As disturbing details were emerging regarding the Trump Administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents, Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton, who’s favored to become the Republican nominee for governor, released an ad that paints immigrants as a threat to national security.
Due to the Trump Administration’s decision to criminally charge every person who crosses the border illegally, around 2,300 children have been separated from their parents at the southern border. Over the past week, news reports illustrating that process caught global attention and sparked widespread condemnation.
Border Patrol agents reportedly told parents their children were being taken to get baths, rather than being taken to be detained in cages, sometimes thousands of miles away. In some cases, families were separated after legally presenting themselves at the border for asylum. In an audio recording released by ProPublica, young children can be heard pleading for their parents and sobbing, some so hard it seems they’re gasping for air. A Border Patrol agent can be heard mocking the children, calling the sounds of their cries an “orchestra” in need of a conductor.
Three days ago, at the height of public outrage and a national conversation about how to protect immigrant children from the potentially irreparable harm being inflicted upon them as a result of Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy, Stapleton in a campaign ad painted immigrants as criminals and pledged to “stand with Donald Trump” on his immigration policies should he be elected governor.
The ad specifically targets so-called sanctuary city policies enacted in Denver that are meant to prevent cooperation between local law enforcement and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In August, Mayor Hancock signed an ordinance that prohibits the city from detaining people on behalf of ICE and from collecting or sharing information regarding a person’s immigration status.
“Sanctuary cities put us all at risk,” Stapleton says in the ad, which focuses on one particular case in which an undocumented person was arrested for murder weeks after he was released from a Denver jail after posting bond on theft charges. The Denver Sheriff’s Department said in a statement that it didn’t have the authority to hold him in jail, and explained that “detaining anyone without a criminal warrant is a violation of the Fourth Amendment.”
A trove of empirical evidence contradicts assertions from Stapleton and Trump that immigrants are dangerous criminals who, as a whole, pose a threat to national security. The case Stapleton chose to pinpoint in his ad isn’t representative of a larger trend, as research has consistently shown that immigrants – both documented and undocumented – are far less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans. And some research suggests that immigrants actually make their communities safer.
Stapleton has won the endorsement of former Colorado Congressman and repeat gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo, whose political career has been characterized by his notoriously harsh stance on immigration. Tancredo is a former board member of VDARE, a white nationalist organization, and his most recent run for governor was spurred partly by his outrage at the cancelation of VDARE’s conference in Colorado Springs, where he was scheduled to speak.
A request for comment from the Stapleton campaign regarding the timing of his anti-immigrant campaign video was not returned.
On Wednesday, Trump issued an executive order to halt family separation, despite numerous Trump officials previously saying family separation was inevitable. The order did not specify a plan for reuniting the families that have already been separated.