Maryland’s Democratic governor cites ‘border crisis’ as factor in Rachel Morin’s slaying

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (D) blamed conditions at the border for a killing last year in his state, giving credence to Republican rhetoric linking immigration and crime — a position pilloried as fearmongering by most Democrats.

In an interview with Fox News’s “Fox & Friends,” Moore pivoted to the border when asked about the August killing of Rachel Morin and the arrest Friday of her alleged killer, Víctor Martínez Hernández.

“I’m infuriated. And our state is still mourning. I mean this is a mother of five. Someone who had her life ahead of her, many celebrations with her family ahead of her, and her life was cut short,” Moore told co-host Brian Kilmeade.

“And — and, you know, and when people think about the border crisis and they think that this is only impacting a handful of states, you know, Harford County, in our state, where this … brutal murder happened is 1,800 miles away from the border. And so when people think this is only impacting a few states, this is impacting every single one of us. This inaction that we continue to see to get any form of sensible immigration policy done is impacting all of us, because all of us in local jurisdictions deal with the consequences of this,” added Moore.

Most researchers agree that immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than native-born Americans, so their presence tends to decrease crime rates in local jurisdictions.

Hartford County Sheriff Jeff Gahler, who is investigating the crime, sought the public’s help in finding Martínez, who was arrested in Tulsa, Okla., and connected to another crime in Los Angeles, as a particularly dangerous suspect.

But many Republicans are increasingly drawing links between immigration in a general sense and individual crimes, often highlighting isolated, egregious cases where the victims are white women and the alleged assailants Hispanic men.

Immigrant advocates say that approach is not only statistically flawed, but it rouses xenophobic sentiment and can lead to violence against immigrant communities, such as the anti-Mexican attack on an El Paso Walmart in 2019, where 23 people died and another 22 were injured.

“The six immigrant workers who died fixing the roadway late at night on Key Bridge when it collapsed are much more typical of the hardworking immigrants who come to this country to build us up. Yet we don’t have an adequate, modern system that allows these workers to come and work legally in essential jobs,” said Doug Rivlin, senior director of communication at America’s Voice, a progressive immigrant advocacy group.

“The Governor knows that, even if Fox viewers are fed a very different narrative about what Maryland’s immigrant communities and families are all about.”

Moore pushed back on Kilmeade’s contention that President Biden is most to blame for conditions at the border, saying bipartisan congressional inaction has led to a dysfunctional immigration system.

But Moore doubled down on linking crime and immigration.

“This thing — this thing is so longstanding and there’s been a lack of courage that we have been — that we have seen for a long period of time in Washington that has allowed this to take place, that’s allowed our states to then — and the — and the people of our states, who we protect — and there’s nothing I take more seriously than public safety — but that are allowing people in my state to become victims because of a long-standing inaction that we continue to see across — across Congress,” said Moore.

An adviser for the governor did not respond to a request for comment from The Hill.

“If the illegal immigrant suspect committed the murder, he should be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” said Alex Nowrasteh, vice president for economic and social policy studies at the Cato Institute.

“Nothing would, could, or should diminish the tragedy of this case or other similar cases, but the best evidence we have is that illegal immigrants are less likely to be convicted of homicide or to commit homicide than native-born Americans. These are horrible individual crimes, but they are not evidence of an illegal immigrant crime wave.”

Rivlin, who advised former Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) through several comprehensive immigration reform attempts, pushed the Democratic governor to drop the “plague on both your houses” approach.

“The Governor is correct that 30-plus years of obstruction on immigration reform by Republicans has consequences for border management, which is why our immigration system is inadequate today,” said Rivlin.

“The reality is that border and immigration policies have not changed all that significantly in decades, but migration patterns have changed since the 1990s, the world economy has changed since the 1990s, but Congress refuses to meet the moment with legislation to update our laws. We are all paying a price for the politics of nativism gripping the Republican Party.”

—Updated at 4:28 p.m.

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