In his address to a joint session of Congress last week, the president scapegoated immigrants, painting them as murderers and drug pushers. He introduced a family whose son had been murdered by an undocumented gang member. What he neglected to say, however, was that statistics and facts simply don’t support the view that immigrants commit more crimes than natural-born citizens. This fearmongering is an attempt to divide, manipulate, and distract us, and to make us irrationally afraid. We should be asking, “Why? What is the ultimate objective?”
Despite alternative facts to the contrary, border cities, which have the highest percentage of immigrants, both documented and undocumented, are among the safest cities in the United States. Study after study proves that immigrants are much more honest and law-abiding than politicians.
My grandparents were Italian immigrants at the turn of the 20th century. If politicians had used Al Capone to demonize Italian immigrants I might not be here today. Herbert Hoover might have used Italian or Irish immigrants as scapegoats for the Great Depression or as distractions for centralizing power. Our society still uses fear to demonize African-Americans in a myriad of ways, which is why, even in 2017, much to our shame, we have to remind people that black lives matter.
Terrorists killed almost 3,000 people on September 11, 2001, which is approximately the number of Americans who died during the same month in traffic accidents. Since then, the government has used that tragedy as an excuse to limit civil liberties and launch an endless war that has cost trillions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of innocent lives. Twice as many Americans have died in the wars we have launched since 9/11 as died on that day, but our fear keeps us from questioning this approach designed to give us the illusion of security.
Now, you can disagree with any or all of this, because all I am really trying to do is make this point: Our fears make us vulnerable to being manipulated. The fear inside of us makes us vulnerable to the exploitation of unethical leaders. We must face our fears, or we will never be safe from fear-mongering leaders (or preachers).
Rev. Michael Piazza