If there is one thread that ties together the first 15 months of the Trump administration, it is the President’s loathsome treatment of immigrants. From the day he launched his campaign and maligned Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and “criminals” to this past month’s numerous attempts to dehumanize immigrants by referring to them as “animals,” President Trump has committed himself and the federal government to a dangerous and inhumane assault on non-native-born Americans.
Over the course of the last year and a half, we have seen numerous attempts to ban immigration from Muslim majority nations, the termination of Temporary Protected Status for hundreds of thousands of Central Americans residing in the United States, and a presidential threat to shut down the government in the fall if Congress doesn’t allocate tens of billions of dollars to increase the size of the wall along our Southern border. No issue, it seems, is more important to Trump than closing the doors of our nation to the world’s immigrants.
Of course, the President will also do anything to deflect blame for the worst outrages of his hardline on immigration. That’s what happened this week when national press coverage of the Administration’s treatment of immigrant children produced protests and disgust in many corners of the nation. Following a directive from Attorney General Jeff Sessions earlier this month, immigration authorities have begun more aggressively separating children from their parents if they are apprehended at the border. As the attorney general callously noted while announcing the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, “if you don’t want your child separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally.”
While much attention was focused on the attorney general’s announcement, the truth is that the Trump administration had already begun a policy of family separation earlier. Data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicates than since October of 2017, some 700 children have been separated from their parents at the border, including at least 100 children under the age of four. But the attorney general’s announcement has shed light on the policy as never before.
When confronted with popular anger over the treatment of immigrant families, Trump did what he does best: he lied. He accused Democrats of being responsible for the “horrible” law that mandated separation of children from their parents. As you might have already guessed, there is no such law.
And even if there were such a law, the President and his fellow Republicans, not Democrats, control the legislative and executive branches. The only person responsible for the inhumane way in which children and families are being treated at the border is Trump.
For more than a year, whenever we have been confronted by another of the President’s assaults on immigrants, we have chosen to train our eyes on congressional leaders. They can legislate humane responses to the arrival of undocumented immigrants and they have the budgetary authority to enact meaningful reforms.
But congressional leaders have disappointed us. Even today, the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives is working feverishly to derail a bipartisan push to force a vote on a number of key immigration reform issues. When it comes to immigration, establishment Republicans may chafe at the President’s rhetoric, but they seem to embrace his policies.
We’re done waiting for them to find their moral compass, if it is they have one at all.
The next several months will be critical ones for the fate of undocumented immigrants and indeed for all Americans. The Hispanic Federation has been working with other immigrant and civil rights organizations to organize, register eligible voters, and educate our communities about the President and his enablers in Congress. Each day our communities become more energized and more convinced that when the President talks about “making America great again,” he is doing so at the expense of them and their families. The President can continue to lie but we know the truth.