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The More Trump Doubles Down on Cruelty and Xenophobia, The More the American People Embrace a Different Approach

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“We should be proud of a nation that will find the racial incitement and divisiveness we will likely see from the President in the coming days and weeks as inconsistent with the nation


Two weeks ago today, the Supreme Court ruled that the President had unlawfully ended the enormously popular DACA program in 2017. Then, a week later, a federal judge ruled that by holding children in immigration detention facilities “on fire” with COVID-19, the administration is endangering the lives of children and should release them. 

There has been no substantive response from the President or the Department of Homeland Security to either of these rulings — other than a pledge to end DACA again. Based on years of previous experience with this President, there is a legitimate fear that the child detention ruling will trigger a new round of family separation where families are forced to give up their children or face continued exposure to COVID-19 in detention.

Perhaps unsurprisingly in an election year, these developments are often framed as a conflict between Democrats and Republicans, and indeed there are some partisan elements. But framing these and other issues in the standard “both sides” practice of American journalism misses an important point – immigration is not an issue on which the American people are generally divided. Rather, on immigration and what to do about immigrants who live here and come here, there is remarkable unity among Americans.

Just scan the recent polling. The American people — across party lines — want DACA recipients not only to stay and continue working, but also to become citizens (see roundup of polling here). On the sustained campaign of cruelty towards asylum seekers and children in immigration jails, the American people are similarly unified in rejecting family separation and gratuitous cruelty to families. And on the broad acceptance that immigrants are “a good thing” for the country, the Gallup poll reports there has never been such widespread support.

According to Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication for America’s Voice:

Despite all the evidence to the contrary — including his nose dive in polling and his enthusiastic embrace of racism — President Trump seems bound and determined to continue down his preferred path of stoking division along racial lines. And the Republican Party up and down the ballot, based on the ads we are tracking, seems happy to go along into the dead end of racial incitement Trump is dragging them towards.

The problem for Trump and Republicans is that Trump’s xenophobia has proven to be increasingly unpopular. In the five years since Trump launched his presidential campaign by calling Mexican immigrants murderers and rapists, the American people have become more solidly pro-immigrant.  That is a big part of the steady headwind the President faces today. 

What the American people are demanding of their leaders is not only a rejection of overt racism and xenophobia. They want humane and pragmatic solutions. In the immigration arena, this means creating a line for the millions of immigrants who live, work and raise families here to be able to continue to do so without the threat that their families and livelihoods will be stripped from them by deportation. The harsh application of outdated immigration rules — with generous helpings of cruelty dalloped on by Trump and his henchman Stephen Miller — is out of step with where the American people are and where our multracial, multiethnic country is headed. While still framed as a ‘divisive’ or ‘controversial’ issue by pundits and reporters, what that narrative misses is the remarkable unity that exists.

On the campaign trail, Vice President Joe Biden recognizes that immigration is not a wedge to be wielded, but a good issue to lean into, saying he would send an immigration bill to Congress “on day one” that provides “a road map to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants who contribute so much to this country.” This is in stark contrast to Trump, who is out of step with the majority and speaks only to a shrinking minority or supporters. In adopting a forward looking immigration agenda, Biden and other Democrats are not so much leading in a new direction on immigration, but following the American people where they are leading.

In the days ahead as we celebrate our nation’s birthday, we should recognize that the American people are of a mood to expand the definition and inclusiveness of citizenship, equal protection under law, and broad promises of a nation dedicated to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — for all of us, with no one left behind. And we should be proud of a nation that will find the racial incitement and divisiveness we will likely see from the President in the coming days and weeks as inconsistent with the nation we love.