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Lawless, Racist, and Politically Desperate: Connecting the Dots on Trump’s Latest Efforts to Shift Political Focus

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There they go again. The Trump administration has been busy in recent days making news on an array of issues broadly relevant to immigration. While each are important in their own right, they share several themes in common: they underscore Trump’s authoritarian worldview that he is above the law; they are motivated by racism and efforts to stoke white grievance and fear of “the other;” and they are motivated by politics and Trump’s weak efforts to shift the focus from the pandemic onto alternate storylines. These include:

  • On DACA, Trump Administration is in Open Defiance of the Law: It’s been more than a month since Trump lost his DACA case at the Supreme Court. Instead of opening DACA back up to new applications, the Trump administration is making noise about again trying to end the program while openly defying a court order to reopen the program to new applicants. See more in Catherine Shoichet’s CNN piece, “A judge ordered the US to accept new DACA applications. It’s unclear if the Trump administration will.”
  • Census Memo About Politics and Distraction: Trump doesn’t care that his White House memo on the Census seeking to bar undocumented immigrants from being counted towards apportionment seems guaranteed to lose in coming legal battles. Instead, as Frank Sharry noted yesterday, “Trump only cares about one thing: power. To keep it, he believes that he must pit his supporters against all others in a zero-sum death match … In his estimation, any amount of time the press and the American people are distracted from the COVID-19 crisis, the economy’s freefall and the moment of racial reckoning is a win.”
  • Deploying DHS in Display of “Performative Authoritarianism”: Trump’s decision to deploy DHS agents to Portland, Chicago, and potentially other blue cities is a dangerous form of “performative authoritarianism.” It’s designed to foment anger and provoke clashes that manufacture conflict and further Trump’s preferred political narrative that, like always, is heavy on fear-mongering over “the other.”
  • Right on Cue, Trump Re-Election Up with Millions of Dollars in “Law and Order” Ads: As the New York Times writes today, “As President Trump deploys federal agents to Portland, Ore., and threatens to dispatch more to other cities, his re-election campaign is spending millions of dollars on several ominous television ads that promote fear and dovetail with his political message of ‘law and order.’ The influx of agents in Portland has led to scenes of confrontations and chaos that Mr. Trump and his White House aides have pointed to as they try to burnish a false narrative about Democratic elected officials allowing dangerous protesters to create widespread bedlam.”
  • Dismantling USCIS: Burning Down the House on the Way Out the Door: Hamed Aleaziz of BuzzFeed yesterday highlighted, “USCIS is going to furlough more than 60 percent of staff in less than two weeks — effectively crippling the immigration system. The agency has enough money to last through September despite asking for $ ASAP.” As Ur Jaddou, Director of DHS Watch and former Chief Counsel of USCIS, recently noted: “The potential shutdown of USCIS would affect all of us – from doctors and other essential workers who would be unable to keep working and serving the country during the pandemic to Dreamers whose DACA renewals would be unable to process; from more delays and roadblocks for naturalization to the potential hard-hit local economies that would be affected in California, Missouri, Nebraska, Texas, and Vermont by local furloughs at large USCIS offices. None of this needs to happen or should be blamed on the pandemic.”

 The following is a statement from Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication for America’s Voice:

Trump is an authoritarian leader who thinks he is above the law. But he’s also a one-note president who is currently weak and desperate and only has one play in his playbook: an effort to stoke division along racial lines; to foment fear over ‘the other,’ and to try and create his own alternate political narrative that distracts attention away from the tens of thousands of Americans who are dead or dying because of his dismissive mishandling of the pandemic. These are signs of weakness from an utter failure of a President.