With Inhumane ICE Raids, Trump’s War On Immigrants Reaches New Extremes
On January 30th, Donald Trump gave his first State of the Union speech. It was penned, in part, by the President’s senior policy advisor Stephen Miller — a far-right hardliner on immigration policy. Miller has been behind some of Trump’s most conservative speeches, including his U.N. General Assembly statement where he claimed that major portions of the world were going to hell.
As such, it was no surprise that Miller’s portion of the SOTU took a discriminatory turn, presenting characterizations of immigrants that were inaccurate and based on white nationalist talking points.
Immigrants commit fewer crimes than natural born citizens. Chain migration is an anti-immigrant slur. This speech is promoting lies that are based on white supremacy and comprised primarily of white nationalist talking points #SOTU
This rhetoric is not a first for the Trump administration. The President has espoused racist talking points since day one. In his infamous campaign announcement, Donald Trump called Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists and irrationally promised to make Mexico pay for a wall on our southern border.
With another potential government shutdown looming and the fight for a DACA deal approaching a climax, the nativist approach to immigration policy being promoted by the Trump administration needs to come under sharp scrutiny. The culmination of racist fears about the continuing diversification of America mixed with White House officials willingness to codify discrimination into law has placed us on a dangerous precipice.
And there is no better example of this danger than the increasingly out of control actions of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, headed by the worrisome orders of the Department of Homeland Security.
From calling for the jailing of political opponents to tearing apart families, the weaponization of government departments is an affront to the very ideals on which America is founded.
In a time where federal attacks on civil rights are becoming more common by the day, the baseless war being waged against immigrants in this country must not be allowed to stand.
Rapid Escalation Of ICE Actions
On Tuesday, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly announced that DREAMers — those that meet the criteria for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act — were not a deportation priority if the Trump administration allows the Obama-era protections to expire.
Not only is this extremely cold comfort to those members of our society who live their lives with the constant threat of being sent to a country they barely know hanging over their heads — it’s a disingenuous characterization of how Immigration and Customs Enforcement acts.
Kelly himself issued a memorandum last February which clarified how ICE may prioritize deportation decisions. The last bullet point in this subsection allows immigration officers to make a final judgment as to whether unauthorized immigrants pose a threat, and prioritize their deportation as they see fit. The Chief of Staff’s own words disabuse the credibility of his announcement Tuesday.
His words become increasingly meaningless when one considers that during the last raid under his watch, 120 children were detained and out of all immigrants arrested, barely one-fifth had criminal convictions.
John Kelly Isn’t The Savior You’re Looking For
It’s worth noting that the aforementioned memorandum refers to undocumented immigrants as “aliens” — a language choice that uses dehumanization to minimize empathy and infringe on the rights afforded to unauthorized immigrants by the Constitution.
Notice how the @GOP started calling DACA recipients "illegal aliens?" It dehumanizes Dreamers so their base doesn't empathize. Dreamers have been here since they were kids. They work hard. They pay taxes. They are Americans in every way except on paper. Undocumented Americans*
Beyond Kelly’s own racist hypocrisy, there lies the increased activity of ICE. Let’s take a look at how this agency has decided to protect “public safety” in the last few months.
In New Jersey, ICE agents detained two fathers as they were dropping their children off at school. The two men, Gunawan Liem and Roby Sanger, fled from persecution in Indonesia during the 1990s and have no criminal record, according to reports. Their children were born in the United States. And Ice didn’t stop there.
“We had one night when 35 dads were taken in one night from Avenel, New Jersey, from the same apartment complex. I had 60 kids become orphans that night or become fatherless,” Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale said.
In Michigan, a respected doctor at Kalamazoo’s Bronson Methodist Hospital, who has lived in America for nearly four decades, was unexpectedly taken from his home and detained, facing deportation. He entered the U.S. lawfully as a child but was targeted by ICE because of two 1992 state misdemeanor convictions. The charges were expunged from his record after he completed a youth training program — but ICE does not honor this exchange, according to reports.
In late September, ICE denied a deportation stay for an Ohio man who acted as the primary caregiver for his severely disabled son. When his wife asked the agents why they were suddenly taking action, they allegedly stated,
“New president. New administration.”
In Kansas, a chemistry professor and father of three who has been in the United States for 30 years, was arrested facing deportation on his way to take his daughter to school. Syed Ahmed Jamal entered the U.S. lawfully in the 1980s and has no record other than a few speeding tickets. His wife was threatened with arrest when she tried to hug her husband goodbye.
Things continue to worsen in Oregon, where in October ICE agents illegally entered a home without a warrant and “mistakenly” arrested a man. He was detained for hours before being released.
A month earlier, a U.S. citizen had been questioned on the steps of an Oregon country courthouse by undercover ICE agents — in what has become a common tactic amongst these officials. In 2017, courthouse arrests of immigrants increased by 900% in New York state alone, according to the Immigration Defense Project.
The use of our justice system to target immigrants threatens a pillar of democracy already facing a barrage of civil rights attacks.
