In His Own Words...
Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered federal prosecutors this week to seek the maximum punishment for drug offenses, in one of the clearest breaks yet from the policies of the Justice Department under the Obama administration.
The move is an abrupt departure from policy made by President Barack Obama's attorney general, to reduce the number of people convicted of certain lower-level drug crimes being given long jail terms.
The White House spent an entire day last week telling reporters that the president is “keeping his promises,” and indeed the president is cracking down on undocumented immigrants. Arrests of undocumented immigrants are up, and border crossings are down — a phenomenon his administration credits to the “uncertainty” about how immigration will be handled under the new president.
The president has championed this crackdown as key to making America safer, something that would surely be part of making the country “great again.” He’s launched an office to support victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, met with victims of such crimes at the White House last week, and celebrated the passage of two House bills that boost his efforts.
He championed two House bills which passed last week that would crack down on undocumented immigrants who commit crime , as well. There’s just one hitch: there’s no evidence undocumented immigrants are a public safety risk. On the contrary, there’s evidence that immigrants — both legal and undocumented — commit crimes at a lower rate than native-born Americans.
Status: No action
There are few indicators that crime has moved one way or another in just a few months, and Trump declined to send federal agents to Chicago to combat crime as he suggested he might in January.
What's more, law enforcement experts believe that the president’s efforts on immigration could actually drive crime up, as communities close themselves off to police — refusing to report, testify, or even acknowledge witnessing a crime or being a victim — for fear of immigration enforcement.
Trump took one direct action aimed at highlighting crimes, rather than preventing them. The Department of Homeland Security and ICE launched an office to support victims of crime perpetrated by undocumented immigrants. Critics, citing statistics that show American citizens are more likely to commit crimes than immigrants, say it's an effort to further demonize immigrants.
During a roundtable meeting with farmers on Tuesday, President Donald Trump remarked that his proposed border wall would help curb human trafficking.
"The wall is going to get built, and the wall is going to stop drugs, and it’s going to stop a lot of people from coming in that shouldn’t be here, and it’s going to have a huge effect on human trafficking, which is a tremendous problem in this world," Trump said.
"A problem that nobody talks about — but it’s a problem that’s probably worse than any time in the history of this world," he added. "Human trafficking, what’s going on."
Trump ordered his administration to broker deals with local authorities that empower and deputize local police in immigration matters in January; if widely enacted, former police they say this will make communities across the nation less safe, as individuals and whole neighborhoods stop reporting crime and cooperating with police for fear of deportations.
In talks with law enforcement officials this week, President Donald Trump offered a misleading view on American crime and police safety that experts say ignored — and could hurt — decades of progress in reducing crime.
The president’s description of an increasingly dangerous America feeds into his campaign narrative that the nation simply needs more “law and order" to be safer. He's argued that police are being mistreated amid a national debate about racial policing after groups like the Black Lives Matter movement demanded police reforms amid a slew of police killings of unarmed black men and women.
Throughout his White House bid, Donald Trump painted America as dark, dangerous, and riddled with crime. He railed against "terrorism and lawlessness" and "violence in our streets" in his acceptance speech, while addressing a nation that's at near historic low levels of a crime.
"This American carnage stops right here and stops right now," he said in his inaugural address.
Trump hasn't offered a large-scale plan for combating the crime he warns of, but his Attorney General pick of prosecutor turned Senator, Jeff Sessions, signals a tough-on-crime approach will be central to it. He also championed the idea of a nationwide version of the New York Police Department's controversial stop-and-frisk policy despite, evidence that it was ineffective and a judicial ruling that in practice it profiled minorities. Other potential policies have emerged in the way of threats: He tweeted that he might send in federal authorities to combat crime in Chicago in the first few days of his term.
We'll watch for how Trump's policing rhetoric jives with nationwide efforts to increase community policing and minority outreach efforts, as well as how it will affect the bipartisan effort to reform minimum sentencing.