Commentary
By Helen Salita 1-26-2018

A report released on Jan. 16 from the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security adds more suggestion that the Trump administration is marrying racist rhetoric with racist policy.

Developed “to be more transparent with the American people,” the report, called Executive Order 13780: Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States, was compiled in the wake of Executive Order 13780, popularly known as the “Muslim ban.”

The report leads with statistics that sound terrifying:

“At least 549 individuals were convicted of international terrorism-related charges in the U.S. federal courts between September 11, 2001 and December 31, 2016. An analysis conducted by the DHS determined that approximately 73 percent (402 of these 549 individuals) were foreign-born.”

What is not mentioned is that between 31.1-43.7 million immigrants have lived in the U.S. between 2000-2016. This means that between 0.00001 percent and 0.0000009 percent of all immigrants during this period were convicted of international terrorism-related charges. The report also fails to mention that in 2016, there were a total of 6,100 hate crimes committed in the U.S., and the largest demographic share of those carrying out hate crimes (46 percent) were white citizens. So while the report’s facts are helpful to know, without context, the readers of this report can make no sense of them, and are instead left with a heavily implied link between terrorism and people born outside of the United States.

One notable part of the report is the section that focuses on gender-based violence, particularly concerning violence against women. The report looks specifically at honor killings and incidents of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

By focusing on these culturally-specific types of gender-based violence, the Trump administration is subtly turning focus on violence that is far more likely to happen to recent immigrants or first-generation Americans. These acts are associated predominantly with the Middle East, but also occur in Africa and South Asia.

The report estimates that an average of 23-27 honor killings occur every year in the United States, and suggests that 513,000 women and girls are at risk of FGM. These are horrific acts of violence against women. But simply preventing immigrants from entering the U.S. won’t stop these acts. If the Trump administration is serious about combating these abuses against women and girls, it would be funding education initiatives, preventative programs, and resources designed to help survivors. But that isn’t where the administration is putting money, suggesting their goal isn’t to stop these acts from happening — it’s simply to make sure these violent acts against women happen somewhere else.

The report also considers broader statistics of violence against women. It found that between 2006 and 2015, there were “approximately 1.3 million non-fatal domestic violence victimizations each year.” Interestingly, the report does not include details on what percent of those crimes were committed by foreign nationals.

According to the Government Accountability Office, over that period, “aliens were convicted for 69,929 sex offenses.” In 2015, white women accounted for 61.7 percent of all women in the U.S, meaning a significant portion of domestic violence and sexual offense would have been perpetrated against white women. The Trump administration’s claim that in order to protect women, immigrants must be prevented from entering the U.S., is leaning on a long national narrative of protecting white women. The U.S. has justified numerous violent acts, and implemented racist policies, by claiming a need to protect white women and their “purity.”

By the report’s own admission, the government currently has no reliable way to track what percent of domestic violence crimes are committed by foreign nationals. But even equipped with data, the context may continue to go missing.

It seems having a full picture of threats to domestic safety wasn’t the main aim of this report, so much as presenting immigration as a direct threat to white America.

Helen is the Campaigns, Mobilizing, and Media Assistant

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