Why Trump's VOICE Program is Drawing Dark Historical Comparisons

March 1st 2017

President Donald Trump’s joint address to congress had many takeaways.

He took a relatively subdued tone to reinforce the many campaign promises, which have been articulated again and again.

While there was much conversation about taking a softer stance on immigration, President Trump’s speech yielded something completely different; the announcement of a new Department Of Homeland Security office called VOICE — Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement — which would give quarterly reports on the effects of crimes committed by “criminal aliens.”

In touting VOICE, President Trump claimed he would provide "a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests." The effort seeks to amplify all the wrongdoing committed by undocumented Americans.

For that reason, many have raised red flags.

Angela Kelley, senior strategic adviser for immigration at the Open Society Policy Center, told NBC News that the program enforces Trump’s view of immigrants in all the wrong ways.

"The concern is there seems to be a repeated pattern of the Trump administration to link immigrants with criminality, using the emotions that come along with family members who have lost a loved one," Kelley said.

Brian Stone of The Huffington Post takes this a step further, believing that VOICE is a very clear move to mask white supremacy.

“Let’s call this what it is: VOICE is racist government propaganda,” he wrote for Huffington Post Wednesday morning. “It also is an idea right out of the playbook of Trump’s top political adviser, Steve Bannon, whose website, Breitbart, infamously had a section called Black Crime.”

The highlighting of crimes committed by minority groups has a dark historical precedent.

As multiple historical records note, the Nazi regime put in place the Nuremberg Race Laws to strip Jews of citizenship and generally criminalize Jewishness. The Third Reich subsequently published any breaches of these laws in order to equate Jewish persons with criminals.

The Atlantic's Peter Beinart found the VOICE program to be potentially very much akin to the Third Reich’s logging of Jewish crime.

Beinart explains:

In The Nazi Conscience, Duke historian Claudia Koonz notes that the Nazi newspaper Der Sturmer ran a feature called “Letter Box,” which published readers’ accounts of Jewish crimes. When the Nazis took power, the German state began doing something similar. Frustrated by the failure of most Germans to participate in a boycott of Jewish businesses in April 1933, Adolf Hitler’s government began publicizing Jewish crime statistics as a way of stoking anti-Semitism.

While a valid theory, the question here is if tactics taken by the Trump administration are truly similar to Nazi era technics of division, exclusion, and alarmism.

In examining documents logging the Nuremberg Trial of German Major War Criminals, Nazi persecution of the Jews point toward an initial paranoia and persecution that bubbled into something much bigger than supposed crime.

“Anti-Semitism had occupied a prominent place in National Socialist thought and propaganda,” Justice Norman Birkett explained at the trial. “With the coming of the Nazis into power in 1933, persecution of the Jews became official state policy.”

Justice Birkett pointed out how slippery targeted persecution was and how that led to legislated persecution: “On the 1st April, 1933, a boycott of Jewish enterprises was approved by the Nazi Reich Cabinet, and during the following years a series of anti-Semitic laws were passed, restricting the activities of Jews in the Civil Service, in the legal profession, in journalism and in the armed forces.”

When the Nuremberg laws were eventually passed in 1935, stripping Jews of German citizenship, the process of excluding Jews from German life was completed.

While VOICE is distressing, it is quite a distance from the Nuremberg Laws. However, as critics like Kelley, Stone, and Beinart subtly suggest, measures like the Nuremberg Laws come from a series of events (criminalization, persecution, policies) that define a group of people as alien and therefore subject to inhumane treatment.

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