Hours before he drove to the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and allegedly killed 11 people, the assailant posted, “HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”
As Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive and national director of the ADL wrote in The Times, “While the horror of this massacre is shocking, it is not entirely surprising.”
Just one day before the tragedy, the ADL released a report finding, “that the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. rose 57 percent in 2017 — the largest single-year increase on record and the second highest number reported since ADL started tracking such data in 1979.”
Earlier this year, the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University at San Bernardino released a report finding that, “Hate crime rates in the country’s largest cities have increased for the past four years; all against the backdrop of an overall crime rate that has been declining since the early 1990s.” This, in spite of, “’massive under-reporting’ of crimes in certain communities, like … immigrant and Muslim groups.”
As of this writing, President Trump, four days after this massacre clearly linked to anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant rantings, and seven days before Election Day, is due to make a speech Tuesday where, according to The Post, “he is expected to invoke emergency powers to stop migrants from entering the United States and depict them as a grave national security threat.”
Should the speech take place (I naively hope saner minds will prevail), it is likely the president will announce a new effort that the SF Chronicle’s Tal Kopan first reported last week that, “Homeland Security and the Justice Department would issue a rule limiting immigrants’ ability to seek asylum if they are part of a population barred by the president. The rule would take effect immediately, unlike most, and be justified as an extraordinary situation.”
All while the caravan from Central America, several weeks from the border, has diminished in size as travelers scatter across southern Mexico.
The political strategy here is pretty obvious and, to be honest, isn’t worth the keystrokes to repeat.
But I’m not sure we understand how dark and deep the trench is into which the immigration narrative has fallen. The damage done by the last 36 months will take years, if not longer, to repair. And, the repair will take place in the context of ever-higher numbers of global migration driven by war, poverty and environmental changes.
Which brings me to Dr. Eric Costanzo, Senior Pastor of South Tulsa Baptist Church.
Earlier this year, Eric participated in one of the 26 “Living Room Conversations” we convened across the country. Eric joined us in New York City last week as we have been rolling out the report that came from these conversations, Out of Many One: A Defining Moment for American Immigration.
I remember chatting with him the week before and he was excited his son, Noah, would be joining him. After the briefing, they were planning on going to the art museums and enjoying a day together in the Big Apple. Their trip took a turn.
Earlier today, Eric emailed me his recent blog post, “The Irony of My First Actual Bomb Scare” which described how he and Noah, after speaking at our NYC event, were caught up outside CNN during the national spate of bomb scares earlier this week.
In a follow-on segment for the Tulsa Fox News affiliate, Eric shared they had just left the Forum’s briefing where, “We were just discussing some of the difficult topics around immigrant and refugee issues.”
Noah told the reporter, “At our immigration meeting, they would sit down and listen to you; but the complete opposite happened with this person.”
“Right now that hateful volatile careless language … its happening at every level,” said Eric. “I do know that this kind of thing raises my personal awareness to choose very wisely what I say and how I say it.”
After a dark week, I choose to draw hope and inspiration from Eric and his son, Noah.
PS. Today, I made a donation to HIAS for their courageous work on behalf of immigrants and refugees from around the world. Please join me in supporting their efforts.