Professional douchebag Donald Trump kicked off his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination recently, making anti-immigrant demagoguery a base of it. Tapping into the inner racism of Mexicans of much of the right wing of the Republican base, he called Mexican people who came to the United States rapists,criminals, drug dealers, and spreaders of infectious disease, while admitting that there are some good ones. There has been a backlash against his offensive comments, with a number of celebrities speaking out and businesses boycotting his money making enterprises. Yet despite this, Trump has gained dramatically in the polls in the crowded field of Republican presidential nominees. With this it is clear that he has made the issue of so-called illegal immigration the main niche of his campaign. Along with bashing Mexico and China around trade, Trump is tapping into the xenophobia of the white settler population he is appealing to. With one of his latest props in this campaign, the case of Jamiel Shaw Jr., he is also appealing to sentiments with Black/New Afrikan peoples against immigrants and migrants.
The latest of his many plays at bringing back anti-immigrant sentiment was at a press conference on July 10th, and a campaign rally in Arizona on July 11th, 2015. He brought with him as a speaker Jamiel Shaw Sr., whose son Jamiel Shaw Jr., was murdered in a case of gang violence in 2008.
The story repeated by Shaw Sr. and reported uncritically by the media is this. A gang member and undocumented immigrant, Pedro Espinoza, who was brought into the United States when he was 4 years old, murdered Jamiel Shaw Jr. on the false pretenses of being in a rival gang. Shaw Jr. was a star football player in high school and with a promising future, and his mother serving a tour of duty in the Iraq War during that time. Espinoza was released from county jail for a weapons charge the day before, and since Los Angeles is a sanctuary city he was not released to ICE for deportation despite being an undocumented immigrant. This case galvanized the right wing anti-migrant crowd. The facts of the case show more nuance.
The website Streetgangs.com had reported on and exposed many inconsistencies in the Shaw murder case, which other media outlets followed in their reporting. Here is what was revealed.
For one, Shaw Jr. had loose affilations with a gang that was active in his neighborhood. His neighborhood, Arlington Heights, was occupied by the Rolling 20’s Neighborhood Bloods gang. It had a long rivalry with the 18th Street gang, which Espinoza was a member of.
On the night of the murder, Shaw Jr. was reported to be wearing several red colored clothing items, reportedly flamed out in gang style. Media reports that he only had a red Spiderman backpack, but he also wore red sneakers, shirt, and belt, the latter initialed with a gang identifier. It was later revealed that he had postings on his Myspace social media page displaying gang affiliations, and threatening rival Crips and 18th Street members.
Experts emphasize that Shaw, who had no criminal record, was not likely a hardcore gang member but one who affiliated through neighborhood ties, and likely engaged in net-banging. Nevertheless, it was clear that the murder, tragic as it was, was gang related.
As stated at Streetgangs.com:
“Jamiel wasn’t a bad kid, but he did have relationships with gang members in his community that led to Espinoza’s fatal assault on him. Jamiel lived in a community occupied by Bloods that have been at war with 18th Street for 12 years. With witnesses pointing out that a Hispanic was responsible for the murder, the only logical assailant would be a member of 18th Street, a predominately Mexican-American gang with some illegal alien members. Reports that 18th Street gang has a membership that is 80% illegal is false. Of the County’s total gang population approximately five to 10 percent are illegal.”
Despite this, his father Jamiel Shaw Sr used his son’s death to campaign against illegal immigration, and has been embraced by the far right.
During the trial of Espinoza, Shaw Sr. successfully campaigned to have the first prosecutor dismissed from the case. Shaw Sr. went on right wing talk radio falsely saying that the prosecutor would emphasize the case as gang related and did not care about the immigration status of the accused. Shaw and others wanted the case prosecuted as a racially based murder, which even the police said was not a motive. Due to the pressure another prosecutor was appointed. Also, all evidence of Shaw’s own gang affiliations were suppressed by the court. This made the jurors think that the killing was random and racially motivated. In the trial Espinoza was found guilty and given the death penalty, which would have been unlikely if the jurors knew more of the gang related motives of the case, and despite evidence that Espinoza did not act alone.
Afterwards Shaw Sr. has campaigned for Jamiel’s Law, the purpose of which was to deny sanctuary city protection to those in gangs. The basis of the argument they put for this resolution was on the erroneous assertion that 80 percent of gang members are illegal aliens, which has been shown to be false.
A wrongful death lawsuit filed by the Shaw family against the city of Los Angeles, claiming the murder was racially motivated, was dismissed in 2010.
Today Shaw Sr. is being used by the Trump campaign, along with other crime victims of alleged illegal immigrants, to forward his narrative about Mexico intentionally sending criminals into the United States. This ignores that immigrants and migrants are less likely to be involved in crime than citizens. Yet this does not matter to the right wing settler crowd who want to say that crime would not happen to good white people if “those people” were deported. Anti-immigrant sentiment also exists among other non-white peoples, and tensions between Blacks and Latinos are real, and right wing forces like Trump will opportunistically exploit this.
One factor coming in is that recently California became the second state in the U.S. where the Latino population surpassed whites. With the changing demographics of the population as a whole in the country, the contradictions of the colonialism of the United States will come into play. It is up to progressive and revolutionary forces to be ready for these.
The issue here is which narrative will be put forward. With the Trump campaign, it is likely that national oppression against Mexicanos and other migrants will increase, and it needs to be countered. As this is on contested land stolen by Amerikan imperialism, this is also a contested narrative. The narrative put forward by the racist settlers needs to be countered by one not liberal in nature, but an anti-colonial one. One that sees the borders as illegitimate, put around stolen land. One that sees the human dignity of migrants who do the dirty work for the settler population without any of the benefits, and continuously used as scapegoats for a fearful settler population. One that organizes our power to defend ourselves as humans, and exert our right to our land.