Transcript

621:

Fear and Loathing in Homer and Rockville
Transcript

Originally aired 07.21.2017

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Full audio: http://tal.fm/621

Prologue.

Ira Glass

Years ago, the senior producer of our program, Brian Reed, worked for a few months in Homer, Alaska as a fish hauler. He still knows some people there.

Brian Reed

And that's actually how I heard about this. Basically, there's been this huge political fight going on in the town. Everyone's at each other's throats. They're going crazy on social media. They're up in arms. You know, my friend, who's lived there for decades, three decades, says she's never seen the town like this before.

Ira Glass

And what's the issue?

Brian Reed

Well, it started over illegal immigration, which is a weird thing for Homer to be fighting over, because it doesn't really have any immigrants. Which makes sense, given where Homer is.

Ira Glass

Yeah, Homer's far.

Brian Reed

Yeah, it's literally the end of the road in America. That's like what they're known as.

Ira Glass

What does that mean?

Brian Reed

All right, so say like you were to drive, like cross over the Canadian border from Washington State, say.

Ira Glass

OK, so I'm in Washington State. I've crossed into Canada.

Brian Reed

Yeah, you're driving north. You're driving for like 2,500 miles, like it's like basically the same length as crossing the US coast to coast. All right, so you go all the way up Canada that way. You cross back into Alaska. Can you picture that?

Ira Glass

Mm-hmm.

Brian Reed

All right, then you got like another 11 hours. You're going to drive on to the peninsula, the Kenai Peninsula. You keep driving. And then it's right on this bay called the Kachemak Bay. And stretching out into the bay is this little strip of land called the spit.

Ira Glass

Mm-hmm.

Brian Reed

That's the end of the road. It's the furthest you can drive in America. And that's Homer.

Ira Glass

What that means, is if you were to cross into the United States from Mexico, this is possibly the least convenient place in America you could end up.

If you're a member of ISIS, conceivably, I guess, you could fly to Alaska or cross the Bering Strait from Russia. But Brian actually checked with federal authorities, the official from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement who is responsible for Alaska, who said that this does not seem to be happening. And people in Homer know this. They know that illegal immigration is not their issue.

Brian Reed

Are you aware of any undocumented immigrants in Homer?

Woman 1

No.

Brian Reed

Do you have any memory of there being an undocumented immigrant in Homer?

Man 1

No.

Brian Reed

Have you ever heard of an undocumented immigrant in Homer?

Woman 2

No.

Brian Reed

Have you ever heard of an undocumented immigrant being in Homer in your almost 40 years here?

Man 3

No.

Brian Reed

I've asked pretty much everyone I talked to the same question. I heard a couple stories about some people in town who were undocumented at one point or another. But it's rare. I asked the Homer police chief about it. He sent me this email.

Quote, "Brian, Homer is not a destination for immigrants, illegal or legal, and it never has been. The Homer Police Department is not aware of any immigrants in our area. Mark Robel, Chief of Police, Homer Police Department."

Ira Glass

That seems pretty categorical.

Brian Reed

Yeah.

Ira Glass

But people are still fighting over immigrants coming to their town?

Brian Reed

Yeah, because it was mentioned in this resolution in the town council that would have welcomed immigrants to Homer.

Protester 1

No, do we need a resolution?

Protester 2

--in our parking lot.

Protester 1

No, do we need a resolution?

Protester 2

Yeah.

Brian Reed

This is two people from opposing sides of this issue. They're each holding opposing signs in their hands. One's red, one blue. They're standing on a street corner on Pioneer Avenue, the main drag in Homer. They've never met before. Arguing over this.

Protester 2

I think they need a--

Protester 1

You'd like to see in a resolution--

Protester 2

I would like to see an inclusive-- Everyone's welcome.

Protester 1

Please look--

Protester 2

Everyone's welcome. Human rights are civil rights, civil rights are human rights.

Protester 1

Do we have somebody saying that they're not welcome here? Don't we have an America where everybody's welcome? Why are you doing this? Why are you pushing this kind of crap?

Ira Glass

So what got them to this point?

Brian Reed

All right, so basically, after the presidential election, liberals in town, they were not happy that Trump was elected. They were wanting to do something, and they drafted this resolution. And what it said, among other things, was that Homer stood against discrimination, and they mentioned undocumented immigrants and Muslims as people who would be welcome in the city.

Ira Glass

So, they'd be welcome. Like, what does that mean?

Brian Reed

In practice, nothing. It was not a law. It was not even an ordinance. It was a resolution. It was just like a statement of how the town feels as a city, what it stands for.

Ira Glass

So Trump voters saw that, and they felt--

Brian Reed

They were pissed, because it was a slap in the face against their guy, basically. And an early version of this resolution actually called Trump out by name a bunch. So, here, I have a little bit of it here. It says like, "Whereas a new administration is in power in Washington, D.C., without a popular mandate, whereas during his campaign, President Donald Trump made statements offensive and harmful to the rights of women, immigrants, religious, racial, and ethnic minorities."

That kind of thing. And the early draft also said that the city would not always cooperate with federal agencies when it came to detaining undocumented immigrants.

Ira Glass

Wow, so I see why Trump voters were mad.

Brian Reed

Yeah, and there's a lot of Trump voters in Homer. About half the city.

Ira Glass

So, and then this resolution came before the city council?

Brian Reed

Yeah.

Council Member

So at this time, we can take public comment on any matter on the agenda. Please come forward and sign in.

Brian Reed

People, like, descended on this town council meeting in droves, back in February. The council chambers were packed. People were lined up against the walls. They were sitting on the floor. They were lined up out the door and down the hall, into an overflow room, where they piped the meeting in. It was broadcast on the radio.

I talked to bunch of people-- people actually listened to it on the radio, all over town, which was amazing to me. It was intense. It was very emotional. Four people have cried as they were talking to me about this meeting, months after it happened. It was that emotional on both sides of the issue.

Ira Glass

Why was it so emotional?

Brian Reed

I just think this meeting was kind of a moment where everyone in town declared for the first time where they stood on this, publicly, to their neighbors.

Man At Meeting

If you vote yes on this, I'll be your worst nightmare. Because I'll push for a recall.

Brian Reed

People at the meeting were overwhelmingly against the resolution.

Man At Meeting

You bring in illegals, OK, by definition, they're criminals. OK, they live in the underworld. They don't have a stake in the game as we do. About the first time somebody gets raped or killed, I hope they come straight after the Homer City Council and sue the City to the point of bankruptcy. If you make this a magnet for that type of people, then, you know, shame on you.

Ira Glass

So people are really scared.

Brian Reed

Yeah, and angry. And the people on the other side, they felt scared, seeing what their neighbors think and what they were willing to say-- because they felt like people were being hateful and discriminatory-- or what they said aloud at the meeting.

