President Donald Trump took a brief trip to Long Island this past week. He should have gone to Jupiter instead.
“We’re here today to discuss the menace of MS-13,” Trump said to begin his remarks at a round-table discussion in Bethpage, a city in Suffolk County, New York.
If you didn’t know anything about the millions of undocumented Hispanic immigrants living in the United States and had just listened to the president, you might get the idea that these immigrants are a violent lot and dominated by a vicious street gang that has taken over Long Island’s streets.
“It’s a menace, a ruthless gang that has violated our borders and transformed once-peaceful neighborhoods into bloodstained killing fields,” Trump said.
Bethpage is a bloodstained killing field?
“When I hear Hempstead and Mineola, and all the places that I know so well, that you can’t walk outside,” he said.
You can’t walk outside in Hempstead or Mineola?
“This used to be where you’d leave your doors unlocked, you’d leave your windows open, always,” he continued.
Since when? I grew up in Bay Shore in Suffolk County. Our house was hit by a burglar in the mid 1970s — and our windows and doors were already locked before it happened.
“And you have gang members now that are so rough, people are afraid to go outside,” Trump went on.
People are afraid to go outside on Long Island? What for?
Violent crime was at historic lows last year in both Suffolk and Nassau Counties. There were a total of 37 homicides — 22 in Suffolk and 15 in Nassau — in a combined population of about 2.8 million people.
Compare that to Palm Beach County, which had 100 homicides last year over a population that’s half of Nassau and Suffolk counties.
Shouldn’t we be getting “the bloodstained killing fields” treatment from Trump?
Long Island’s got nothing on us when it comes to murder and mayhem.
But Trump was just selling fake news. It became obvious as soon as he turned over the microphone to Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart, who deflated Trump’s gang carnage tale with an inconvenient fact.
“There has not been an MS-13 murder in Suffolk County since April of 2017,” Hart said.
That’s more than a year ago. Those bloodstains must be faded by now.
So why is Trump stuck on MS-13? Not only has the gang been underachieving lately, but at best, it’s a mathematically tiny sliver of the Hispanic immigrant population.
Imagine if every time an American president spoke about the U.S. military, he or she referred to American soldiers, sailors and airmen as “a bunch of rapists.” People would be offended. They’d point out that most U.S. military men aren’t rapists.
And that it’s unseemly to smear a whole group of people over the actions of a few bad actors.
Or even more than a few. American women in uniform do report thousands of rapes every year at the hands of their fellow servicemen. The Pentagon recorded 6,769 sexual assaults of service members last year, and those are just the ones who were brave enough to come forward.
In contrast, the Center for Immigration Studies reported that since 2012, there have been a grand total of 506 MS-13 members charged with crimes that span 22 American states.
Statistically speaking, military rapists are a far bigger problem than the 0.0046 percent of undocumented immigrants who are affiliated with the MS-13 gang.
Harping on the MS-13 gang is only valid as a tool to whip up anti-immigrant bigotry.
A better version of President Trump might have opted to take his midweek field trip to Jupiter to highlight the life and death of Onesimo Marcelino Lopez-Ramos.
Lopez-Ramos was an 18-year-old Guatemalan immigrant who had his skull bashed in with a rock after being assaulted by by group of young men who were out looking for Guatemalans to rob, an activity they referred to as “Guat hunting,” police said.
The first of his attackers was convicted of murder this week.
It would have been edifying to see President Trump use his public megaphone to take note of this.
After all, Lopez-Ramos was more emblematic of the Hispanic immigrant community than the MS-13 gang. He was a worker, not a crook. He was a victim of violent crime, not a perpetrator of violent crime.
He had just come off a late-night shift making pizzas at Grande’s Bella Cucina when he was attacked. His sister said he sent the money he made back to his parents in Guatemala. His co-workers told a local news station that he was “an old soul” who took pride in his work.
He started as a busboy and worked his way up to a cook.
An immigrant working hard, taking care of his family, trying to get ahead. That’s a presidential-level story worth telling.
Instead, Trump opted for spinning an imaginary tale of a post-apocalyptic brown menace in Long Island. And he talked admiringly about how U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement “paddy wagons” cruise the streets as “rolling jails” to haul them away.
“It’s almost like a war when you get rid of somebody that’s occupying your nation,” Trump said.
At least he didn’t call it “Guat hunting.”