Email #121: “the safety of the American public”?

I am disturbed by the recent letter you wrote to Homeland Security about the murder of a 17-year-old by three men whom you identify as members of an “immigrant criminal gang.”

Although the letter was addressed to Secretary Kelly, your intended audience was media outlets and their readers since you included the letter in your own press release. In fact, it’s clear your staff wrote the letter solely for the purpose of creating the press release. This is embarrassingly obvious by your statement to Secretary Kelly: “As you know, the House Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over enforcement of the immigration law.” Since it is preposterous to imagine that the director of Homeland Security might have forgotten that, the statement is directed at reporters. You hoped they would convert the press release into articles about your vigilant dedication to law and order, spreading racist propaganda implying that immigrants are disproportionately criminals.

Keeping your media audience always in mind, you were careful to praise law enforcement: “I remain proud of the hard work done by Sheriff Mike Brown and the entire law enforcement community in Bedford County and Lynchburg and their commitment to working with federal partners including ICE.” You even praise Secretary Kelly: “Had the prior Administration had your commitment to the safety of the American public, a 17-year-old Lynchburg boy might still be alive today.”

That final sentence of course is the reason the letter exists. You exploited the murder of a teenager in order to score a cheap political point against an administration three-months out of office.

You released a similar letter last month, exploiting the rape of 14-year-old. In that case, the victim was from Maryland, which you deemed close enough to Virginia to suit your political purposes. You apparently employ a staff member to trawl murder and rape reports in the hopes of unearthing ones committed by Latino immigrants. You letter barely contains its glee over the fact that this latest victim is from not only Virginia, but the 6th congressional district. You refer to him first as “my constituent” before describing his age, gender or home town.

Like the President, you would like voters to think you are tough on “bad hombres.” But your letters to Homeland Security serve no purpose but your fear-mongering self-aggrandizement at the cost of human decency toward these victims. The crimes are horrific. Your exploitation of them is grotesque.

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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