Trump's Final Insult to Immigrants
In the past four years, Donald Trump managed to brainwash the more gullible portion of the American population into believing his insulting and often violence-inciting rhetoric against immigrants and refugees.
With four weeks remaining in his presidency, Trump has embarked on one last hurrah to dismantle the country’s asylum system and consolidate his anti-immigrant legacy.
Trump’s “Hail Mary” election lawsuits are going nowhere. Republican leaders are saying it’s time to move on. Even Russian President Vladimir Putin declared in a telegram that he was “ready for interaction and contact” with President-elect Joe Biden.
While Trump has yet to publicly acknowledge Biden’s win, it must be clear, even to him, that his days in the White House are numbered. As such, his anti-immigrant policies have taken on a more urgent tone.
On Dec. 10, the Trump administration observed this year’s Human Rights Day by finalizing one of its most harmful anti-refugee regulations yet –– a “death to asylum” rule, as policy analyst Aaron Reichlin-Melnick called it, that would create “near-total bans on asylum.”
The rule, set to take effect just nine days before the end of Trump’s presidency, would not only exclude victims of gang-related and gender-based violence from asylum claims, but also allow officials to throw away “frivolous” applications without so much as a hearing.
Combined with a number of other last-minute measures –– a more difficult citizenship test, more stringent requirements for H1B worker visas, and a possible executive order to end birthright citizenship –– Trump is sending a clear message that he will spare no efforts to wreck the country’s immigration and asylum systems until he is dragged out of the White House.
It is true that Biden will likely challenge and reverse many of Trump’s immigration policies. But it will be impossible for the new president to restore immigrants’ trust in the system overnight. The disconnect between immigrants and the American government, which Trump has sought to exploit and perpetuate, was built up following decades of hostile policies.
George W. Bush, for example, developed the Secure Communities program to encourage local police to work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in order to arrest more immigrants. Barack Obama not only expanded this harmful policy, but he also created the family detention system we have now, where asylum seekers with children are incarcerated rather than being allowed to go directly to court.
In the face of COVID-19, this mistrust manifests itself in the form of the tragic deaths of countless immigrant families who are too scared of getting deported to get tested or seek healthcare services, despite the official rule forbidding ICE to carry out raids at healthcare facilities.
Now, with a national vaccination program under way, similar concerns will likely deter unauthorized immigrants from getting vaccinated. At this decisive moment, Trump’s new wave of anti-immigrant policies threatens to prolong America’s nearly year-old public health crisis.
The nation is counting down the days until Trump leaves office and goes back to just being a meme, but he is taking advantage of his every last minute in the White House to cause real harm to real people.
Let’s hold our breath and hope that the soon-to-be ex-president has not inflicted too much permanent damage on America’s immigration system that will echo in our lives for years to come.