A New York City congressional candidate endorsed by the same progressive group that backed Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) and Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) called "white male domestic terrorism" the "biggest issue in our country."
Democrat congressional hopeful Jamaal Bowman ranked "white male domestic terrorism" as America's most urgent problem while downplaying the issue of illegal immigration at a Monday appearance on "The Hardy Report" podcast.
"There's no evidence that the crime in this country, particularly the heinous crime, is committed by our immigrant neighbors. So again, it's a false narrative," Bowman said. "The biggest issue in our country is white male domestic terrorism. That's the biggest issue and that's what we need to deal with straight away."
Bowman, a Bronx middle school principal, is running an insurgent bid to unseat incumbent Democrat representative Eliot Engel in New York's 16th district. The challenger's focus on "white male domestic terrorism" over illegal immigration puts him at odds with the priorities of American voters—23 percent of respondents called immigration the "most important problem facing the country" in a recent Gallup survey, the highest measured since the pollster first began mentioning the issue in 1993.
Responding to the criticism that Democrats are weak on borders, Bowman claimed that "99.9 percent of our immigrant neighbors that come here, come here in peace and come here looking for asylum." He touted an open borders policy, arguing that "so-called immigrants are coming" into the United States "because we were in their backyards causing havoc and destruction in their homes."
President Trump has often focused the immigration debate on the flow of drugs and human traffickers into the U.S. from the southern border, but Bowman said any attention paid to the criminal elements of illegal border crossings creates a "false narrative." In its most recent quarterly Alien Incarceration Report, the Department of Homeland Security noted that 38,391 known or suspected aliens were in federal custody as of March 31, 2018. Of those in custody, more than 17,500 committed drug trafficking or other drug related offenses, nearly 1,500 committed weapons offenses, nearly 1,200 committed racketeering and continuing criminal enterprise offenses. More than 800 produced or distributed child pornography.
Bowman also misrepresented immigrants seeking asylum in the United States. According to the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), only 20 percent of immigrants seeking asylum were found to be legitimate asylum seekers in 2017, up from 17 percent in 2016. The remaining 80 to 83 percent are not all explicitly denied asylum—in the past, many of those claiming asylum skipped their follow-up hearings after being released from custody inside the United States. The Trump administration has attempted to crack down on the practice by forcing those apprehended at the border to remain in Mexico as their asylum applications are processed.
Bowman's progressive agenda does not stop at the border. He is also a proponent of the Green New Deal, the multi-trillion dollar program touted by Justice Democrat heavyweight Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. He said taxes on Wall Street could pay for the environmentalist legislation, even as his fellow liberals—including AOC-endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.)—say such taxes would fall way short of covering the costs of shifting the country away from traditional energy sources.
"A simple Wall Street transaction tax and speculation tax, if you will, can pay for the Green New Deal, for example. All we have to do is be smart and be strategic, make sure the wealthy pay their fair share, and we can get done what needs to get done."
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders's proposed financial transaction tax, his campaign estimates, would generate about $2.4 trillion in revenue over ten years. American Action Forum in February estimated the Green New Deal would cost at least $8.3 trillion and as much as $94 trillion over 10 years.
Bowman is not the only candidate hoping to unseat Engel—other primary challengers include educator Andom Ghebreghiorgis and veteran Sammy Ravelo. Engel faced three primary opponents in 2018, receiving nearly 74 percent of the vote.
Charles Fain Lehman contributed to this report.