If there was still any doubt about how emboldened Donald Trump is since presumably being “exonerated” of collusion in the Russian plot, consider the various examples from the past days and hours: he threatened to “close” the border with México over the humanitarian crisis that he himself created and exacerbated with his immigration policies; his Secretary of Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) wants Congress to allow her to deport unaccompanied children, who are being detained, in an expedited manner–including those seeking asylum; and his State Department has suspended some $500 million in foreign aid to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras because these countries have not done enough to stop the exodus of migrants. These are the very same countries that Fox News, the official channel of the White House, described this past Sunday as “Three Mexican countries.”
The intensification of what was already a cruel immigration policy by this administration is no accident.
Trump already implemented nefarious measures that continue affecting thousands of people, among them the separation of families at the border, the imprisonment of children and young people in cages, many of whom have been “lost” in the system and continue to be separated from their family members; at least two children, that we know of, who have died in custody of immigration authorities, not to mention those who have allegedly been victims of sexual or physical abuse.
His government is trying to undo the laws of asylum so that Central American migrants who come here, running to save their lives, can no longer apply for refuge in the United States. Upon entry, many migrants are returned to México to await their court date.
According to the Trump administration, this is toward the goal of “deterring” other migrants planning to make the trip north.
The immigration policies of “zero tolerance,” the manipulation of the asylum laws, and other factors have contributed to the chaos that is playing out along the border.
But reality is another thing. Trump is not interested in deterring even one migrant. His intention has always been to generate an immigration crisis, in order to exploit it politically and curry favor with his base of supporters.
That is what he did at the end of last year, when he provoked a government shutdown for 35 days, demanding the financing of his border wall that also matters little to him–other than as a device to stir up his base.
The immigration policies of “zero tolerance,” the manipulation of the asylum laws, and other factors have contributed to the chaos that is playing out along the border. That is, Trump creates a crisis so that he can then become the “paladin” of his prejudiced base, offering “solutions” like his wall, closing the border, or “punishing” the countries sending immigrants, taking away funds that ironically are sent to non-governmental agencies trying to stem the violence and systemic poverty that is pushing migrants to leave their countries of origin in the first place.
No one would gladly cross countries, rivers, and deserts with their children in tow just to arrive at the U.S. border, turn themselves in to immigration authorities and solicit asylum, as the law allows, only to then be returned to México like a pariah, or locked up like cattle under a bridge in El Paso, Texas, without any type of accommodations, sleeping out in the open.
There they are exposed to hunger, changes in the weather, illnesses and abuses – including from passers — by shouting expletives, according to press reports.
This is not deterrence. This is cruelty to the nth degree. It is malfeasance, and a shame to this nation that prides itself on defending democratic and humanitarian values.
It is Machiavellian.
And it is a demonstration of the fact that Trump, following the Russiagate investigation, feels invincible, although neither Congress nor those of us who paid for the investigation have seen the final report to know whether, in fact, he is completely free of guilt or there are compelling issues that merit action by Congress.
I suspect that, absent some other big event, we will be witnesses to one of the dirtiest electoral cycles in recent history, because this president is unhinged. He feels vindicated and in possession of a clean slate on which to impose his extremist agenda, aided by his Republican accomplices in Congress. And his followers will do whatever it takes to defend his place for another four years. Heaven help us.
Maribel Hastings is a Senior Advisor and columnist at América’s Voice and América’s Voice Education Fund.
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