According to an email sent out this morning by the anti-immigrant group We The People Rising, anti-immigrant activist Maria Espinoza is scheduled to meet today with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. Espinoza has carved herself a specific niche in the anti-immigrant movement: highlighting cases where American citizens have been killed by undocumented immigrants in an attempt to tie individual crimes to undocumented immigrants as a whole.
Espinoza travels the country with her “Stolen Lives Quilt,” which features pictures of people who have been killed by undocumented immigrants, and is sometimes joined by family members of those featured on the quilt. The crimes that Espinoza highlights are indeed tragic, but the subtext of her project is dangerous.
Although there are no reliable statistics on crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, studies have shown that if anything high immigrant populations correlate to a drop in crime.
Nevertheless, major anti-immigrant groups and GOP politicians have embraced Espinoza’s work. Last year, she spoke at a rally with Rep. Steve King and another alongside Sen. Jeff Sessions and Sen. Mike Lee, at which she claimed that comprehensive immigration reform would create “thousands more victims.”
While Espinoza’s work has brought her side by side with GOP politicians, her project’s racist subtext has also endeared her to white nationalists.
In 2012, Espinoza wrote an article for the Social Contract, the magazine founded by anti-immigrant movement godfather John Tanton, which regularly publishes racist, white nationalist screeds. In her article, Espinoza wrote, “No one is immune to the illegal who drives wildly drunk, or the wanna-be gang-banger who needs to machete innocent citizens to gain entry and respect into the Latino or other gangs” and insisted “We must demand justice for American citizens, not ‘social justice’ for illegals.”
“[T]he racism perpetrated by illegal invaders upon Americans of all ethnic backgrounds is real,” she wrote.
Espinoza also exaggerated an already baseless number promoted by WorldNetDaily to claim that 25 Americans “die each day at the hands of illegal aliens.”
No one is immune to the illegal who drives wildly drunk, or the wanna-be gang-banger who needs to machete innocent citizens to gain entry and respect into the Latino or other gangs. We have uncovered the fact that Americans are under assault, a fact under-reported by the press, and unconnected by our elected leaders at all levels of government. Sanctuary cities, unsecured communities, human trafficking, molestations of our children, are all part of the vernacular of this disease that illegal immigration speaks, and must be addressed now! Each of us should ask: “What is it about a government that neither cares about protecting its citizens, as mandated by the U.S. Constitution, nor wants the public to know just how many of our citizens are being killed each day by these U.S. invaders?” It is estimated that 25 Americans or legal residents die each day at the hands of illegal aliens [source: http://www.wnd.com/2006/11/39031/]. We must demand justice for American citizens, not “social justice” for illegals. Insist that our elected officials remember that “We, the People,” not the illegal aliens, are their constituents. And that the racism perpetrated by illegal invaders upon Americans of all ethnic backgrounds is real. Common sense in upholding the law, not sensitivity to lawbreakers, must be foremost in the minds and souls of our elected officials.
Espinoza has close ties with the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), one of the anti-immigrant groups founded by Tanton. Last month she spoke at an event hosted by FAIR’s Oregon affiliate and attended the group’s annual Hold Their Feet To The Fire Event, which brought together anti-immigrant activists and politicians for interviews on right-wing radio shows.
In a December blog post, the Remembrance Project promoted a post on the racist website The Daily Stormer, called “Family Furious As Illegal Alien Let Out of Jail to Kill White People.”
Espinoza’s attempt to tie undocumented immigrants to the crimes of a few has caught on in the anti-immigrant movement. King has sponsored a congressional resolution to mark a “National Day of Remembrance for the victims of crimes committed by illegal aliens,” and major groups working against immigration reform are all too willing to adopt Espinoza’s argument.
Just today, Boston’s WBUR reported on the still-festering divisions in a Massachusetts community three years after a recent college graduate was killed by a drunk driver, who turned out to be an undocumented immigrant. Jessica Vaughn of the Center for Immigration Studies – another Tanton-connected group – was on hand to aid those who blamed the young man’s death on illegal immigration.
Jonathan Leon has lived in Milford for nine years. He’s originally from Ecuador and says in the early days after the accident people were nervous to leave their homes. There were reports of immigration agents on street corners and bottles being thrown at immigrants.
These days, he says the relationship between Ecuadorians and white people is not totally normal, but it’s better.
He says white people remember this accident, and point to all of his people, which isn’t fair. He says there are accidents involving white people who are drunk driving and hit someone, but nobody blames all the white people.
Jessica Vaughan, with the Center for Immigration Studies, says Denice’s death was a “preventable tragedy.”
“There has been a tendency sometimes for groups that are opposed to immigration enforcement to whitewash what can happen when people who are here illegally and causing problems in the community are allowed to slip between the cracks,” Vaughan said.
h/t Center for New Community
UPDATE: It appears that Espinoza was included in Johson's meetings with a number of anti-immigrant groups, as well as immigration reform supporters.