"[I]f anyone who displays a Confederate flag could be potentially a hate-filled racist capable of murder, then anyone coming here from another country is potentially a murderous criminal."
If you're shrugging your shoulders at that sentence, you're not alone.
Michelle Hickford, former press secretary and current editor-in-chief for former Republican congressman Allen B. West took to West's website on Wednesday with a missive that claims if the Confederate flag and the Charleston shooting are related, so is the murder in San Francisco of Kathryn Steinle last week by an undocumented man and all undocumented immigrants.
"If you are willing to believe the Confederate flag is responsible for generating hate that pulled the trigger and brutally murdered these nine innocent people, then you must express equal, but frankly, far greater outrage for the thousands of heinous crimes committed by illegal aliens," she wrote.
Steinle's murder, allegedly by a felon who had previously been deported numerous times, has become a political football, with the likes of Donald Trump latching on as proof tougher immigration laws are necessary.
Authorities have called the killing a random act. Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, who has been accused of the shooting has pleaded not guilty. His attorney said the shooting was likely accidental, CNN reports.
Hickford cites reporting from conservative website Breitbart as her source for statistics she claims prove that immigrants are unleashing a nonstop stream of heinous crimes in the United States.
"It doesn’t matter from which country they come," she writes. "They are here illegally, and they are committing terrible crimes. We must ban them from our country!"
The idea that immigrants are predisposed to criminality has been debunked by studies showing that they are in fact less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans, according to the Washington Post:
Immigration and crime levels have had inverse trajectories since the 1990s: immigration has increased, while crime has decreased. Some experts say the influx of immigrants contributed to the decrease in crime rates, by increasing the denominator while not adding significantly to the numerator.
But the idea is popular among conservatives who use undocumented people, who are politically powerless and thus an easy target, as scapegoats.
According to the Post, immigrants have a stronger incentive to stay out of trouble than citizens. Undocumented people risk deportation for even minor crimes, and crossing back into the U.S. is perilous. The ones who are here with documentation or seeking legal status know they must pass a background check.
But that doesn't stop Hickford from concluding:
We must secure our borders, however that must be done. With walls. With the National Guard. With electro-magnetic barriers. With whatever. And we must deport those who are here illegally.
If we’re going to get hysterical about a piece of fabric, we surely must get hysterical about tens of thousands of people committing actual violent crimes.