Having started Wednesday's press briefing with the adorable tale of Pickle, the young boy who loves Donald Trump and who may or may not be real, the White House decided to switch things up on Thursday with TALES OF TERROR about the VICIOUS MS-13 STREET GANG THAT WANTS TO KILL YOU IN YOUR BED.
And it went off the rails almost immediately.
The briefing featured acting director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and human bowling ball Tom Homan, who, backed up by close-ups of gang tattoos inked onto obviously Latino males (MS-13 started in El Salvador), spun tales of murderous gang members spreading into the suburbs.
Then he opened the floor to questions. Which was his mistake.
Q: “But you're saying — point blank, you're not going to take advantage of the immigrant communities who are victims, right?”
MR. HOMAN: “Taking advantage of immigrant communities? Look, we're —”
Q: “If they're victims, they're not going to be deported.”
MR. HOMAN: "We need the immigrant community to assist us in identifying the most heinous criminals, and that's MS-13. It's the most violent gang out there.
So again, I'll say this again: If there is a victim of crime and they come forward, we're not looking to arrest a victim of crime. We're looking to arrest the bad guy, all right?
Now, let me make this clear — now, there's a population of illegal aliens are off the table? I'm not saying that. But victims of crime have certain protections, and they need to take full advantage of the protections."
Here are the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's guidelines for handling the immigrant victims of crime:
Victims are not required to be in legal immigration status, but they must:
• Be a victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons,
• Be physically present in the United States on account of the trafficking,
• Comply with any reasonable requests for assistance in the investigation or prosecution (or be under the age of 18), and
• Suffer extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm if removed from the United States.
So there are some pretty stringent criteria if you are undocumented and the victim of a crime and you don't want law enforcement to deport you if you report it. In any case, Homan did not promise that people would not be deported, just that there are “protections” afforded to victims of crimes. But what if ICE determines the undocumented person does not meet any of those criteria?
To top it off, the reporter had also asked this:
“In Montgomery County, there has been MS-13 activity. And when they have prosecuted MS-13 there, they have said that members of MS-13, some of them are citizens. And to get help from the immigrant community where they're plaguing [...] that they have not been successful because they're afraid of being taken out of the country, that you're going to deport them.”
What the immigrant community wants to know is that if law enforcement scoops up those gang members who are legal American citizens, will they also scoop up the undocumented who reported them? Homan seemed to miss that part of the question and made no such promises.
Seriously, this was such old-school xenophobia about gangs from south of the border that I half-expected a young William Parker to show up and accuse MS-13 of dressing in zoot suits. Maybe if ICE stops rounding up every undocumented immigrant under the sun, it can expect more cooperation from their community.
Please note: This is a commentary piece. The views and opinions expressed within it are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of IJR.