2017.03.07 #MuslimBan 2.0 Protest, Washington, DC USA 00791 flickr photo by tedeytan shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license
With DACA clogged up in the courts, you might think that immigrants have a reason to rest easy. Just like the Emma Gonzalez thing, you’d be wrong.
Trump campaigned on severely anti-immigration rhetoric, targeting Muslims, refugees, and Mexican immigrants. To stigmatize immigrants, he pulled vague statistics out of his star fissure, claiming that they were more likely to commit acts of crime and terrorism.
Conservatives justified their voting for Trump by saying that “he should be taken seriously, not literally.” That was a delusion of the highest magnitude, since very early on in Trump’s presidency, he attempted to curtail immigration by implementing a travel ban targeting Muslim countries. It bumped up against a a bulwark of legal challenges, including from the ACLU and various attorneys general.
That was just the start of Trump’s anti-immigration policy, with successive versions of the travel ban being released that tried to navigate around any legal snares. The Trump administration didn’t halt their efforts there though, and immigrants have been assaulted from every possible angle.
Refugees have also been targeted, with DHS removing protections for Hondurans and other refugee groups. Targeting refugee groups is part and parcel of the administration’s attempt to remove immigrants quietly, while still pandering to their conservative base without enraging independents or wobbly Republicans.
So, DACA is tangled up in America’s legal system, putting functioning, productive members of society in, what I assume, a torturous state of limbo. For Trump, this matters little. These kids are nothing more to him than bargaining chips, which is indicative of how he sees humanity as a whole, but try telling that to a staunch conservative.
Even though the DACA situation should be remedied, my concern is that the legitimate needs of this large group of people will overshadow the equally precarious situation of temporary legal immigrants because the former are seen as citizens, while those who haven’t been born here yet still have built a life in the states won’t be seen as legitimate as DACA recipients.
The Trump administration is most likely glad about DACA being stalled in the courts, as it allows them to continue to pursue their deeply anti-immigration policy while avoiding the politically dangerous avenue of fostering a compromise on DACA.
It’s clear that Trump won’t sign a DACA bill unless he gets funding for his beloved border wall, a mystical symbol in the mainstream conservative world, but also on the far-right, that ragtag collection of conspiracy theory nuts and bumbling immigration hawks. Even though these are people, Trump (or rather, his administration, since Trump seems to be lost in that infinite horizon of diet cokes and Fox News binge-watching in the dark), sees them as props to signal to the conservative world that immigrants are still be deported, don’t you worry.
As if all of this wasn’t bad enough, a new rule is being introduced that will discourage immigrants from seeking public benefits, or even target those that receive widely used tax breaks, in an effort to reduce the number of immigrants that are able to reside legally in the United States. Keep in mind the existing system penalizes them for taking advantage of public benefits. This addition would expand that to include common tax deductions, a signal that the Trump administration doesn’t really have a limit when it comes to their already extremely cruel deportation policy.
Including tax deductions in the list of “benefits” received by immigrants is just one example of harsh treatment toward non-citizens that masquerades as responsible public policy. For instance, last year Attorney General Jeff Sessions went on television to mansplain about how the US should only admit “highly skilled” individuals from other countries, which basically means white people.
Let’s not forget Trump’s very crude objection to allowing workers in from non-white countries. If we tie this all together, the over-arching theme is one of smacking the downtrodden yet making it seem like it is responsible public policy. Session’s remark invokes the tired “meritocracy” argument, which essentially aligns with a capitalist-competitive framework that for some reason many in the US are sympathetic to.
The anti-immigrant architecture was already well-formed during the Obama years. So much so that he earned the nickname deporter-in-chief. But Trump has taken this several steps further–attacking immigrants from every conceivable angle. Legal, illegal, to the nebulous term “criminal.” Which brings me to the subject of ICE. This government agency is enjoying a renaissance of sorts, at the expense of innocent individuals being abducted and having their rights stripped away.
In march, an ICE raid struck a Texas town, carting away immigrants in buses. They descended on a beef plant, and didn’t leave until those buses were full. ICE has grown to prominence under Trump, and was given much greater authority to determine who to target.
In effect, this presidency turned the anti-immigration parade into a business–essentially creating a brand that conservatives could latch onto. Big burly ICE agents storming houses, skirting churches like demons, disappearing into the night, or even walking off into the midday sun, because they aren’t motivated to hide these raids. They are smaller, carry much less political weight than a mass exodus that the DACA issue was associated with, and have become part of everyday life for privileged citizens that read The Washington Post.
The scary thing is that you can practically feel an apathy toward an anti-immigration government baking into the broader American landscape–that even liberals are becoming numb to reading about–or watching–raids in the media. It’s similar to how watching violent television shows and movies numbs you to violence in general. That’s what’s occurring under the current climate.