Last week, the U.S. Border Patrol posted, and then took down, a dramatized video showing a fictional Spanish-speaking man escaping from Border Patrol agents and then stabbing a man to death. The video ends with news clips of a handful of high-profile murder cases linked to undocumented immigrants.
The video is just one of the more blatant cases of the Trump administration using the Department of Homeland Security to spread anti-immigrant propaganda, often amplifying crimes committed by undocumented immigrants in a way that echoes the president’s campaign messaging.
Journalist Jean Guerrero has documented how White House Senior Adviser Stephen Miller, the driving force behind many of the administration’s anti-immigrant policies, worked to establish a new office within Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) called the Victims of Immigration and Crime Engagement (VOICE) office, which Guerrero described as being “dedicated to the daily demonization of immigrants.”
Calendars we obtained from the VOICE office’s director, Barbara Gonzalez, show her in contact with Southern Poverty Law Center-designated anti-immigrant hate groups, including the Remembrance Project, a group that worked with President Donald Trump to link undocumented immigrants to crime during his 2016 campaign.
Gonzalez’s calendars also show her in close collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement Senior Adviser Jon Feere, who in documents we obtained is seen working closely with Miller to amplify what Feere called “potentially-helpful storylines” of crimes linked to immigrants.
Documents we obtained through the Freedom of Information Act also show Miller working with Justice Department official Gene Hamilton and White House special assistant Julia Hahn, formerly a writer for the anti-immigrant propaganda outlet Breitbart, to amplify stories linking immigration to crime. In March 2018, Hamilton sent Miller and Hahn the first-ever compilation from the DOJ Office of Public Affairs aggregating press releases on “opioid, immigration and violent crime.” Miller responded: “Excellent.”
The next month, Miller responded with “Thank you” when Hamilton sent him a DOJ press release about the denaturalization of a naturalized immigrant who was convicted of child abuse.
An April 2018 memo we uncovered through FOIA shows one example of how DHS officials far down the chain of command were instructed to promote anti-immigrant messaging. The memo, disseminated to ICE field office leadership in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego, instructed field offices to compile “narratives” highlighting the “most egregious cases” they had encountered in which local authorities had declined to hand an immigrant over to ICE “and the subject committed a subsequent crime.” A “sanctuary state” law in California had taken effect in January 2018, limiting the ability of local law enforcement to work with ICE; the Trump administration unsuccessfully challenged the law in court.
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