In his year in office, Donald Trump has shown again and again that he’s a racist bigot. He has defended white supremacists, tried to ban Muslims from entering the US and derided Haiti, El Salvador and nations in Africa as “shithole countries”. Now he’s escalating his attack on immigrants.
In his State of the Union address at the end of January, Trump beat the drums of war, spread delusions about his vicious tax bill’s benefits to working families, and claimed that since he took office, “a new tide of optimism was already sweeping across our land.” Perhaps someone should tell him he has the worst approval ratings of any new president since they started counting.
But the longest and most repulsive part of the speech was a racist tirade against immigrants. Trump outlined a four pillar plan: allow a pathway to citizenship for a mere fraction of the country’s undocumented immigrants, build his racist border wall, put greater restrictions on work and immigration visas, and put a halt to immigrant family reunification.
He blamed immigrants for gang violence, when they are actually far less likely to be convicted of crimes than people born in the US. In fact, as the undocumented population has tripled in size over the last 30 years, violent crime has decreased by almost half. Then he blamed two recent terror attacks in New York on family reunification visas, never mind the fact that white supremacists murdered 18 people in 2017—double the previous year’s figure.
Trump even managed to blame immigrant drug-trafficking for the opioid addiction crisis across the US—which in truth is a catastrophe manufactured by the pharmaceutical industry and their friends in government.
Democrats cave in
The Democrats have effectively fallen in line behind Trump’s anti-immigrant plans. His biggest attack is on the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals law (DACA), which allows undocumented immigrants who arrived as children to live and work in the US. It would protect an estimated 1.8 million people.
Since Trump announced in September he’d repeal it, immigrants have yet again become a political bargaining chip. Trump has made clear that he will only discuss protecting DACA if the Democrats agree to his other anti-immigrant policies, including the border wall. Time is running out, as Trump will terminate DACA on 5 March.
In January several Democrats in the Senate finally took a stand. Trump needed their support for a new government spending bill. They refused to give him their votes unless he protected DACA. But in the face of a potential government shut-down, they caved after just three days.
All Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer got was a “promise” from the Republicans to discuss and vote on DACA legislation. The Democrats have given in to every one of Trump’s racist policies and secured nothing to protect the undocumented.
The rage is palpable. Alida Garcia was formerly the National Latino Vote Deputy Director for the Obama re-election campaign. “I’m leaving the Democratic Party today”, she declared straight after the capitulation, calling them “liars” and “complicit” for Latino and immigrant families “living in fear”.
Cracks like this can help challenge the hegemonic opinion among most left-wing people that there is no alternative than to support the Democrats.
The Women’s March this year drew hundreds of thousands again—but its main message was to vote the Democrats back in at mid-term elections in November.
We need to win those kinds of numbers to building mass movements against Trump’s agenda. We need protests in the streets for DACA and all 11 million undocumented to make it politically toxic for either party to attack immigrants anymore.
In February Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) tried to deport Ravi Ragbir, a well-known immigrant rights activist in New York. They turned his routine check-in into a removal and punitively detained him in far-away Florida.
Many suspect that this was a calculated attack on an outspoken immigrant rights leader. After community pressure and a temporary stay from the courts, Ragbir has been returned home to New York. Protests are planned for his next ICE check-in on 15 March. People organising around his case have started using a new slogan: “you can’t deport a movement.”
This is the kind of action that can isolate Trump’s racism and defend the undocumented.
The Democrats couldn’t even act like an opposition long enough to secure amnesty for DACA migrants—a community that more than 60 per cent of the country supports becoming full citizens. This is not to mention the more than ten million other undocumented people in the country who were not brought here as children.
We should remember their betrayal when the Democrats coming door-knocking for votes in the mid-term elections.
By Sofia Donnelly