Donald Trump's February 25 executive order directing the Department of Homeland Security to publish a list of crimes committed by immigrants, and his February 28 speech calling on DHS to create an office dealing with the victims of immigrant crime, recall some of the darkest periods in both American and world history when members of targeted ethnic groups, such as African-Americans in the US and Jews in Germany were stigmatized as "criminals" by the media and/or the government.

A comprehensive report in The Atlantic entitled: Trump Turns Unauthorized Immigrants into Scapegoats takes us back to some of this infamous history of racial attacks which most Americans thought we had put behind us, until Trump began his presidential campaign by demonizing Mexican immigrants as "criminals", "drug dealers" and "rapists" and calling for U.S. entry ban on Muslims from everywhere in the world (now reduced to seven countries - for the moment) as "terrorists". See:

In the above article, The Atlantic, citing historical information provided by a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Khalil Gibran Muhammad, and which information is also familiar to many Americans, especially those who had already reached adulthood at the beginning of the 1960's civil rights era, reminds us that:

"Using crime to incite hatred has a long history in the United States...for at least a century after the end of slavery, northern newspapers generally identified African-Americans accused of committing crimes as 'negro' or 'colored'.
"Southern newspapers generally referred to the offender as a 'negro criminal' in bold.

African-Americans were not the only group stigmatized as criminals in America.

The Atlantic continues:

"Government crime statistics reflected ethnic and racial fears too. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, notes Muhammad, when native-born Americans were growing alarmed by mass immigration from Southern and eastern Europe, big city police forces broke down crime statistics by European nationality."

At this point it is worth noting that several studies, including one mentioned in the above article, show that crime rates among immigrants are lower than among native-born Americans. While there has been some unsubstantiated speculation that these studies may be "incomplete", see:

no one has convincingly refuted their conclusions.

The most disturbing historical precedent of all, however, was in the Nazis' attempt to single out and demonize Jews as criminals, especially in the notorious Der Stuermer publication, whose publisher, Julius Streicher, was later convicted and executed as a war criminal after the end of WW2.

The Atlantic reports:

"...the Nazi newspaper Der Stuermer ...published readers' accounts of Jewish crimes...Hitler's ministry of Justice ordered prosecutors to forward every criminal indictment against a Jew so the ministry's press office could publicize it."

Of course, no one could rationally accuse Donald Trump of advocating either anti-Semitism or genocide, and it is not my purpose to make any such suggestion.

But there is a very troubling similarity between using accusations of crime to stigmatize and scapegoat targeted groups of people in the past, and Trump's attempt to stir up animosity against immigrants in America by doing what amounts to the same thing today.

Roger Algase
Attorney at Law