Shamir

Three weeks ago, I stood on the corner of Heath and Pioneer with a sign that read Muslim immigrant, Homer local.

Brian Reed

This is a guy named Shamir. He's possibly the only Muslim in town.

Shamir

In response, drivers made obscene hand gestures, called me a freak, and this same car whipped past three times to splash as much rain water on me as possible. I'm here to refute anyone who believes that we don't need this kind of resolution, because we don't have these kind of problems in Homer. Let me assure you that we do.

Brian Reed

The resolution was voted down, but it didn't stop there. After that, there was a recall election which failed. That whole email scandal. The ACLU got involved with a lawsuit against the city.

Ira Glass

OK, so here's what I'm getting from this. People are really mad at each other and they are not stopping this conflict, and it is all about immigration.

Brian Reed

That's how it started at least, yeah.

Ira Glass

In this town that doesn't actually have an immigration problem.

Brian Reed

Exactly. And actually, you know, I pointed this out to people in Homer as I talked to them. And you know, I get all sorts of different reactions. Like some people definitely saw the absurdity in it. Some people thought it wasn't crazy to think that if that resolution was passed, or if Homer somehow became a sanctuary city, they thought, sure, undocumented immigrants or refugees could totally start coming here.

And then plenty-- you know, a lot of people told me like, yeah, this is not a fight, actually, over immigration. It's over something bigger. And I talked to this one woman, Hannah. She's a boat captain. She put it, I don't know-- I thought the best of anybody. She said this.

Hannah

It's like we're acting out this play that reflects our deepest anxieties, but none of it's based on anything real. It's based on what-ifs. It's based on I don't think the same way as you. Things that could happen, things that have happened in other places, fear. And the fear of something becoming real. But none of it is based on things that are actually happening here.

Ira Glass

Right now, all over this country, lots of people are wary of immigrants, wanting something done about immigrants, they're fearful of immigrants, whether or not there are immigrants in their lives. Today on our program, we have stories of two places where people got really upset about immigrants, even though immigration did not seem like it was the most important thing there going on at all.

One of these places is Homer, a small town that is about as remote as you can get-- as you've heard-- with almost no immigrants. The other one's in the suburbs, in the densely developed east coast-- Rockville, Maryland, with lots of immigrants, documented and undocumented. And what's interesting in both places is that we see why people's feelings on this issue just spiraled bigger, and bigger, and bigger, beyond the facts at hand. From WBEZ in Chicago, it's This American Life. Stay with us.

Act One. Fear.

Ira Glass

Act One, Fear. So Brian spent some time in Homer, Alaska talking to all kinds of people involved in this debate that the town has been having over whether it should welcome immigrants or not. And he became especially interested in this one guy.

Brian Reed

I found this guy, because he testified at that Homer City Council meeting, the one where everyone was so upset. I spoke to lots of people who attended the meeting, or listened to it. What everyone had in common was that they all seemed so sure of their sides, like of course I support the ideas in this resolution, or of course I don't. Know one sounded uncertain about it. Until I met this guy.

Ben Tyrer

Believe it or not, I'm kind of an emotional person. When I see people in conflict with each other, it just kind of upsets me, and I'd really rather not deal with it, so I don't have to take any more antacids.

Brian Reed

This is Ben Tyrer, who generally avoids politics and news for that very reason.

Ben Tyrer

News stresses me out, if we're being honest.

Brian Reed

I hope we are.

Ben Tyrer

Yeah.

Brian Reed

Ben Tyrer, jazz musician and janitor at Kenai Peninsula College, and to me, the most interesting person in town, because he's the only person I met who seemed to actually be struggling to figure out what side to be on. Ben was born and raised in Homer.

Now he's 27, married, with a two-year-old daughter, which has given him a talent for dad humor that's ahead of his years. My favorite joke from his Facebook page-- "What comes after Colin Firth? Colin Thecond." When all these people in Homer were suddenly up in arms over whether to welcome immigrants, Ben didn't want to jump to any unfair conclusions.

Ben Tyrer

I'm not just going to willy-nilly make generalizations about an entire group of people based on my feelings. We really have to be careful of that kind of thing, because in the past, that has led to some pretty unpleasant consequences. Before I make a decision like that, I really need to be sure that I am coming from what I consider to be an informed place.

Brian Reed

Ben considers himself a moderate. Says he's voted pretty evenly for both parties. Last year, he was into Bernie Sanders. But when the presidential election came around, he ended up just sitting it out, because he found it too unpleasant. He says he never paid attention to immigration as an issue. It was not something that really crossed his mind until the resolution.

It was all over social media, being talked about all around town. So he read it. And it scared him.

Ben describes the feeling he got as an amorphous blob of fear. That's what crept up inside him. And he immediately thought of this story he'd stumbled across a few weeks before, maybe in his Facebook feed, or just poking around online, about this one attack in Europe.

Ben Tyrer

Cologne. It was Cologne that happened in Germany, the New Year's thing.

Brian Reed

It was an incident from New Year's, the year before, 2016, when hundreds of women in Cologne, Germany filed reports with the police saying they'd been sexually assaulted while they were in big crowds during celebrations. Many of the women said that the men who'd assaulted them were Arabic speakers and appeared to be from North Africa. It was a very disturbing event which had shaken Germany, and it shook Ben too.

Ben Tyrer

Wow, in Europe? Of all places, this is happening in Europe? Like I said, I hadn't really been paying attention. And it just shocked me.

Brian Reed

So you hadn't followed the news through like the attacks in Paris, or the Charlie Hebdo attacks? You just hadn't been watching the news on that stuff?

Ben Tyrer

No.

Brian Reed

I'm not judging you, I'm just asking.

Ben Tyrer

No, like I said, no.

Brian Reed

So that's what was fresh in Ben's mind when he read the resolution-- Cologne. And it freaked him out.

Even though Ben admits that immigration is not exactly the biggest issue in his town, no one is sharpening their knives and thinking of Homer, he tells me. And even though much of the resolution was about fending off discrimination and protecting vulnerable people, things Ben agrees with in principle, when it came to welcoming undocumented immigrants, to Ben it seemed like the city might be opening a door to people who could possibly do harm.

Everyone around him was so riled up about this. It felt irresponsible not to have an informed opinion on it. So Ben started staying up late, night after night, spending hours on the computer long after his wife went to bed, doing something I imagine few of the millions of people who are up late on the internet every night are doing-- researching global migration.

He doesn't have a printer. So he'd go back and forth to his parents' house, which is right in front of his place, to print out articles and reports. Ben may not be a big news guy, but he does like to research. He's been slowly building the house he and his family now live in, pretty much singlehandedly, with no experience in construction, based largely off research he's done online.

