News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, May 19, 2017: On March 16, 2017, Fox News and other mainstream news outlets nationally reported on a story from Montgomery County, Maryland, which involved the alleged rape of a 14-year-old female student by two other male teens at the same school. The accused rapists happened to be immigrants born in Central America.
The police report at the time concluded that Jose O. Montano, 17, from El Salvador, and Henry E. Sanchez-Milian, 18, from Guatemala, “violently raped” the 14-year-old girl, sodomized her and made her perform oral sex on both of them in a bathroom stall. The undocumented Central American teens were arrested and charged with first-degree rape and two counts of first-degree sexual offense, even though they claimed the sexual encounter was consensual.
The story came at a time of rising anti-immigrant tensions across the country and reports of hate speech and assaults in the months following Donald Trump’s election. As the US Immigration & Customs Enforcement agency ramped up deportations, the story fired up anti-immigrant factions on the right even more, as they quickly jumped on the story, spreading it across social media along with racist rants on why the country needed to be rid of “immigrants.”
Trump’s White House spokesperson, Sean Spicer, elevated the case in his response to a reporter’s question by saying it was an example of why the Trump administration was committed to a “crackdown” on illegal immigration.
“I think part of the reason the President has made illegal immigration and crackdown such a big deal is because of tragedies like this,” he was quoted as saying at the time. “Immigration pays its toll on our people if it’s done — if it’s not done legally. And this is another example, and it’s why the president is so passionate about this.”
Spicey went a step further by adding that the case was the kind that might be addressed through the Victims of Immigration Crime Enforcement, which was proposed by Trump at the time.
The ramped up reporting and the White House comments on the alleged rape incident led to the school receiving threats of bombings and shootings while one caller threatened to shoot “illegals” at the school, police said.
But on Friday, May 5, 2017, less than two months after the firestorm, Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy called a press conference to announce that he was dropping the charges against the two immigrant teens. As he put it: “… the facts in this case do not support the original charges filed in this matter.”
The White House, forced to eat crow over the State Attorney’s announcement, would now only say that Spicer reacted after the alleged crime to “what he knew at the time.”
But the reality is that Spicer and the Trump White House along with their right wing anti-immigrant supporters, acted like the judge, jury and executioner in the case without allowing the investigation to be completed. By virtue of being immigrant and undocumented, the two boys were automatically judged to be guilty.
It is this presumption of guilt, aided by the draconian rhetoric that has led to the rise in instances of hate across the country, including 140 incidents on college campuses in 33 states.
It is this language that led to some young kids recently telling other US born kids of Mexican ancestry to go back where they came from.
It is this rhetoric that has led to laws being pushed in Texas that will lead to all immigrants and Americans of immigrant ancestry, who are brown or black, being unconstitutionally racially profiled.
And it is language like this that makes all immigrants in America feel they are being judged and found guilty, merely because of their skin color, accent or the way they look. They too are presumed guilty until proven innocent instead of vice versa and that is an outrage.