February 1, 2018

Ehmonie Hainey

Peeling Back the Many Layers of the Immigration Debate

If you feel challenged in trying to keep up with the present state of immigration affairs, you’re not alone. Staying up-to-date on President Trump’s frequent change of directions on immigration is taxing. Make no mistake — there’s a strategy to the chaos he peddles. Trump sows confusion to distract from his divisive comments, policies and plans. But once you peel back the layers, his racist, anti-immigrant agenda becomes crystal clear.

Here’s a handy primer to help you understand Trump and his administration’s current stance on immigration:

“Good vs. bad” narrative

We all enjoy history, movies, TV shows and pop culture stories where the good guys battle and triumph over the bad guys. But Trump uses this narrative at will, to make a case for whatever immigration policy he wants to push at the moment.

When Trump ran for President, he made false promises about wanting to defend certain groups of immigrants. He only made good on his promise to build a wall to “keep out Mexicans,” and executed a travel ban targeting Muslims, since taking office. Trump utilizes labels to choose who he feels is worthy of staying in the country at any given moment. He perpetuates dangerous myths about immigrants coming from the Southern hemisphere, countries in Africa, and majority-Muslim nations to further his racially-motivated plans, and gets little pushback from Members of Congress.

The president’s rhetoric imbeds xenophobia into our democracy and culture through his sweeping, dehumanizing categorizations of immigrants. Immigrants in Trump’s America face more frequent racial bias, and a level of discrimination that has reached a boiling point.

Still no protections for immigrants

Trump released his wish list for revamping immigration policy last October. His primary intention was to move away from family-based immigration, and toward “merit-based” immigration. This callous, point-based system tallies people based on age, education, salary and other trivial factors designed to favor Trump’s ideals. It is inhumane to reduce people’s lives, and livelihoods, to a mere score.

Also, Trump promised to support Dreamers, so-called “model” immigrants. But he pulled the rug from under them when he ordered the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) last September. And despite Trump’s recent assurances, a permanent path to citizenship for Dreamers remains uncertain.

Those who serve Trump’s own business interests are the ones most likely to remain in the President’s good graces.

Criminalizing all immigrants

Trump feigns concern for immigrant protections when pressured by the public. But behind the scenes, he’s busy criminalizing all immigrants in the United States. Trump and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have trampled over due process rights to heighten immigration enforcement and increase deportations over the past year. ICE is under fire for illegal workplace raids, detainee abuse and threats, and adding immigrants who have no prior criminal or gang related history to gang databases in order to arrest them.

The agency stepped up its coordination with local police departments across the country, and even some private businesses, to prey upon immigrants. ICE also moved to target and detain civil rights leaders who speak up in favor of immigrants – which is a clear violation of the First Amendment.

Sanctuary in jeopardy

The president’s bullying behavior seeps into his immigration agenda – as displayed by the threats and fear tactics his administration employs. Trump emboldened the Justice Department to continue its crackdown on sanctuary cities. Attorney General Jeff Sessions demanded that locales offering undocumented Americans safety and protections must prove that they are cooperating with federal law enforcement. If the city officials don’t comply, they may be subpoenaed, and stand to lose grant funding as well.

What we can do

The Trump Administration made it clear that it is willing to put all immigrant families in its crosshairs. It is critical for us to push our elected officials to go above and beyond, and advocate for policies to cover all immigrants. We have to protect the Dreamers, as well as all other members of the undocumented population. We must stand in solidarity with our immigrant brothers and sisters by providing and expanding sanctuary. It’s our duty to broadcast the message that immigrants contribute to the heart and soul of our nation. We need to embrace the individuals who continue to weave the fabric of our country, and their contributions to our society that helped make America great.

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