So he figured he could take those research skills and apply them to this question of whether immigration is a good thing for a place to encourage or bad.

Brian Reed

And did you feel like you had an open mind about it? Did you feel like--

Ben Tyrer

If we're being honest, I didn't have an open mind about it. But I knew that, and I knew that that's not a good thing to have if you are trying to have an actual view of what's going on in the world instead of just what you want to have going on in the world. So I kind of took it upon myself to question-- actually question-- everything that I think.

Brian Reed

Ben set out to do something many of us believe we've done in our own lives, but I think, if we're being honest, rarely actually have. He set out to do what a good citizen in a democracy is supposed to do-- delve into the facts, aware of your preconceptions, but with as much of an open mind as possible and form a knowledgeable opinion based on the evidence.

And when he did that, it took him to a place that really surprised him, and made him question how he views the world. Ben opens his laptop and tries to replicate for me best he can remember how he began. He started with a simple Google search-- something like "What's the refugee situation in Europe?"

Ben Tyrer

Migrant crisis-- migration to Europe explained in seven charts. The EU and the refugee crisis. They like to use the word crisis a lot, which was kind of a red flag.

Brian Reed

And before he knew it, he was down a rabbit hole of frightening stories-- stories about "no go zones" outside Paris. Immigrant neighborhoods, where native French people supposedly could no longer enter. He bumped into more stories about the sexual assaults in Cologne.

[WOMAN SPEAKING GERMAN IN VIDEO CLIP]

Watching and reading all this stuff, late at night, in the dark Alaskan winter, trying to forge an understanding of a place very far away that Ben has never been-- Europe-- and of people from even further away than that, that he has never met, Ben felt upset and worried. But also not entirely sure whether he could trust the information he was getting.

Ben Tyrer

The immediate gut reaction was, that's awful. But it's also like, OK, they're using these specifically to get that gut reaction out of people, to really get people to one side.

Brian Reed

You've got that kind of sub-narrative or something going on in your head, or sub commentary as you're reading through this stuff? Where's this coming from? What's the agenda of it?

Ben Tyrer

Exactly. Who is benefiting from me seeing this? Is it purely altruistic? Or is there something else going on?

Brian Reed

So Ben sought out information from other perspectives. He watched interviews with refugees and asylum seekers, telling their stories firsthand, of fleeing persecution or war in their home countries and embarking on harrowing journeys to Europe.

Ben Tyrer

This guy, he seems like a nice guy who was just trying to do the right thing. You know, I'd be more than willing to help a person like that. He's a very brave man.

Brian Reed

But then he'd feel unsure about that stuff too.

Ben Tyrer

If you watch this stuff kind of stuff enough for a long enough period of time, there's almost this paranoid reaction that you get. Is this real? Is this staged? It's a really dark, strange place you get to in your own head when you watch enough of these.

Brian Reed

Remember, Ben was new to news. I was basically a baby learning to walk, he tells me. His understanding was that publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post had a bad rap, so he didn't really spend too much time there.

He would go to a site like the BBC, but worried maybe they were giving him a liberal bent. So then he'd go to a site like this conservative Canadian one he found, The Rebel. But he knew he couldn't fully trust that either. The whole experience was head spinning. So he started digging up primary sources as well.

He's got a bunch of papers that he's printed out for me, documents and reports that he's compiled. He went to Cornell Law School's website to read up on immigration law, trying to figure out if sanctuary cities were legal. He determined that they were not. He also pulled crime stats directly from the German Ministry of the Interior.

He did that after reading this one article which he shows me with the headline, "Report, Migrants Committing Disproportionately High Crime in Germany."

Brian Reed

What source is that from?

Ben Tyrer

This is-- oh, Breitbart.

Brian Reed

Breitbart, the right wing nationalist site formerly run by Donald Trump's chief strategist, Steve Bannon, which is proudly anti-immigration. The article states that crime rates would have remained static in Germany if not for migrants coming in-- that the country recorded an extra 402,000 crimes by immigrants since 2014.

Brian Reed

How do you feel about Breitbart? I mean, that's a place people have a lot of feelings about, in terms of as a news source. I'm curious what you feel?

Ben Tyrer

Yeah. If I had only used Breitbart, I would have been a little bit more suspicious.

Brian Reed

Ben says he went to the website for Germany's interior ministry specifically to fact check this article's claims that crime by immigrants has increased dramatically. He also has this other document that he discovered online, which he says put him over the edge in terms of making his decision.

Ben Tyrer

Let's see, what is this? Gatestone Institute.

Brian Reed

It's a long report by a think tank I've never heard of called the Gatestone Institute, titled The Islamization of Germany, listing crimes and bad acts, supposedly committed by migrants, and specifically Muslims, in the country. It goes nearly day by day through 2016, enumerating ugly incident after ugly incident of flashings, stabbings, shootings, sexual assaults.

Ben Tyrer

I mean, the first one right off the list is just January 1st, mobs of Muslim men of "Arabic or North African origin" sexually assaulted hundreds of women in Cologne and other German cities.

Brian Reed

Again, the Cologne attacks, which had set Ben off on this journey.

Ben Tyrer

Cologne Police Chief Wolfgang Albers called it a completely new dimension of crime. And that's just the first one on the list. There are 19 pages here of stuff like that. Mmm.

Brian Reed

Wait, why the "mmm"? Or whatever noise you just made.

Ben Tyrer

Well, I haven't really gone through a lot of this information since I used it, and kind of going back through it again, it's kind of-- it's making me a little bit, you know, uneasy, a little bit upset. Trying to keep it under wraps, but--

Brian Reed

Right now, you're feeling upset and trying to, like, tamp it down.

Ben Tyrer

A little bit, yeah.

Brian Reed

Because you feel like you're feeling something ugly. When you read this stuff, you feel something ugly.

Ben Tyrer

Yeah, And I don't like it. Like I said, I've read a lot--

Brian Reed

Do you feel scared of people based on their ethnicity or background?

Ben Tyrer

Yeah. I mean, it's kind of an age-old conflict between your brain and your heart. My brain is telling me to at least be cautious, to really keep an eye on this, and to keep an eye on-- to keep an eye on them, for lack of a better sentiment. And then there's my heart that says, these are people too. I mean, if the shoe was on the other foot, if the United States was a third world, war torn country, I would do whatever it took to get my family out of here, legally or illegally.

Hope Tyrer

Like it really-- he was, like, really torn up.

Brian Reed

Ben's wife, Hope, said she was not prepared for how emotional this decision would become.

Hope Tyrer

It was an intense week.

Brian Reed

Was it really?

Hope Tyrer

Yeah, it was.

