Trump’s Nativist and Racist Agenda Could End Up Backfiring
Throughout his presidency, Donald Trump’s moves regarding immigration policy have had one goal, to rile up his political base by criminalizing immigrants and instilling fear. Sticking to his status quo, the president announced this week that he would militarize the U.S.-Mexican border by deploying the National Guard.
In a piece titled “In the Long Run, Trump Could Be a Huge Setback for the Anti-Immigration Movement”, Joshua Holland from The Nation explains that Trump’s actions now are only showing the true colors at the heart of the anti-immigration movement, and as a result strengthening the progressive organized resistance on the issue.
Read excerpts of The Nation piece below and check out the full article here:
In his first 14 months in office, Donald Trump has consistently appealed to nativism and pursued an approach to immigration-law enforcement based explicitly on the premise that every undocumented immigrant should, as the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) put it, “look over [their] shoulder”and “be worried” about deportation. He’s become a hero of the anti-immigration movement.
Immigrant communities are terrified, and rightly so; despite Trump’s insistence that his priority is removing immigrants who commit crimes, there have been reports across the country of people being detained by ICE in the ordinary course of their law-abiding lives—going to work, dropping their kids off at school. Even more alarmingly, it appears that ICE has been actively targeting immigrant-justice activists who dare to speak out on the issue.
But while it may be hard to see it at present, over the longer term, Trump may end up doing enormous damage to the movement to restrict immigration to the United States. Immigrant-rights advocates say that Trump’s penchant for skipping the right’s typical dog whistles and overtly racializing the issue is changing the political landscape in three important ways.
First, the backlash against Trump appears to be making the public as a whole more welcoming to immigrants. A spike in hate crimes following the launch of his campaign is often described as the “Trump Effect,” but we’ve also seen a reverse Trump Effect at play.
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Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, a prominent DC-based immigrant-justice group, says that Trump has made immigrant rights a central issue within the broader progressive movement in a way that it has never been before. “This is the most under-reported story in America—at least in my world,” he says. “We used to think of ourselves as the ugly stepchild of the multi-issue progressive movement. It wasn’t really a priority the way that income inequality, health, education, women’s rights, or the environment were. But in the last year or two, there has been a coming together that’s historic. Groups like Planned Parenthood, Indivisible, and MoveOn have become major players in the immigration space. They’re now joining organizations like [the Center for American Progress], SEIU, and Unite Here that have been doing this work for a while now. And then at the local level, we’re seeing organizing networks that in the past may have occasionally worked on immigration issues but are now taking it on board as a top priority.” Sharry points to the large, multiracial protests against Trump’s Muslim ban that were rapidly organized at airports across the country as an early turning point on the issue.
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Finally, Trump has fatally compromised a narrative that had been carefully cultivated for years by the organized anti-immigrant movement. Mainstream anti-immigrant groups have long claimed that they welcome legal immigrants and are only up in arms over undocumented immigration. (One far-right restrictionist group calls itself “Americans for Legal Immigration.”) They’ve worked to distance themselves from overtly racist white-nationalist groups. “What part of ‘illegal’ don’t you understand?” is a common rejoinder in debates over the issue.
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None of this offers real comfort to immigrant communities that are being systematically terrorized by the federal government. But, as with the emergence of new resistance groups, Democrats voting in huge numbers in special elections, and high-school kids taking on the NRA, it offers some hope for the future in what is otherwise a very dark time.