out on The Guardian about a farm in Alabama which was one of the states that passed an anti-immigrant law like Arizona’s. And because people were so scared people started leaving these farms, you know, farm workers who were leaving Alabama to go to other states. And they couldn’t recruit more workers. You know, the farmers had to come out to the media saying, “We just cannot find American workers who are willing to do this type of work.” And so it’s a reality, right? There’s (sound difficulties) the hands of undocumented immigrants.

And so I think that for us, at least, one of the things that was beautiful a couple of weeks ago, was that the undocumented community on its own, people with no organizations doing this, did a strike for a day, right. They called it A Day Without Immigrants. And, it was beautiful. It was amazing. You literally went out to a lot of the restaurants, there were people not working or restaurants shut down. And we’re going to continue to do this. There’s a ton of people right now that are getting ready to do a bigger strike on May 1st. And that is really to show this country that it cannot function without the immigrant labor. No matter what they say, they cannot function without immigrant labor.

And not only that, the fact that it is time to humanize the immigrant community… they cannot talk about immigrants just as money or, you know, as an economic advantage, but also realize that the rest of the country… there’s a lot of different problems that are happening in Central America and in Mexico, across the world, and all we’re saying is, “No! You can’t come in here, even though we need labor, even though we need people to work in the fields and everywhere else, you’re not welcome.” And that’s not what America is supposed to be about.

PAUL JAY: And when Trump talks about how NAFTA has undercut American workers’ jobs, but he doesn’t talk about the economic devastation of Mexico because NAFTA. And how it created conditions that forced a lot of people to head north. The issue of an actual solution to this partly being, not that there really is such the problem of immigration really, if you look at the data, really isn’t the cause of unemployment. We just did an interview with Bob … There’s certainly data that shows, in fact, “illegal immigrants actually create more jobs than they take”. But the issue of the Mexican economy, it sounds like what Trump wants to do is actually undermine the Mexican economy seven further, if he wants to make the NAFTA agreement, which was already very driven by American corporations. If he wants to renegotiate more in the favor of the United States then it would make an even worse situation for Mexico.

ERIKA ANDIOLA: Yeah, and you know, again, the fact is that we always fail to realize that we’re hurting other countries in many ways. And I mean my family came in the ’90s. In the ’90s there was a huge amount of Mexicans who ended up coming to the U.S. and it was also around the time where the Mexican economy was really devastated. And it had a lot to do with NAFTA. And, you know, a lot of people don’t really realize that and the reality is there’s actually a campaign right now, which I found really interesting… There’s a campaign in Mexico because they’re so upsetting which, the way Trump is talking about Mexicans and Mexico, that they’re trying to boycott corn. They said, “Let’s get our government to stop buying corn from the United States because all the corn that people are eating in Mexico comes from the U.S.”

PAUL JAY: Which helped undermine the whole domestic corn production.

ERIKA ANDIOLA: It did. It did. It really… a lot of people…

PAUL JAY: Dumping subsidized American corn.

ERIKA ANDIOLA: Absolutely. And I can tell you, personally, you know, part of my family’s actually from a really small town in Mexico and a lot of those people ended up not being able to even have jobs anymore in their own towns because they grew their own corn. So many of them ended up migrating to the United States because they didn’t have the ability to feed their own families. And so, you know, again this is bigger, deeper issue that we never talk about in this country, but it’s so much easier for them to blame the other. To blame the immigrant, to blame the religious minorities, and create this narrative that it’s about us really coming and undermining American workers. They never talk about the actual companies, right? And all of these corporations are the ones that are really you know, suppressing a lot of the economy in this country. Like, nobody really talks about all the illegal behavior that they actually engage in, but rather decide to focus on calling people illegal and criminalizing communities of color.

PAUL JAY: I’ve told this story before on The Real News, but in the ’90s I was on the Tijuana border, on the Mexican side, it was around sunset. And next to me on one side there was maybe a hundred to two hundred people, another two hundred people on the other side, all waiting to cross the border to go into the United States. And there on the other side, waiting to stop them from coming into the United States was nobody because it was harvest time in California. And people were virtually being, practically invited, to come in. There was no attempt to stop. They wanted people to come and now those same people that were almost induced to come, now being told that they’re illegal and should get out.

ERIKA ANDIOLA: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it’s a cycle and it has continuously happened throughout history. But I think that, you know, there’s a moment right now that we have where a lot of Americans are awake. I think that there’s a lot more people that are are realizing… I mean I was able to see it in the mobilization happening in D.C. with the Women’s’ March, I was able to see a locally in… even when I went back to Arizona where I’m from. I think there’s a lot more Americans who are really upset and are willing to push back against this administration and we have to take this opportunity to really educate the American public on the consequences of the behavior from corporations and everything that they do. Many times Republicans and even some corporate Democrats and establishment Democrats…

PAUL JAY: Well, Obama’s nickname was The Deporter-in-Chief.

ERIKA ANDIOLA: Absolutely. He deported more people than, you know, any president in history. And I’m not counting Trump because we don’t have statistics yet.

PAUL JAY: Okay. Just finally tell us quickly again what’s happening on May 1st.

ERIKA ANDIOLA: Oh yeah, absolutely. May 1st we’re calling it A Day Without Immigrants and we’re getting the word out for every immigrant and our allies to don’t go to work, to stop shopping, and to really show what it is that America will look like. And this is just the beginning. We’re planning to do bigger strikes throughout the year. And we’re hoping that it really sends a strong message to this country about our contributions.

PAUL JAY: All right, thanks very much for joining us, Erika.

ERIKA ANDIOLA: Oh, of course. Thank you for having me.

PAUL JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

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