On Saturday, President Trump’s official reelection campaign released a provocative new ad that claimed Democrats are somehow “complicit” in murders committed by undocumented immigrants. The ad advances the some in the Republican party’s false narrative that immigrants pose an especially dangerous and criminal threat, and lands amid a federal government shutdown because lawmakers have been unable to strike a spending deal. The impasse is immigration — Republicans and Democrats are stuck in a standoff over the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), which protects about 700,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children. Democratic and some Republican senators voted against a short-term spending bill on Friday to force urgency around immigration negotiations and a DACA fix.
(It’s important to note that despite the White House’s fear-mongering on the dangers of illegal immigrants, there is no proof immigrants raise crime rates in America or are particularly prone to crime. In fact, there is evidence to the contrary showing immigrants — both legal and unauthorized — are less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans. There is not extensive data on the exact number of homicides committed by undocumented immigrants.)
The 30-second ad opens with images of a recent courtroom outburst by Luis Bracamontes, a twice-deported undocumented immigrant accused of killing two California deputies in 2014. It then cuts between footage of President Donald Trump, people who are purported to be undocumented immigrants, and Democratic lawmakers. The ad implies that Democrats are to blame for any bad actors: “Now Democrats who stand in our way will be complicit in every murder committed by illegal immigrants,” the ad’s narrator says during the second half of the video. It immediately raised some eyebrows online.
The press release accompanying the ad, which is titled “Complicit,” places the blame for the government shutdown on Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) for “holding lawful citizens hostage over their demands for amnesty for illegal immigrants.”
“Donald Trump was elected president to build the wall and keep American families safe from evil, illegal immigrants who commit violent crimes against lawful US citizens,” said Michael Glassner, executive director of Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. — the president’s campaign committee — in a statement accompanying the ad. (According to CNN, “Complicit” will for now only appear only online.)
On Sunday, when asked about the ad on CNN’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said that it is an attempt to “foment hatred” and divide people. “It is really unbelievable and so sad for our country that we have a president of the United States who says such nonsense and such outrageous statements,” he said.
Senate Minority Whip Dick Durban (D-IL) echoed Sanders’s thought in an appearance on ABC’s This Week. “The American people are not going to accept the premise that immigrants are criminals and that we ought to deport the DREAMers,” he said, referring to the hundreds of thousands of young unauthorized immigrants brought to the United States as children; these are the immigrants Democrats are seeking protections for in the shutdown debate.
The White House has been quick to put some distance between itself and “Complicit.” When Chuck Todd asked Marc Short, the administration’s legislative affairs director, about the ad on Meet the Press this Sunday, Short said that it was produced by an “outside group” — which is only true if you believe the president’s official reelection campaign is for outsiders. Short said he stands by the “data” in the ad and refused to comment on its tone.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) — who used to call out Trump’s racist comments but has since largely stopped — hedged when asked by CBS’s John Dickerson on Face the Nation if Democrats are complicit. “Look, I’m not going to comment. I just saw that. I don’t know if that’s necessarily productive,” he said.
The Trump campaign’s decision to release an ad saying Democrats are responsible for murder has not been particularly helpful in striking a deal over immigration or ending the shutdown. Meanwhile, Trump has rejected bipartisan proposals for a DACA fix and has sought to blame Democrats as the reason the federal government is currently not functioning. But as long as either side refuses to budge, the government will remain closed.