Inappropriate arrests and denial of basic human respect aren’t the only issues with ICE’s overreach. Two people have already died in ICE custody during fiscal year 2018. In fiscal year 2017, twelve immigrants died in custody, the highest rate in nearly eight years.
Across the country, multiple prominent immigrant activists have found themselves facing detention and/or deportation. According to Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), of the House Judiciary Committee, this is a clear intimidation tactic:
“They’re trying to intimidate people…These are well-known activists who’ve been here for decades, and they’re saying to them: Don’t raise your head.”
Across the country, a growing number of immigrants' rights advocates and outspoken members of the immigrant community are ending up in detention, facing deportation, or being threatened with criminal charges. This could have dangerous consequences. https://t.co/CRCgKV7Zez
This rhetoric extends to elected officials who hold opposing stances in regards to immigration policy.
In early January, the acting ICE director Thomas Homan called for politicians in sanctuary cities to be charged with crimes and have their funding taken away. In what was clearly a partisan attack on a state that refuses to bend to the fear-mongering overreach perpetrated by ICE, he threatened to “significantly increase our enforcement presence in California” and told the state to “hold on tight.”
That sounds like moral, public servitude to me.
These are just some examples of how ICE has been used to promote policies of exclusion, discrimination, and nativism — policies that ignore facts that easily dismantle the fear-mongering talking points used to portray immigrants as dangerous, lazy, criminals.
White House chief of staff John Kelly suggests that some of those eligible for DACA "were too afraid" or "too lazy to get off their asses" to sign up for the program
Such as the fact that both documented and undocumented immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than their native-born counterparts.
Or how between 1990 and 2013, the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States tripled, while the rate of violent crime declined by 48%, and property crime declined by 41%.
Deconstructing Republicans’ Relentless Lies About Immigration
In continuation with this administration’s pattern of rejecting information that does not align with a certain prejudiced narrative, in the fall of 2017 Stephen Miller helped suppress a study that proved the positive financial impact refugees have on government revenue. The findings, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, discovered that — despite inaccurate, yet popular claims to the contrary — refugees “brought in $63 billion more in government revenues over the past decade than they cost.”
And yet, during the State of the Union address, the President promoted curbs to legal immigration that would slash numbers by almost fifty percent, including no longer allowing the sponsorship of immigrant family members by U.S. citizens. If enacted, this would be the largest immigration policy cut since the historically racist policies of the 1920s.
Donald Trump has made inaccurate claims about immigrants since at least 2015. His administration is comprised of officials who have made clear that they plan to codify their well-documented racism into law, with ICE acting as the enforcer of said policies. There’s no denying anymore that this administration is waging a war on the immigrants that built this country.
The only question is what are we going to do about it?
How We Got Here
So how did we reach this precipice? Part of the answer takes us back to the early 19th century, where global instability led to an increase in U.S. immigration. To quell the fears of those white American citizens who were concerned that they would no longer be in a demographic majority, the 1924 Johnson-Reed Act was passed. This act placed sharp quotas on immigration limits based on ethnic demographics and is arguably one of the most discriminatory pieces of immigration legislation in this country’s history.
One of the framers of the law, eugenicist Harry Laughlin, based his reasoning for the necessity of such an act on an influx of “intellectually and morally defective immigrants” who posed a threat on the “American” gene pool.
In 2015, now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions praised the Johnson-Reed Act in an interview with former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon. This praise highlights the white nationalism that pervades far-right immigration policies. The percentage of white Americans in the United States is declining, according to census records — a fact that seems to terrify immigration restrictionists like Sessions and Miller. As such, they argue for policies that evoke the racist nativism of the 1920s.
The second part of this answer revolves around the broad authority given to Customs and Border Patrol agents when it comes to immigration activities. The ACLU defines this authority as “extra-constitutional rights.”
One of the prime examples of these extra-constitutional rights is the ability of border agents to search any vehicle “within a reasonable distance from any external boundary of the United States” without a warrant. Lacking proper definition, regulations have referred to a “reasonable distance” as 100 miles from any external border of the U.S.
Approximately 200 million people, or two-thirds of the U.S. population, live within 100 miles of an external border of the country, including the entire state of Hawaii.
Many Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have expressed concerns with the strict legal immigration policies proposed by this administration. Trump voters themselves have been shocked and dismayed to see members of their communities arrested and deported.
When one considers the reality of the historical era which members of the Trump administration have stated they want to return to, with the overreach afforded to ICE, it’s clear that immigrant rights are in a precarious position.
Our most pressing fight in the battle against the racist policies promoted by this administration is the 690,000 Dreamers who will be threatened come early March if nothing changes.
However, we are also facing a nativist immigration policy that threatens the very nature of this country. If Stephen Miller, John Kelly, Jeff Sessions, and Donald Trump are allowed to codify their racism into immigration law that disproportionately targets people with dark skin — we will be facing a brazen, insidious attack on civil rights, the likes of which our country is unprepared for.
It’s arguable that we’re already at this point.
As a country, we must decide whether we are going to bow to fear-mongering designed to preserve white nationalism, or reckon with our history and refuse to make the prejudiced mistakes of our forefathers.
It’s time to chose what side of history we’re on.
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