The big picture

Some great columns this week looking at how the family separation policy is part-and-parcel of the greater evil that is Trumpism.  All are well worth a read.  Some highlights…


The speed of America’s moral descent under Donald Trump is breathtaking. In a matter of months we’ve gone from a nation that stood for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to a nation that tears children from their parents and puts them in cages.

What’s almost equally remarkable about this plunge into barbarism is that it’s not a response to any actual problem. The mass influx of murderers and rapists that Trump talks about, the wave of crime committed by immigrants here (and, in his mind, refugees in Germany), are things that simply aren’t happening. They’re just sick fantasies being used to justify real atrocities.

And you know what this reminds me of? The history of anti-Semitism, a tale of prejudice fueled by myths and hoaxes that ended in genocide…

So the Trump administration has been terrorizing families and children, abandoning all norms of human decency, in response to a crisis that doesn’t even exist.

Where does this fear and hatred of immigrants come from? A lot of it seems to be fear of the unknown: The most anti-immigrant states seem to be places, like West Virginia, where hardly any immigrants live.

Jamelle Bouie:

Critics accused the president of dehumanizing immigrants, while his conservative defenders accused major news outlets of taking Trump out of context, claiming he was referring specifically to MS-13 gang members. Both sides dug in, and the fight eventually ended in a draw, as new controversies overtook the news cycle.

But if Trump’s meaning was debatable then, it’s certainly clear now, as the president defends his commitment to separating immigrants’ families at the Southern border and refuses to budge in the face of broad criticism and condemnation. The “animal” comments help explain his core beliefs, which his recent remarks make crystal clear: President Trump sees all Hispanic immigrants—and not just MS-13—as “animals” threatening the cultural and racial integrity of the United States…

Those comments echoed a Monday-morning rant, in which Trump railed against Democrats for their alleged silence on crime and gangs, tying both to immigrants: “Why don’t the Democrats give us the votes to fix the world’s worst immigration laws? Where is the outcry for the killings and crime being caused by gangs and thugs, including MS-13, coming into our country illegally?” Later, he attacked German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s policy on refugees, falsely blaming migrants for a purported rise in crime, before going on a racist rant against asylum-seekers during a White House event to announce a new “space force.” “The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee-holding facility. It won’t be,” he said, adding “a country without borders is not a country at all” and blaming immigrants for “death and destruction.” “They could be murderers and thieves and so much else.” …

It was always clear Trump would lean on racism to try to win the midterms. What’s now apparent is the shape and scope of that appeal. In 2015, when he kicked off his campaign by calling immigrants “rapists” and drug dealers, Trump also tried to give himself a sheen of plausible deniability: “Some, I assume, are good people.” But in 2018, he intends an unvarnished message of brutality and dehumanization; a white-supremacy campaign for the 21st century.

Adam Serwer:

The policy’s cruelty is its purpose: By inflicting irreparable trauma on children and their families, the administration intends to persuade those looking to America for a better life to stay home. The barbarism of deliberately inflicting suffering on children as coercion, though, has forced the Trump administration and its allies in the conservative press to offer three contradictory defenses…

It is not an accident that these three defenses—the policy does not exist, the children are better off under the policy, and the policy is required by law—are contradictory. The heart of Trumpism is both cruelty and denial. The administration and its supporters valorize cruelty against outsiders even while denying that such cruelty is taking place.

The policy of shattering families and the cacophony of conservative voices defending it are the fruits of a campaign of dehumanization that began when Trump announced his candidacy for president, declaring that Mexico was sending rapists and drug dealers to migrate illegally to the United States. Trump’s advocates have said that his generalizations about religious and ethnic minorities apply only to some members of those communities—but as president, Trump has used fears of terrorism and criminality among the few to justify persecuting the many. Only some Muslims may be terrorists, but that “some” justifies barring as many as possible from the country. Only some immigrants are MS-13 “animals,” but that “some” justifies caging all unauthorized immigrants.

Dehumanizing “some” dehumanizes the whole. This has been Trump’s strategy from the beginning. It has been an essential element of the most shameful episodes in American history, a list to which the Trump administration’s policy of detaining children to frighten their parents must now be added.

Catherine Rampell also on the immigration reality and busting all the misbegotten myths:

 The hoax is the premise that President Trump’s administration has invented to rationalize such crimes against humanity: his narrative that America has been “ infest[ed]” with hordes of crime-committing, culture-diluting, job-stealing, tax-shirking, benefits-draining “aliens.”

 No part of that description is remotely true. Yet the Trump administration seems to have successfully shifted the national dialogue away from “Do we have a border immigration problem?” to “What’s the right way to fix our border immigration problem?”

 Truly, it’s bizarre. Unauthorized border crossings have been falling over time. In fact, apprehensions of unauthorized immigrants along the Southwest border last fiscal year declined to about 300,000, the lowest level since 1971, according todata from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. They’ve risen in recent months, though year-to-date they’re still below historical levels.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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