Ben Tyrer

Hope and Ben have known each other for seven years. They've been married for three. And she says it's up there among the most intense things they've gone through as a couple, close to having a baby and building a house. Immigration into Homer. It took them both aback.

Hope Tyrer

I didn't expect it to be that draining.

Brian Reed

Finally, after about a week of reading, and searching, and thinking, and talking it through, Ben arrived at a conclusion. He decided that he was opposed to the resolution.

Ben Tyrer

I prefer to air on the side of caution in this case. At this specific time in history, I believe a certain amount of caution is warranted.

Brian Reed

And then, he also decided--

Ben Tyrer

I was going to bring it before the council.

Council Member

Microphones are already on. State your name.

Ben Tyrer

My name is Ben Tyrer.

Council Member

Hello, Ben. Welcome.

Ben Tyrer

You'll have to excuse me. I just got off work a little while ago. I don't know what all's been covered here.

Brian Reed

Ben got to the February council meeting near the end. He'd had to work late at the college, where he's a janitor, right next door. He says he pumped himself up to speak while he was mopping bathrooms. When he got to town hall, the public had been speaking for more than three hours. The council members were exhausted. The place was still packed. He was the last person to address the council.

Ben Tyrer

I don't necessarily think-- what we have to consider is what these people will be-- you know what, I'm not going to talk with emotion anymore. I'm just going to read a few of these things that I've brought with me, because I think facts outweigh emotion. This is from Breitbart. I found it on The Drudge Report web site. "A massive migrant crime wave is surging across Germany."

I wanted to just present something a little bit more solid. I didn't necessarily want to just go in and say this is good or this is bad. I just wanted to present information to the people listening and to the council. And I brought copies of all the stuff that I have here.

Ben Tyrer

The data reveals that without migrants considered, crime rate in Germany would have remained roughly static since 2014...

Brian Reed

Ben read what he could from his research. And then, before he knew it, his three minute time limit was up.

Ben Tyrer

The womans rights minister declared there are now areas in our country where women can no longer go...

[BEEPING]

Mayor

Thank you Ben...

Brian Reed

The mayor cut him off.

Mayor

If you would like to leave any of the material with the clerk, she'd be happy to enter those into the public record for what you weren't allowed to finish there. Anybody else from the community that would like to come forward?

Brian Reed

After the meeting, Ben got in this car. He'd done what he set out to do. But as he drove home, he realized, he still felt very mixed up about it.

Ben Tyrer

Honestly, after I came home that night, I was so torn up about the decision, I was actually crying a little bit.

Brian Reed

Why were you crying?

Ben Tyrer

Believe it or not, it kind of changed my world view a little bit. Because honestly, I have this part of me that I want everybody to get along, and I want all of us to be together, and just-- I don't think it's realistic necessarily. But the utopian ideal. I just want us all to-- we are the world, kumbaya, holding hands.

And the fact that I was making a decision to kind of crack down on a certain group of people really tore me up, bad. This hope in everybody, that eventually we'll all just kind of get along. I don't know if it's possible. And it's just kind of sad, really.

Brian Reed

What did you say to your wife when you came home?

Ben Tyrer

I just asked her do you think I did the right thing?

Hope Tyrer

He was saying, you know-- was this the right thing to do? Was this the right decision? It was an interesting night. We were up late that night.

Brian Reed

He said he was crying a little bit?

Hope Tyrer

Yeah, little bit. I think that was maybe the third time I've ever seen Ben cry. Yeah, he doesn't cry. So, I knew it was a very serious thing for him.

Brian Reed

One day, as I was leaving one of my interviews with Ben, he was giving me the articles and reports he'd printed out. I would love to take this stuff.

Ben Tyrer

Did you want to--

Brian Reed

I would love it. And then he said this.

Ben Tyrer

I would love for you to tell me that I'm wrong. If you can read this stuff and tell me that I'm wrong, I would love that.

Brian Reed

Really?

Ben Tyrer

Yeah, because, man, I don't like thinking this way about people.

Brian Reed

OK, well I can do that. Like I could-- well, I can try. Maybe I'll go home after my trip here and see if we can fact check some of the stuff.

Ben Tyrer

Please, please do.

Brian Reed

So I did.

Brian Reed

Damien, in Berlin, can you hear Ben?

Damien Mcguinness

Good morning, Ben. Good evening for you. How are you doing?

Ben Tyrer

I am quite well. How are you doing, sir?

Brian Reed

Because of his research, Ben now had this whole new view of reality that was making him kind of miserable. And he still had doubts and questions. So it seemed worth double checking what he'd learned.

I've never been to Germany. I'm not an expert on the migration situation in Europe. So a few weeks after I met Ben in Homer, I arranged for him to have a conversation with someone who is-- someone who's actually in the place Ben was looking to-- to try to understand the impacts immigration can have.

Damien McGuinness, a BBC correspondent in Berlin. He spent 14 years reporting in Germany, and one of his main focuses in the last several years has been the influx of migrants into the country. I know the BBC was one of the sources Ben wasn't sure if he could trust, because it might have a liberal bent.

So I asked him if he believed Damien. And he said he'd definitely be looking up what he said afterwards, fact checking the fact checking. But he seemed to take seriously that Damien lives in Germany, and has reported a lot on these issues. So Damien went into a studio in Berlin, and Ben went into one in Homer.

Damien Mcguinness

We're very far away from each other, so it's a pleasure to talk to you on the other side of the world.

Ben Tyrer

You know, I'm just a small town boy. This is the craziest thing that's ever happened to me.

Brian Reed

I sent Damien all the research Ben had given me beforehand-- the articles and reports and statistics he compiled. Damien reviewed it, and then we went through it all together. So the first thing I thought we'd talk about is the sexual assaults in Cologne.

This was the New Year's incident that Ben kept encountering again and again in his research. He'd read and seen that lots of women have been sexually assaulted by Arab men.

And he believed it to be true.

After I met Ben, I read up on this. And if we're being honest, I found the numbers that were being reported hard to believe. The Washington Post and others wrote about more than 1,000 women, primarily in Cologne, but also other German cities, being assaulted by upwards of 2,000 men, according to some reports. Men who were largely migrants.

I didn't understand if the assaults were coordinated or more like a spontaneous mob. Plus, there were headlines on sites like Breitbart, such as "New Year Rape Horror" and "Rape-fugees Not Welcome." I just wasn't sure what to think.

But Damien explained these attacks were real. They happened. He reported on them. There were in fact about 1,000 criminal complaints filed with Cologne Police, about half of those for various levels of sexual assault, including allegations of rape. The other half include theft of purses and phones, and other violence too.

