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Trump takes anti-immigrant fear-mongering to an alarming new level

Using families' pain to generate fear of immigrants is tough defend. Doing so while misleading the public adds insult to injury.

The fact that Donald Trump hopes to use his office to generate public fear of immigrants is obvious. What the political world needs to come to terms with is just how far the president is prepared to go in pursuit of this goal.

We talked several months ago, for example, about the Trump administration's Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) office, which includes a hotline Americans can call if they're a victim of a specific kind of crime: those perpetrated by undocumented immigrants. The fact that the VOICE initiative has proven to be ridiculous hasn't discouraged the White House.

On the contrary, in February, the White House distributed to reporters a "round-up" of "immigration crime stories," purporting to show -- in some cases, falsely -- evidence of immigrants breaking the law.

Late last week, Trump took his campaign, which has genuinely scary antecedents, a little further.

President Donald Trump ended a week of criticism of his administration's now-reversed policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the U.S. border Friday with another event highlighting the stories of Americans whose family members had been killed by undocumented immigrants.The president blasted the news media, Democrats and other critics at the event, accusing them of ignoring the plight of "the American victims of illegal immigration," while the victims' families, called Angel Families, stood behind him holding poster-sized photos of their deceased relative.

At face value, the event was difficult to defend. As far as this president is concerned, victims of crimes deserve our sympathy, but victims of crimes committed by immigrants deserve special attention, a special White House event, and a special name.

The point is to generate fear of immigrants in the hopes of advancing the president's crusade. There is no other reason to exploit these families' grief.

But making matters worse was the degree to which Trump found it necessary to lie during the event.

For example, Trump said 63,000 Americans have been "killed by illegal immigrants" since 9/11. That's wrong.

Trump also rejected the fact that native-born Americans, on average, commit more crimes than immigrants, including undocumented immigrants. The president was wrong about this, too.

At Friday's event, he went on to describe the existing visa lottery system as one in which foreign countries "put their absolute worst in a bin and they start drawing people. Do you think they're going to put their good ones? They don't put their good ones. They put their bad ones." Trump has been getting this wrong for two years, and for whatever reason, he simply refuses to tell people the truth.

Using these families' pain to push an offensive and divisive narrative, solely in the interest of demagoguery, is tough to defend. Doing so while misleading the public adds insult to injury.

Postscript: At Friday's event, grieving family members, who've suffered heartbreaking losses, held large photographs of the loved ones they've lost. For reasons I won't even try to understand, Trump apparently autographed the images.