Guatemalan deportee Eric Perez kisses his daughter Kimberly after he arrived on an ICE deportation flight on Feb. 9, 2017, to Guatemala City, Guatemala. The charter jet, carrying 135 deportees, arrived from Texas.Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

Guatemalan deportee Eric Perez kisses his daughter Kimberly after he arrived on an ICE deportation flight on Feb. 9, 2017, to Guatemala City, Guatemala. The charter jet, carrying 135 deportees, arrived from Texas.Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

By Zaid Jilani, The Intercept

President Trump on Tuesday night blamed undocumented immigrants for violent, criminal behavior — also accusing them of hurting the economy, stealing jobs from struggling families, costing the government billions of dollars, and generally creating “an environment of lawless chaos.”

The man who began his presidential campaign talking about “rapists” coming over the border cast his crusade to deport and block undocumented immigrants as a moral choice between protecting Americans or leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and death. “What would you say to the American family that loses their jobs, their income, or a loved one, because America refused to uphold its laws and defend its borders?” he asked.

Trump’s special guests at his joint address to Congress included relatives of Americans who had been killed by undocumented immigrants. “We will never stop fighting for justice. Your loved ones will never be forgotten, we will always honor their memory,” Trump promised them.

He also touted the creation several weeks ago of a special office in the Department of Homeland Security called Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement, or VOICE. This office will be tasked with recording crimes committed by undocumented immigrants and supporting those victimized by them. Its funding will come in part from canceling all DHS “outreach or advocacy services” for undocumented immigrants.

Trump claims his immigration crackdown is a way to keep Americans safe — that he isn’t interested in tearing apart families, just in stopping violent criminals. VOICE will give the Trump administration a stream of propaganda intended to reshape the image of undocumented immigrants in the minds of the American public, from one where these migrants are simply seeking a better future for their families to one where they are hardened criminals, ready to prey on innocent Americans.

That’s a big lie. The reality is that undocumented immigrants are no more likely to commit crimes in America than anyone else. And there are plenty of migrants who are not violent criminals who are being targeted by immigration enforcement. As a result, innocent people are fearful.