There are terrifying accounts of women being surrounded and attacked by men. Damien thinks it's important to understand the pandemonium in German city centers on New Year's Eve, which he says is unlike public parties elsewhere in Europe. There are huge masses of people. It's dark. People were setting off fireworks in the crowd. Damien says what occurred was somewhere between a wild drunken party and a riot that police couldn't control.

Damien Mcguinness

And the drunkenness on the streets is of a level I don't think you'd really see in the states. And it's not to minimize the trauma that these women underwent, or to say it's any less shocking. But it goes to explain why the police found it hard to control, and helps explain why then criminal elements took advantage of that to do something appalling. It makes it seem less crazy.

Brian Reed

Most of the suspects were identified. About 150 men, were immigrants and asylum seekers, particularly from North African countries. There are accounts from people who were there of many more men being involved. So what Ben saw about Cologne, while it was sensationalized with words like rape-fugees, was, for the most part, true.

Next, Ben and Damien and I looked at one of the Breitbart articles that made a big impression on Ben. It starts, quote, "A massive migrant crime wave is surging across Germany," end quote, citing a report from the interior ministry that's over 100 pages long and entirely in German. The article says Germany recorded roughly 402,000 crimes committed by migrants in 2015. Damien read the underlying report, and he says that 402,000 number--

Damien Mcguinness

That is correct. That's a correct figure.

Brian Reed

Except--

Damien Mcguinness

This 400,000 figure is actually including the crime of crossing the border as an asylum seeker. Now by definition, that can only be committed by migrants, and in fact, is how most refugees, by legitimately accepted international law, actually apply for asylum.

Now when you take away that particular criminal act of crossing the border, what you then find is actually-- and the government report very clearly says this-- in fact, the crime rates remained pretty much the same 2015 compared to the year before.

Brian Reed

The Breitbart article does say that many of these crimes were border crimes. They don't leave that information out completely. But in reality, that's all that 400,000 number is-- immigration infractions like border crossing or overstaying a visa. It doesn't include any other type of crime.

Damien Mcguinness

They're using proper statistics, but not putting them in the right context. And then they're using alarmist language like, "A massive migrant crime wave is surging across Germany."

Ben Tyrer

Wow.

Brian Reed

Did you understand that, Ben, from reading this article?

Ben Tyrer

Man, I didn't get that at all.

Brian Reed

I didn't get it either. I mean, I had to-- I clicked on the link to what they were sourcing, and it's a 135-page report in German.

Damien Mcguinness

And it's a complicated report. You know, it's a slog to read through. It's a government report. It's not necessarily very clear itself.

Brian Reed

So is a migrant crime wave surging across Germany? Damien tells Ben when you take out those crimes like crossing the border or overstaying a visa, the amount of crime committed by immigrants overall has gone up in the last three years. It's nearly tripled, from 3-1/2% of all crimes to 9%.

Granted, that's at the same time that a huge number of immigrants have been coming into Germany, a million and a half people. But the increase in immigrant crime still appears to be outstripping that population growth. There are caveats to that too, though. The German government has cautioned that the research on this is not yet sophisticated enough to draw firm conclusions. Also, Damien tells Ben--

Damien Mcguinness

A lot of the rising crime committed by migrants was on other migrants.

Brian Reed

According to the interior ministry, migrants were responsible for 4.6% of crimes against German victims and 79% of crimes against immigrant victims. Ben had this picture in his head from the coverage he read of immigrants coming in and victimizing locals. But that's not the reality.

Damien Mcguinness

It might sound a bit skeptical to say it, but those crimes are not affecting the German population.

Brian Reed

Plus, Damien points out, it's important to bear in mind the situation in which many of these crimes are committed-- in overcrowded, underserved refugee shelters packed with people, many of whom have been traumatized by war and violence in places like Syria and Iraq.

Damien Mcguinness

So without excusing crime, it's clear that these are stressful conditions in which normal people can make bad choices.

Brian Reed

We talked through a few other things Ben found in his research. I tell him that a French speaking colleague and I spoke to several law enforcement sources in France, and they all said the concept of "no-go zones," immigrant neighborhoods where native French people were supposedly not allowed in, are not real.

One of them told us it was, quote, "an American invention." And Damien agrees. He says it's become a bit of a joke in Europe that to Americans, entire cities are no-go zones. Damien also tells Ben about a Breitbart story he had personal experience with from earlier this year, which claimed that a mob of Muslim men had set Germany's oldest church on fire.

It included a video of supposed Islamists chanting in the streets nearby and celebrating. Damien remembers seeing that story appear on the internet and then trying to run it down with other journalists, only to find that the church was not Germany's oldest. It had not been set on fire. A stray firework had briefly ignited some netting on some scaffolding, but that was it. And the men celebrating in the video were not Islamists, but actually anti-Islamist. They were Syrian refugees celebrating a ceasefire in the war back home.

Ben Tyrer

I remember that story. My gosh.

Damien Mcguinness

You remember reading it?

Ben Tyrer

Yes.

Brian Reed

It was something Ben came across in his research and he believed it.

Brian Reed

So you thought that Islamists burned down Germany's oldest church?

Ben Tyrer

Yes, yes I did. I mean, I had no reason not to. Wow. I'm kind of flabbergasted, actually, and more than a little bit angry at this point.

Brian Reed

And lastly, we come to the document that helped clinch Ben's decision for him-- his decision that he was opposed to the resolution in Homer. It's that report by the think tank the Gatestone Institute, called The Islamization of Germany, which lists 19 pages of crimes, all linked in some way to Muslims and migrants.

Damien Mcguinness

Yeah, I'm flicking through the report now. And, you know, if I just take one example. There's a crime on July 22nd, 2016. So I'm reading it now. It says Ali Sonboly, you know, Muslim name--

Brian Reed

Ali Sonboly, it reads. Quote, "An 18-year-old Iranian German who harbored hatred for Arabs and Turks killed 10 people, including himself, and wounded 35 others at a McDonald's in Munich." That's the whole entry.

Damien reported on this story as it happened. And first of all, he tells Ben, when it says Sonboly was, quote, "Iranian-German," he was born to Iranian parents, but in Germany. He grew up in Germany, spoke German. He was German. And as for including Sonboly in a report called The Islamization of Germany--

Damien Mcguinness

In fact, it was found later that he had large amounts of neo-Nazi memorabilia. He was a great fan of the Norwegian mass murderer Breivik-- you might remember killed all those young people in Norway.

He was reportedly very proud of having the same birthday as-- I can't remember if it was Adolf Hitler, or if it was the same birthday as Breivik. And he hated foreigners. Ali Sonboly was not an Islamist. He was a right wing extremist.

Brian Reed

Most of Sonboly's victims were foreigners.

Damien Mcguinness

This should be in a report about anti-foreigner, right wing extremist violence. It's in the wrong report.

