Monday, June 18 , 2018, 10:41 pm | Fair 62º


Diane Dimond: Don’t Let the Media Make up Your Mind on State of the Union

Following President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union, I was left shaking my head at some journalists’ analysis of what was said. Especially troublesome to see from my crime-and-justice perch was reporters tying Trump’s mention of deadly MS-13 gang activity to all undocumented immigrants.

The Huffington Post’s coverage of the issue was tagged with the label “Hate Speech” and included this line about Trump’s comments: “His comparison between MS-13 and the millions of undocumented immigrants in America — including hundreds of thousands of young people known as ‘Dreamers’ — prompted swift rebuke from Democrats.”

HuffPost added a supporting quote from Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.

“MS-13 is an example of some of the worst of criminal gang behavior,” she said. “To equate that with Dreamers and DACA was completely irresponsible, and it was scapegoating, and it was fearmongering, and it was wrong.”

Fact check: Not once did Trump equate all “Dreamers,” those recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, with gang members. Don’t let the news media put untrue thoughts in your head. The closest Trump came was when he said, “Many of these gang members took advantage of glaring loopholes in our laws to enter the country as unaccompanied alien minors.”

In other words, some MS-13 members gamed our system to gain entry in the United States.

In all the breathlessly critical immigration-centric coverage, there was no mention of something Trump did say about his immigration proposals and the DACA program.

“The first pillar of our framework generously offers a path to citizenship for 1.8 million illegal immigrants who were brought here by their parents at a young age — that covers almost three times more people than the previous administration,” he said.

Ignoring that, one reporter zeroed in on Trump’s apparent audacity in daring to even mention the Salvadoran-led MS-13 gang.

“One of the things he said ... is that he wants to have the country set aside differences,” ABC senior White House correspondent Cecilia Vega said in solemn tones. “And (then he) went on to talk about undocumented immigrants as MS-13 gang members, demonizing them.”

Gee, if you can’t demonize a murderous gang, what can you safely demonize? By ABC’s line of thinking, one is not allowed to criticize an immigrant who commits violent crimes against Americans, or even MS-13 members, for fear of being labeled a racist against all Hispanics.

But Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a one-time Trump presidential challenger, said after the State of the Union speech that to refrain from targeting MS-13 would be “like saying, you know, that you can’t criticize the mafia because they’re Italian-American.”

This isn’t racist. It is a fact.

MSNBC host Chris Matthews seemed to chide Trump for having invited the parents of MS-13 victims to the speech.

“The idea of being a parent, losing a kid, a child, and then having to go sit there before the American people in agony, I don’t know,” Matthews said, shaking his head in disapproval. “Maybe there was some educational purpose in it but I think it could have been done differently.”

Matthews failed to mention that the parents of slain New York teenagers Kayla Cuevas, 16, and Nisa Mickens, 15, were not forced to attend. Rather, these parents volunteered to come to help the nation put a face to the pain caused by MS-13.

This type of media coverage, and other reports focusing on the origins of MS-13 or the suggestion that America’s support for the Salvadoran civil war in the 1980s somehow created the gang and caused it to flourish here completely miss the larger point. MS-13 is currently operating in California and at least 39 other states and Washington, D.C.

It is one of the most brutal, bloodthirsty gangs to ever roam American soil, and it recruits new members — both male and female — in U.S. schools with predominately immigrant populations.

The gang’s core motto, according to the Justice Department, is “Mata, viola, controla,” which translates to “Kill, rape, control.” As DOJ official Robert Hur put it, “They seek to live up to this motto through truly shocking acts of violence designed to instill fear: vicious machete attacks, execution-style gunshots, gang rape and human trafficking.”

The FBI reports that MS-13 has also left its mark via home invasions, kidnapping, robbery and carjacking.

Yet to speak of MS-13 is racist? To mention these marauding criminals while discussing America’s safety is to paint all young immigrants with the gang brush? I am offended by this line of thinking. And you should be, too.

As Rubio also said: “MS-13 does not go into Beverly Hills. MS-13 is in communities where other immigrants are living, and that is who they prey on, and that is who they harm.”

Why the self-proclaimed protectors of racial integrity can’t see that restricting conversation about gangs and their victims is counterproductive I’ll never understand. If we can’t talk about it, we can’t fix it.

Partisan parsing of words seems so senseless when people are being victimized and murdered in their own communities. When does concern over that, and finding ways to stop it, trump political posturing?

Diane Dimond is the author of Thinking Outside the Crime and Justice Box. Contact her at [email protected], follow her on Twitter: @DiDimond, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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