A horrifying sexual assault at a high school in Montgomery County, Maryland, is drawing national attention because the alleged perpetrators are believed to be illegal immigrants, or at least persons of interest for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The White House called it "cause for concern," and asked the city to look at its policies.
What happened to the victim is truly appalling, and authorities should deal with her assailants harshly. (That's assuming they are guilty, which seems very likely in this case.) Give them due process, but by all means, deport them.
Unfortunately, this story fits snugly into both a far-right conservative framework—i.e., illegal immigrants are filthy rapists—and a far-left liberal framework—i.e., schools are rape factories. The potential for overreaction on the part of school officials, policymakers, and the public, seems high.
Here's what happened, according to The Washington Post:
A 14-year-old girl was pushed into a boys bathroom at Rockville High School on Thursday morning and raped by two other students during school hours, according to Montgomery County District Court records filed Friday.
Police arrested two ninth-graders, Henry E. Sanchez, 18, and Jose O. Montano, 17, who appeared in court Friday and were ordered held without bond.
"I believe that you are a danger," District Judge Eugene Wolfe told Sanchez.
On Thursday morning, Montano forced the girl, who told police she knew him as a friend, into a bathroom after asking her to have sex with him, which she refused, according to court documents.
The girl tried to resist being dragged into a bathroom stall, clinging to a sink, as Montano pulled her then shoved her into a stall, the court records state.
The two took turns holding the girl down and sexually assaulting her as she cried out, fought back and repeatedly told them to stop, according to police affidavits filed in court.
A noise at the bathroom door caused Sanchez to leave the bathroom, and Montano to put his hand over the girl's mouth to keep her quiet, according to the affidavits.
The girl eventually got out of the bathroom and told a staff member what happened. Detectives interviewed Sanchez and Montano and found evidence in the bathroom, according to authorities.
This is a not a he-said / she-said scenario, or a case of regretted consensual sex. The victim was much younger than the attackers, and was not incapacitated. Evidence suggests she fought them the entire time. The case seems remarkably unambiguous: Montano and Sanchez committed a horrible crime.
They should pay for it dearly. In fact, they should probably be deported. There's nothing un-libertarian about kicking people out of the country if they commit serious crimes unrelated to their immigration status.
Here's what White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer had to say:
"I think part of the reason that the president has made illegal immigration and crackdown such a big deal is because of tragedies like this," Spicer said. "We act so many times when we talk about this and say why is the president dealing with this, because of this priority. Well, part of the reason is because of the tragedy that this young girl dealt with, had inflicted upon her, whatever the word is, but this is why he is passionate about this."
But, as Shikha Dalmia has argued in the pages of Reason, study after study shows that immigrants do not commit more crimes than native-born Americans. Moreover, illegal immigrants do not commit a disproportionate share of crime, according to The New York Times.
And yet, you can almost hear the townsfolk sharpening their pitchforks. Many are concerned that sanctuary cities—which vow not to deport illegal immigrants—are somehow emboldening school rapists.
Keep in mind that schools are safer than ever. According to the National Center for Education Statistics' most recently available data, the school victimization rate plummeted 86 percent between 1992 and 2014. In 1992, about 70 out of ever 1,000 students were victims of violent crime—including sexual assaults. By 2014, it was only about 19 out of every 1,000 students.
Which is not to say that schools are perfectly safe and crime-free. But what happened at Rockville High School is well outside the norm. It's appropriate for the school to revisit its policies to make sure this incident wasn't preventable. But we ought to be wary of overreacting to one incident. We certainly don't need more cops in schools, and we don't need to punish all immigrants because some of them invariably commit serious crimes.