Brian Reed

Damien says since 1991, Islamist attacks have caused 14 deaths in Germany. In the same time period, he says, there have been approximately 150 deaths at the hands of right wing extremists in the country. And according to the government, right wing violence increased dramatically as the big wave of migrants started coming in. But Ben came across none of this in his research.

I wondered what Ben was thinking during all this. And I was surprised to hear him say this.

Ben Tyrer

It's definitely making me lean toward the thought that I was wrong.

Brian Reed

Really?

Ben Tyrer

Yeah.

Brian Reed

You think you were like wrong wrong?

Ben Tyrer

Yes. I mean, not through lack of trying. But I think I was wrong.

Brian Reed

He thinks he was wrong in his conclusion that immigration makes places more unsafe. Ben meant so well, tried so hard to be skeptical, to be fact based, to find the truth, and still he feels he was led astray.

A lot of that he chalks up to him being such a novice to news. He says it seems to him that the sources he was reading, like Breitbart and the report from the Gatestone Institute-- which is a right wing think tank, chaired by former U.N. Ambassador under George W. Bush, John Bolton-- were successful in doing what they were designed to do. Sway him against immigration. But it's also true that Ben took himself to those sources.

Ben Tyrer

I think the conclusion I've come to is that I was picking this information. And part of it was irrational fear. I admit that.

I wouldn't have put so much time into it if I hadn't been afraid. I think the fear just kind of fed on itself. I mean, I told you before, I try to be unemotional about this stuff, but the more I think about it, the more I think that I may-- that I was more emotional than I like to let myself believe. And it skewed my thinking.

Brian Reed

Ben was not the only person in Homer who brought up Europe and specifically Germany with me, as we were discussing immigration. This is the weird moment the world is in right now, where people at the end of the road in Alaska are examining Germany to decide their feelings on a local city resolution.

While Ben does feel he was wrong to fear immigration, he doesn't think he was wrong to encourage his city government to be cautious if it were to invite a lot of immigrants in. He wants to have open arms. But he still believes it's important to have a plan in place for everyone's safety. And he's still not sure what the right way to do that is.

Ben Tyrer

It's a very difficult dichotomy to work through, because I do want to help people, but I'm also afraid of them. I'm still trying to figure it out. I'm still trying to marry those two things together.

Brian Reed

Well, you're doing exactly what nations are trying to figure out now, too. How to stay safe and not be afraid, but also help people. Like, that's what Germany seems to be going through, right, Damien?

Damien Mcguinness

Yeah.

Brian Reed

And that's what the US is debating too.

Ben Tyrer

Well, I'm glad I'm not the only one.

Brian Reed

Yeah, that's like the question the world's going through right now.

Brian Reed

And that world includes Homer, Alaska.

Ira Glass

Brian Reed. He's the senior producer of our program and the host of the podcast S-Town, which is about another small town, that one in Alabama. Coming up, we return to the lower 48, to a high school in Maryland, and an incident that even got the president's attention. That's in a minute from Chicago Public Radio, when our program continues.

Act Two. Loathing.

Ira Glass

This American Life, from Ira Glass. Today's program, "Fear and Loathing in Homer and Rockville." We have two stories of places where people got really scared about immigrants, where immigration did not seem to be the main thing going on. We've arrived at Act Two of our program. Act Two, Loathing. So the first half of our program was about a community that was worried about what might happen, theoretically, if undocumented immigrants arrived. This next story happens in a place where they actually already have arrived-- Rockville, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C., where this winter, something actually did happen. And the whole community had to deal with it. Zoe Chace explains.

Zoe Chace

Here's the thing that happened. A freshman girl in the local high school said she was raped by two undocumented immigrant students. She said it happened at 9:00 on a Thursday morning, in the boys' bathroom at the school.

The boys were new students. They'd crossed the border separately from El Salvador and Guatemala. Jose was 17. Henry was 18. The girl was 14. They were all ninth graders, though.

The superintendent of schools, Jack Smith-- was the person who'd have to manage the situation. The police, the parents, the students, the press. I talked to him while he was dealing with all that, back in March.

Jack Smith

I couldn't understand how it could have happened in a busy high school with 1,500 students and a large staff. Felt sick at my stomach. So I was confused as to what could have happened.

Zoe Chace

In less than 24 hours, TV trucks were showing up at the school. Local television and radio, mostly.

Reporter

Parents shocked to learn a 14-year-old girl was allegedly raped by two fellow Rockville High students. It happened Thursday, around 9:00 AM. The charging documents describe a horrific ordeal.

Zoe Chace

The early reporting described the boys as undocumented immigrants. And as the days went on, that became the focus of a lot of the coverage-- the boys' immigration status.

Tucker Carlson

Well, good evening, and welcome to Tucker Carlson Tonight. Just days ago, a hideous crime was allegedly committed in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Rockville, Maryland.

Zoe Chace

Fox News covered the case in Rockville every day, the Tucker Carlson show in particular.

Tucker Carlson

Sanchez is 18 years old and in this country illegally. But instead of being deported back to his country of origin, he was instead placed in the ninth grade and educated at taxpayer expense. This is insanity, of course. It's a sign of a sick civilization at war with itself.

Zoe Chace

That was the general tone of the coverage on Fox. This rape allegation is a great example of how terrible our immigration policies are. They turned the case into a referendum. You didn't see much coverage of the allegation on other major news networks.

In the week after, it was mentioned only twice on CNN, once in The New York Times. Local D.C. TV and local papers, like The Washington Post and The Washington Times-- they stayed on it. But Fox News and other online conservative media, they did not skip a day that week. The school superintendent Jack Smith, watched the story take off.

Jack Smith

We just watched it grow over Friday, Friday night, Saturday, thinking, you know, how do we separate this-- the horrific situation-- from the immigration debate? And knowing that we weren't going to be able to. I mean, you couldn't have lived through the last 18 months in the United States and not have been inundated with the perspectives on those things.

Zoe Chace

Jack Smith was named in the coverage as the guy responsible for the schools. And voicemails and emails started pouring into the school district from all over the country with a clear message for him.

Voicemail Recording

01:00 AM.

Male Caller To Voicemail

Yes, hello, to the wonderful school board that hired a Jack Smith. I'd like to say I'm the father of three young girls that were not raped by illegal aliens. Fire this man. And hopefully all the rest of you nitwits at that school board will be fired next for letting illegal aliens in.

Read the constitution. They are illegals. They should not be in the school system, period. Get it through your heads. They are illegals. Thank you very much.

Zoe Chace

The President of the United States weighed in, via his spokesman Sean Spicer, at the White House press briefing.

Sean Spicer

This is a tragic event. And it's horrendous, and horrible, and disgusting, what this young woman in Rockville went through. I can't possibly imagine. So first of all, let's remember the human side of this. That this is a tragic event. This is why he's passionate about this.

