Throughout his presidency thus far, Donald Trump has been attacking immigrant communities and their legal rights. After campaigning for Republicans on the nonexistent threat posed by refugee “caravans”, Trump is now claiming the legal authority to deny refugees entry to the United States and authorize the military to use lethal force against them.
Can he actually do this? Actually, it’s more of a question of whether we will let him continue to do this.
From shedding tears to choking on tear gas, the devolution of Trump’s latest self-induced humanitarian crisis
A migrant family, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America en route to the United States, runs away from tear gas in front of the U.S.-Mexico border wall in Tijuana, Mexico.
(📷: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters) pic.twitter.com/pz7hkxsN9g
— NBC News (@NBCNews) November 25, 2018
Ever since he launched his presidential campaign over three years ago, Donald Trump has blamed any and all societal ills on immigrants. Whenever he runs into legal and/or political trouble, Trump relies on his tried and true tactic of fear-mongering and fabricating threats at the U.S.-Mexico Border to turbocharge the “economic anxiety” that fuels his base.
Earlier this year, the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy created the family separation scandal by requiring federal agents to separate refugee children from their relatives at the border. Yet even though the White House publicly retreated from that specific move in June, they haven’t relented from their overall mission of making life miserable for immigrant families who have escaped extreme hardship in their countries of origin.
Tear gas fired from US side of border
— emma murphy (@emmamurphyitv) November 25, 2018
When we look at the full context of Trump’s war on immigrant communities, we can see what led to this past weekend’s series of events. While federal officials claimed refugees throwing “projectiles” at Border Patrol agents required a temporary shutdown of the San Ysidro border crossing between San Diego and Tijuana, journalists at the scene captured images of parents and children fleeing the scene as they were being sprayed with tear gas. And this came on the heels of Trump deploying military troops to the border and encouraging them to “use lethal force”.
Again, keep in mind that these people are refugees escaping extreme violence and poverty in Central America, and that the U.S. government is violating international law by creating unnecessary hurdles for refugees seeking legal asylum.
Why is Trump doing this? (Hint: It’s his weapon of mass distraction.)
Thus far, Trump’s attacks on immigrant families haven’t had a long-term effect on migration patterns, and his flouting of international law only adds to his many legal woes. So why is Trump still doing it?
Oh, wait: Speaking of Trump’s legal woes, he went on a tweetstorm yesterday morning, just hours before former campaign aide George Papadopoulos had to report for his prison sentence. Around the same time, pro-Trump conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi claimed he’d refuse a plea deal from Robert Mueller relating to Corsi’s involvement in the hacking and leaking of Hillary Clinton campaign emails. And later in the day, the prosecutors who are working with Mueller declared that former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort violated his plea agreement that could have afforded him a lighter sentence in exchange for cooperation with Mueller’s investigation.
Meanwhile, General Motors announced the closing of factories in Ohio, Michigan, Maryland, and Ontario (Canada), resulting in the loss of 14,700 GM jobs, despite Trump’s repeated promises to “bring back manufacturing jobs”. In Alabama, a widely reported mall shooting is now bringing attention to the dangerous intersection of gun violence and institutionalized racism. Back in Washington, Trump continues to face blowback over his botched attempts to discredit his own government’s report on climate change. And with the national media making a circus out of a small group of renegade Democrats’ (soon to be botched?) attempt to prevent Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California) from becoming House Speaker in January, Republicans are once more reminded of how much power they lost in this past election.
Can Trump be stopped? (Hint: Cue Congress.)
Back in August, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D) called for greater oversight of immigration enforcement agencies while answering reporters’ questions on Trump’s immigration policies. Back then, she noted, “These are taxpayer dollars. They’re publicly funded. I’m a United States Senator. We appropriate the funds. Why shouldn’t we be able to see how the taxpayer dollars are being spent, and how we’re caring for these children?”
Over three months later, Cortez Masto’s Republican colleagues have yet to concur. Instead, they’re fretting over Trump’s latest threat to shut down much of the federal government if they don’t give him $25 billion for his desired border wall during Republicans’ final days of unified control over the federal government. So as we enter the beginning of the end of the 115th Congress, Republican leaders will likely be tending to Trump’s latest manufactured crisis rather than addressing the very real crisis that he’s exacerbated.
Some 60 hours after her election victory, U.S. Senator-elect Jacky Rosen (D) had this response to local reporters’ questions on Trump’s latest anti-immigrant rhetoric: “We should have compassion. We should treat them as asylum seekers. We should look at [realistic] next steps forward.”
As 2018 nears its close, Rosen, Cortez Masto, and their Congressional colleagues have one more chance to do so. If they can’t do so by the end of the year, Congressional Democrats can use their new power in the new year to demand a change of course. And if we’re still having this conversation a year from now, then it’s up to the voters who elect these people to run our government to demand a change of course.