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Senator Katie Britt’s Exploitation of a Survivor’s Story Is a New Low In the Right-Wing’s Bogus ‘Migrant Crime’ Hysteria

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First things first: Senator Katie Britt (R-AL) lied about the devastating story of a sex trafficking survivor to attack President Biden on immigration policy and cynically advance a debunked, right-wing talking point seeking to tie undocumented immigrants to violent crime. While Senator Britt’s response to the president’s State of the Union address last week was widely panned and mocked, what shouldn’t be lost is that a survivor’s story was twisted and misused to promote fear, division, and an extreme anti-immigrant agenda. 

And if it hadn’t been for independent journalist Jonathan Katz and his viral TikTok video, Senator Britt’s xenophobic falsehoods may have festered on unchallenged, observers noted

Senator Britt and several other GOP senators traveled to the southern border last year, where lawmakers held a roundtable discussion with several people, including Karla Jacinto. It is true that Jacinto “was sexually trafficked from the ages of 12 to 16,” Katz wrote in his The Racket newsletter, “a period in which she says she was subjected to multiple rapes every day.” But this is where Senator Britt diverted from the facts in order to advance the bogus “migrant crime” narrative that’s all the rage among Republicans as we enter the 2024 elections.

“Contrary to Britt’s claim, the crimes weren’t linked to drug cartels but a ‘professional pimp,’ and involved foreign sex tourists,” Parker Molloy wrote in her newsletter, The Present Age. While Senator Britt strongly implied that President Biden’s immigration and border policies were at fault, the horrific events occurred roughly two decades ago, when George W. Bush, and not Biden, was in the White House. These heinous crimes didn’t even take place near the U.S.-Mexico border but rather in Guadalajara and Mexico City, Katz said. It had nothing to do with the border or immigration.


This isn’t going to make her like TikTok more. #katiebritt #sotu #stateoftheunion #lies #politicians #biden2024 #trump2024 #immigration #traffickingawarenes #mexico #bordersecurity #fyp

♬ original sound – Jonathan M. Katz

“Jacinto told CNN that Mexican politicians took advantage of her by using her story for political purposes and that it’s happened again in the United States,” Rafael Romo and Melissa Alonso reported. She told them that co-opting survivors’ stories “is not fair.”

“I work as a spokesperson for many victims who have no voice, and I really would like them to be empathetic: all the governors, all the senators, to be empathetic with the issue of human trafficking because there are millions of girls and boys who disappear all the time,” Jacinto told CNN, which has documented her story for many years now. “People who are really trafficked and abused, as she [Britt] mentioned. And I think she should first take into account what really happens before telling a story of that magnitude.”

Not only did the Republican senator twist her story to terrify a national audience, “it also turned out that Britt had been telling—and usually misrepresenting—this story over and over again, for more than a year, with no one calling her out on it,” Katz wrote. That is, until his viral video.

“This ordeal highlights the importance of scrutinizing political rhetoric and the misuse of victim stories for political gain,” Parker continued in her newsletter. “Where was the mainstream press on this? Why did it take an independent journalist like Katz digging into the details of this story for it to come to light that the points within were built on misrepresentations, if not outright lies?” While mainstream outlets eventually fact-checked Senator Britt’s outrageous fabrications, it was Katz’s initial reporting that took a sledgehammer to her narrative. Britt’s actions, however, are not an isolated incident. 

Recently, the Manhattan District Attorney announced that a 22-year-old man who’d been villainized by Republicans and was featured in a pro-Trump ad following the Times Square attack on New York City police officers in January had been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing after prosecutors found he had nothing to do with the incident. But before this fact came to light, Rep. Mike Collins (R-GA) had tweeted that Jhoan Boada should get a “ticket on Pinochet Air for a free helicopter ride back,” referencing the “death flights” where critics of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s rule were thrown from helicopters (a knowing reference to a dictators famous extrajudicial murders that other fans of authoritarian rule recognize and connect with). Following the DA’s announcement, Collins refused to apologize for his part in stoking “migrant crime” hysteria or for endorsing extrajudicial violence.

“Beyond just a single anecdote, the example of Sen. Britt’s falsehood highlights the larger trend of right-wing actors wielding immigration lies and misinformation as a key political strategy,” America’s Voice noted. Study after study after study after study after study has made clear that immigrants commit crime at lower rates than U.S.-born Americans, yet Republicans and right-wing media have exploited tragic incidents to perpetuate long-debunked racist tropes and promote white nationalist replacement and invasion conspiracy, America’s Voice Senior Research Director Zachary Mueller recently wrote.

“Linking this crime and vivid imagery to the ongoing coded and uncoded attacks on non-white migrants adds to a dangerous climate that threatens to stack one tragedy on top of another,” he continued. 

New data reported by Judd Legum and Tesnim Zekeria in the Popular Information newsletter  “demonstrates that there was not a spike in violent crime in 2023. Instead, across America, rates of violent crime are dropping precipitously — and the decline is especially pronounced in border states … Notably, the two border states that have completed their Uniform Crime Reports saw particularly sharp declines in murder in 2023, with 15% drop in Texas and 8.8% drop in Arizona. Both states also saw significant declines in violent crime overall.” 

Far from being the cause of crime, immigrants actually make communities safer and have been instrumental in our nation’s recovery from the pandemic. Recent findings from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) state that increases in immigration will help our economy grow by a massive $7 trillion over the next ten years. DACA recipients are also helping keep the Social Security and Medicare programs alive through their taxes, contributing more than $2 billion annually. Our nation’s economic future and immigration are closely intertwined. But you won’t hear that from nativist officials and candidates, especially one facing 91 criminal indictments.