Zoe Chace

Why Donald Trump is passionate about spotlighting crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.

Sean Spicer

Because people are victims of these crimes. 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--

Zoe Chace

At this point, the superintendent Jack Smith decides he needs to do a press conference himself. Suddenly it seems like everyone in the country had this one question for him, which was, why do you allow illegal immigrants at your schools? Jack Smith's answer came at that press conference.

Jack Smith

What comes down here is that we serve every student that walks in our door. We are a public school system, and we serve all of our students when they come to us. And when we look at that, it is not only the right thing to do, and the good thing to do, and it benefits the students and our community-- it's also the law of the land. And it's what--

Zoe Chace

He talks about the Supreme Court case, Plyler v. Doe, which says students can't be denied a free public education based on their immigration status. We don't even know anyone's status, he says, because it's against the law to collect that. We serve every student in front of us. That's it. Meanwhile, back at Fox, on the second day of Tucker Carlson's nightly coverage of the case, he brought up the superintendent's press conference.

Tucker Carlson

Top officials there don't want to think about the connection illegal immigration might have to this crime or others like it. Montgomery County School Superintendent Jack Smith, for instance, said this.

Jack Smith

We're not going to paint all students who speak another language, all students of a skin color, all students of a religion, with a broad brush because of a really terrible incident. So I'm saying no tonight. We're going to take care of our students.

Tucker Carlson

In other words, diversity is our strength, move along, you're racist, shut up. Thanks, Jack. Why are people embarrassed to point to something that actually happened and draw obvious conclusions from it?

Zoe Chace

Calls and emails coming into the school district just exploded after this broadcast.

Male Caller To Voicemail

I'm calling after seeing the story about opening that meeting, calling people bigots who don't like illegal aliens in their schools. I think you're a [BLEEP] idiot. And, you know what, this call is indicative of thousands and thousands of other people. I know you don't give a [BLEEP].

Zoe Chace

People were so mad they mixed up their prejudices into a big stew of things they don't like.

Male Caller To Voicemail

I understand that Jack Smith is telling a 14-year-old to be sensitive to the Muslims' needs and not be xenophobic after the Muslims raped a 14-year-old girl.

Jack Smith

The accused Hispanic boys were not Muslim.

Male Caller To Voicemail

For this man to come out and call the people that their daughter, who was raped, homophobic, this is ridiculous.

Zoe Chace

Racist, not homophobic, according to Tucker Carlson. The calls coming into the school got threatening. Someone threatened to shoot every immigrant student in the school. Someone sent an email saying "I'm going to burn that school down." The school added extra security.

Just like in Homer, Alaska, the place we went in the first half of the show, the conversation about immigration had moved from the real to the totally symbolic. But their anger wasn't about an imagined hypothetical menace. It was about real people, the immigrant students at Rockville High School, and their superintendent. Again, Jack Smith.

Jack Smith

Up until just a day or two ago, I've gotten the ugliest, most hateful, most vile, most sickening emails. Some of them name my wife and my five adult children by name, and spell their names right. Some of them say I know where you live. It freaked me out.

Zoe Chace

What did your wife say?

Jack Smith

She was afraid. She was freaked out. And I showed her some of the messages I was getting. And she said, I'm sorry we moved here. I'm sorry you took this job. I hate it. And I said, I know, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.

Zoe Chace

Within weeks, the story changed. New evidence came forward. Text messages, video camera evidence, physical evidence.

State Attorney

We have concluded that the facts in this case do not support the original charges filed in this matter.

Zoe Chace

After a month and a half, the state's attorney decides to drop the rape charges.

State Attorney

Due to the lack of corroboration and substantial inconsistencies from the facts that we have obtained from multiple sources, the original charges cannot be sustained and prosecution on those charges is untenable.

Zoe Chace

The prosecution couldn't back up the girl's narrative of events. She said she was forced into the bathroom. But that wasn't backed up on the videotape from the hallway. She said she didn't know the boys. But she had been sexting with one of them the night before. The texts showed they planned to meet in the bathroom.

I cannot tell you if this girl was raped. All I can say is that the lawyers say the incident didn't have the evidence to support her claim of rape in a court of law. It can also say that in a high school of teenagers, two older boys having sex with a younger girl, a 14-year-old girl, in a bathroom at 9:00 in the morning-- it's worrisome, any way you look at it.

I feel upset talking about it. I felt upset hearing about it. I tried reaching out to the girl through the law firm that was representing her multiple times, but they didn't respond. Under Maryland law, these kids are too close in age for this to be statutory rape. The state did decide to charge the boys with something else-- child pornography.

The girl had sent one of the boys naked pictures and videos of herself, and he forwarded them on to the other kid. So Henry, who's 18, remains in jail. Jose, who's 17, was released, and then picked up by ICE that same day. He's now in the custody of Immigration Enforcement.

I wanted to talk to someone who took this dark, complicated situation involving teenagers and decided the most important thing about it was what it said about our immigration system. The people whose reporting unleashed a flood of threats on that school. I wanted to ask, why do that? I wanted to hear their rationale-- like, what were they trying to achieve?

And I asked Tucker Carlson. He turned me down for an interview. But I got someone close.

Ann Coulter

We are talking about cultures that are just behind ours. They are backwards. They're behind us in tolerance, eating with a knife and fork.

Zoe Chace

Ann Coulter. Yeah, I called Ann Coulter. Notorious right wing columnist, major influencer behind Trump's immigration policies during the campaign. She'd written a column about the case right after the charges were dropped, titled, "To Say, 'Stop Raping Me!' In English, Press '1' Now."

Her book, Adios America, has multiple chapters focusing on sexual assault cases committed by undocumented immigrants. And to anyone who would call it racist or xenophobic to make the Rockville case about immigration, she says--

Ann Coulter

Yes, I'm instantly saying F you.

Zoe Chace

This is her reaction when I show her a letter the superintendent Jack Smith sent home to parents, which includes a line condemning racist and xenophobic threats against students.

Ann Coulter

Oh, [BLEEP] him.

Zoe Chace

So what's the part?

Ann Coulter

While many of you have engaged in-- crossed the line with racist, xenophobic calls and emails-- oh, boo hoo hoo. A 14-year-old girl was at least statutorily gang raped.

Zoe Chace

But the racist, xenophobic calls also affect other students in the school.

Ann Coulter

I think now is not the time to be discussing that. Right now, a girl has been raped. People are angry about it. And they are expressing anger. And he turns around and attacks the people expressing anger by calling them names.

Zoe Chace

When do you want to hear about xenophobia?

Ann Coulter

When it's a problem. Right now, illegal immigration's a problem.

