Trump ratchets up anti-immigrant campaign

A family detention centre in McAllen, Texas.

While much of the media continues to focus on the Mueller report and the squabbles between the White House and the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, US President Donald Trump’s real crimes are scarcely addressed or are ignored altogether.

This column will take up one of these crimes, Trump’s intensification of his racist war on immigrants. He is not alone on this — the ultra-right throughout Europe and elsewhere have similar anti-immigrant policies.

In recent weeks Trump has appointed new officials at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

These appointments underline this intensification in the face of a new wave of people from Central America seeking asylum from extreme violence and poverty in their home countries.

These conditions are largely the result of US imperialist exploitation and US-fomented wars, especially in the past 50 years.

A new source of violence in these countries is the cartels that feed the high demand for drugs in the US.

Detention

In the past year or more Trump has implemented a policy of separating children from their asylum-seeking parents, putting them and their parents in cages in detention centres under horrible conditions and mass deportations.

Lawyer Martin Garbus (who has represented figures including Cesar Chavez, Dan Ellsberg and Nelson Mandela) spent one week in the Dilley Texas, family-detention centre, the largest one in the US, and described what he saw and heard from the asylum-seeking detainees in the April 22 issue of The Nation.

This centre is privately-run for-profit by CoreCivic. Journalists and politicians are generally not allowed in, but Garbus was granted access as a lawyer to help asylum seekers with their appeals.

These asylum seekers cross the Rio Grande river border, then turn themselves into US Border Patrol agents.

“At first,” he writes, “the agents take them, in their wet clothes, to the hielera (or ‘ice-box’), a large refrigerated processing center where the asylum seekers have to try to sleep on the concrete floor or sit on concrete benches, shivering under Mylar blankets, prodded and deliberately kept awake by agents all night and day.

“Often bathroom breaks are not granted, or not in time, so both women and children soil themselves. This prison-like detention is an attempt to persuade these immigrants to give up before they are even interviewed by an asylum officer.

“Next, the detainees are sent to the perrera (or ‘dog-house’) a place where families are put in cages, cyclone fencing between them, as though they are animals. But at least the chain-link cages — dog kennels, really — are warmer, the mothers told me.”

Garbus sums up, writing: “There is no reason for immigrants to be held in such facilities other than racism and the profit of the detention center owners and investors.”

Since 2017, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has overseen this criminal practice, however Trump has now dumped Nielsen and other DHS officials.

Not racist enough

An article in the New York Times explained that Trump had “grown frustrated with his own administration’s handling of immigration and other security issues, with apprehensions at the southern border soaring and some officials resisting policies they deemed impractical or illegal.” Apparently, Nielsen was not anti-immigrant and racist enough for Trump.

Trump appointed Mark Morgan as the new head of ICE on May 6, after withdrawing his previous nominee, Ronald Vitiello, saying he wanted the agency to go in a “tougher direction.”

In an interview on Fox News, Morgan “displayed much more enthusiasm for the aggressive policies backed by Mr. Trump and Stephen Miller, the architect of the president’s immigration agenda,” according to the NYT.

Miller supports the formal reinstatement of Trump’s family separation policy, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Trump was forced to say he had ended this policy in June last year — although immigrant rights advocates say that the practice continued in some instances — and has been pushing officials at the DHS and Justice Department to “get in line” with a more hard-line immigration approach.

In the same Fox interview, Morgan supported Trump’s suggestion that he might send immigrants crossing the border by bus to “sanctuary cities” (those cities that refuse to cooperate with the Border Patrol or ICE to arrest immigrants) — to punish them.

“Mr. Morgan also strongly backed Mr. Trump’s characterisation of the problems at the border as a security crisis,” the NYT wrote.  This dovetails with Trump’s racist assertion that there is an “invasion” of brown-skinned people from Central America, who are rapists, drug dealers, sex traffickers and other criminals.

Vigilantes

In a disturbing development, an armed vigilante group called the United Constitutional Patriots (UCP), which the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) describes as an “armed fascist militia organisation”, broadcast 12 hours of videos of themselves including footage of the gang illegally holding migrants at gunpoint near the US-Mexico border.

“What you see is literally dozens of of families huddled in the sand in a remote part of the desert in the dead of night, surrounded by men in military camouflage, many masked, with heavy weaponry, semiautomatic weapons in some instances,” Peter Simonson, the executive director of the New Mexico ACLU told Democracy Now!.

The group claims it turns the immigrants it “captures” over to the Border Patrol. But in another video, one of the vigilantes is heard saying: “The only problem is, if we shoot [them] it’ll be an international crisis. We’re too close to the border. Would save some time, though, wouldn’t it?”

A UCP spokesperson, Jim Benvie, told the El Paso Times that the gang’s “rule of engagement” means “the only time we’re going to open fire is if we feel immanent threat or danger to our lives”.

“We’re retired vets, retired law enforcement, special forces. We come down here … as a group of Americans to help protect the border crises [sic] that’s going down here. This is a national security issue. Obviously, Border Patrol is part of this, as well. We’re trying to assist them.”

In some videos, the vigilantes are shown illegally impersonating Border Patrol agents. In others, UCP members pose with Border Patrol agents on horseback. Officially, Border Patrol says it neither condones nor endorses the group.

When the videos became public last month, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested the group’s leader, Larry Mitchell Hopkins. Hopkins first drew FBI attention in 2017 when it received unconfirmed reports that his group was training to assassinate Barak Obama, Hillary Clinton and Jewish billionaire philanthropist George Soros.

The FBI hasn’t arrested anyone else in the UCP, however, despite their documented, blatant, illegal behaviour.

Trump has reportedly told border agents not to allow migrants entry and to tell the judges who rule on asylum claims, “We don’t have room,” according to CNN.

Trump also told the Republican Jewish Coalition on April 6: “I’ll do whatever is necessary to stop an invasion of our country. That’s what it is … Get Out! Get out! Sorry. Can’t handle it. And I told my people yesterday, ‘Our country is full.’ We’re full. Our system’s full. Our country’s full. Can’t come in.”

To Trump’s “Get out! Get out!” we should say “Welcome! Come on in!”

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