Zoe Chace

Ann does not believe the prosecutor should have dropped the charges. She doesn't believe the evidence is ambiguous or problematic. She believes unequivocally this was rape.

I played Ann some of the voicemails that poured into the school, after her and others' coverage of the incident. Was that the response she was hoping for? Or was she at least OK with that response?

Voicemail Recording

7:59 AM.

Male Caller To Voicemail

Too bad you didn't rape the mother [BLEEP] who's responsible to let these mother [BLEEP] in.

Zoe Chace

Ann reaches for her nicotine gum and considers this. She is unsurprised.

Ann Coulter

I think what you're hearing in the anger here-- it is the frustration and the feeling that there's nothing you can do. And frankly, it's going to get worse because they just put a completely implausible reality TV star in the White House hoping to end it. And so far, he's not ending it. If he betrays them, oh, my gosh, you're going to get a lot more messages like that.

Zoe Chace

Basically, if Trump doesn't crack down on immigration like he said he would, the Jack Smiths of the world are going to get a lot more calls like this. Her message to them-- stop whining.

Ann Coulter

Now they know what it feels like to be Ann Coulter for a day.

Zoe Chace

I get the feeling that maybe Ann Coulter gets a lot of death threats in her line of work.

Ann Coulter

It's gone on with me long enough that I can tell you, well, not only have I never whined in public about it, but if they call first, they're not coming. These are just people leaving nasty messages.

Zoe Chace

Well, people said they were going to come and shoot up the school because there were so many illegal immigrants there. I mean, that was a threat that was being made at the school.

Ann Coulter

OK, some nut makes a phone call. I think the real issue here is we have illegal immigrants raping 14-year-old girls-- allegedly. [LAUGHS]

Zoe Chace

Thank you.

Zoe Chace

We talked for two and a half hours, and she helped me understand why she wrote about this-- why she thinks it was necessary and important to turn this incident into a case study about the evils of immigration. And her explanation surprised me. She said she and Tucker Carlson, they're not saying this stuff to make people angry.

People are already angry, she says, because no one in power is listening to them. Not the schools, not the policy makers, definitely not the media. So Ann's columns-- her screaming angry columns-- that's not trying to rile those people up. That's Ann screaming at the rest of the media for ignoring the fact that so many people are so angry, she thinks. She's screaming because the rest of the media is not. And she says what we're hearing on the school's voicemails is people's anger over this.

Ann Coulter

They are getting very, very frustrated. And no one is listening to them. And the media is sneering at them and hiding stories that are important to their lives.

Zoe Chace

I don't think, though, that the callers are frustrated that the mainstream media is not reporting on it, which I think you are. The callers are antagonized, or whipped up by what Tucker's reporting, and calling the school, and threatening the superintendent. That's what it seems like the order of operations was.

Ann Coulter

Well, it's all a part of the same thing-- ignoring the problem of illegal immigration, whether it's the immigration bureaucracy, the schools employing them, the taxes going to pay for them. I mean, in some ways the media is a safety valve.

Zoe Chace

The media as a safety valve. Ann thinks if the media reflected the anger of people who are upset about illegal immigration, then those people would be less virulent with their threats, and their voicemails, and their emails, and their Facebook posts. Like this is how she thinks the news should look. Take the very first Washington Post story about this which ran in the metro section with the headline-- Two Students Charged After Rape at Maryland High School.

Zoe Chace

What should the Washington Post have said if you could have been the editor of that story?

Ann Coulter

I would have put it on the front page!

Zoe Chace

And you would have said? What would the headline...

Ann Coulter

Immigration policy implicated in the suburbs. Or implicated in rape in the suburbs...implication or immigration seen as factor...no, as cause! They wouldn't have been here if we had a wall. Another argument for Trump's wall.

Zoe Chace

Hm. But then being immigrants doesn't necessarily have to do with the raping.

Ann Coulter

Who cares. These rapists would not have been here.

Zoe Chace

I just thought that it was so much more about immigration policy, and it really seems like it's a media criticism.

Ann Coulter

Yes, over their defense of illegal immigration.

Zoe Chace

There is no evidence that being born somewhere else leads people to commit more crimes than if they were born right here in the US. The numbers that exist just don't prove that out. There are all these fears being whipped up around the country about this perceived national menace, but inside Rockville High School, there were fears just about walking down the hallway.

Female Student

I guess in the point of view of a girl, the girls felt unsafe. You know, they didn't want to go to the bathroom. They're like I'm scared now.

Zoe Chace

This is Keydie, ninth grader at Rockville High School. She's Hispanic. Her parents are from Honduras.

She's one of those girls who seems like she just came into her own, like recently transitioned over from kid to young adult. In the weeks and months since the alleged rape in the bathroom, and the national firestorm that came after it, the fears of her and her classmates took on different forms. She felt scared as a Honduran American, and as the daughter of immigrants.

Keydie

And then, for the immigrant-- I guess the Hispanic students in our school-- they were at a point where they were feeling judged and scared, because they were thinking that the guy who did this was being more accused due to the fact that he's Hispanic, you know? He's being judged even more. Like, if we do something now, they're going to kick us out of the school or something, because we don't have papers.

Zoe Chace

And she felt scared as a girl.

Keydie

I was scared-- what if something like that could happen to me. Because I don't know all the people in my school. Like, I don't know their intentions. Like, they could seem nice, but I don't know if they want to have a nice friendship and whatnot. Like, you don't know what to expect. Like, you just can't be trusting people like that.

Zoe Chace

It's like all the students were afraid for different reasons at the same time.

Keydie

Exactly.

Zoe Chace

That's lots of people right now. Lots of people are afraid for different reasons at the same time.

Ira Glass

Zoe Chace is one of the producers of our show.

Credits.

Ira Glass

Our program was produced today by Jonathan Menjivar. Our staff includes Elise Bergerson, Susan Burton, Ben Calhoun, Zoe Chace, [INAUDIBLE], Sean Cole, Whitney Dangerfield, Neil Drumming, Karen Duffin, Stephanie Foo, Kimberly Henderson, Miki Meek, Robyn Semien, Christopher [INAUDIBLE], Matt Tierney, Nancy Updike, and Julie Whitaker. Senior producers, Brian Reed, Diane Wu, and Ben [INAUDIBLE] worked on today's show.

[ACKNOWLEDGMENTS]

Our website, ThisAmericanLife.Org. This American Life distributed by public radio stations, by PRX, The Public Radio Exchange. Thanks as always to our program's co-founder, Mr. Torey Malatia. You know, he knew a lot of people in Montreal speak French, but man, he went to Paris, and heard people speaking--

Ben Tyrer

Wow, in Europe? Of all places, this is happening in Europe?

Ira Glass

I'm Ira Glass. Back next week with more stories of This American Life.