Trump’s Blood and Soil Politics Picks Up Steam.
Over the past weeks, large numbers of desperately ill undocumented immigrants – many of them children – have received letters from the government informing them that the temporary protections that allowed them to stay in the country while they were receiving medical treatment were being withdrawn. If they didn’t leave the country voluntarily within 33 days they would be subject to arrest by ICE and potential deportation, and would also be unable to return to the country after being deported.
Patients with such rare and deadly diseases as spinal cord compression, nerve cancer, sickle cell anemia, all are now at risk of being summarily deported – as are their family members, who until now have been allowed to remain in the United States to help care for them during their treatment.
It is an unfathomably cruel action, one that will, if implemented, certainly result in the quick deaths of many of these patients; but it is entirely in keeping with this Administration’s ramped up efforts to terrorize migrants, to deny their basic humanity, and to further lock down the country.
As election season nears, the anti-immigrant, nativist measures are flowing ever faster, and with more calculated impact. On the macro-scale, there is the new public charge rule, which excludes legal immigrants from social benefits. There is the attempt to gut the Flores settlement with new regulations that would allow for the indefinite detention of immigrant families while their asylum claims make their ways through the courts. There are the new HUD regulations designed to evict tens of thousands of mixed status families from public housing and Section 8 rentals. We hear stories that Trump has promised to pardon officials who illegally seize land in pursuit of building his border wall; and other rumors that Trump plans to claim more military construction funds for that wall.
As Hurricane Dorian formed out in the Atlantic earlier this week, the government announced that it would shift $155 million of FEMA’s emergency response funds over to ICE to use for the incarceration of evermore immigrants. That decision was accompanied by a flurry of Tweets by Trump insulting Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans – who bore the brunt of Hurricane Maria earlier in the Trump presidency, and whom the president believes are over-reliant on the resultant recovery funds that were sent the island’s way. Even though Puerto Ricans are, of course, U.S. citizens, Trump and his supporters have always regarded them, and treated them, as foreigners out to take advantage of the United States.
Buried amidst all the noise this week were still other important announcements: the creation of something akin to an Immigration Court Czar who would have the right to step in in immigration court cases and simply render decisions absent proper hearings in front of judges; and the accelerated construction of “tent courts” along the Texas border, in which would-be asylees appear not in front of real flesh-and-blood judges, but in front of video-conferencing equipment. The intent is to allow for thousands of cases to be heard conveyor-belt style, and to then herd the asylees back over the border into Mexico after these initial hearings to await the outcome of their cases.
All of that is designed to reshape immigration policy on a huge scale via regulatory changes and executive actions. But Trump, Stephen Miller, and the rest of the Blood-and-Soil brigade don’t stop at big-picture changes. Like all sadists who have acquired tremendous power, they are using that power to inflict pain on any and everybody whom they deem enemies – and that now includes pretty much every subset of the non-white, non-affluent, immigrant population.
Thus we see, on the micro scale, increasingly ugly policies targeted at extremely specific groups. There is the recent announcement that children born overseas to recently naturalized U.S. citizens who are serving abroad in military or civilian government roles won’t automatically receive citizenship. And now there is the soul-crushing news that children being kept alive in US medical centers will be subject to deportation.
America is being psychologically primed for evermore ghastly, unconscionable acts against immigrants. Day by day, the moral floor falls a few more feet, and day by day things that in previous years, or even months, would have been considered so utterly appalling, so bloodthirsty that they could not have been contemplated or enacted, are being normalized. And, even worse, because of all the surrounding white noise, they are escaping serious public scrutiny and outrage.
Humanity has seen this story play out before – and not only in the relatively distant past of the mid-twentieth century and beyond. Within the living memory of everyone over the age of 40, hover the ghosts of the hundreds of thousands of dead Rwandan Tutsi, killed by Hutu mobs in a spasm of violence in the spring and early summer of 1994. So, too, hover the ghosts of the untold numbers of Muslims and Croats killed during the Balkan Wars as Yugoslavia disintegrated into ever-smaller, ever-more-violent ethno-states, and as Serbian nationalists backed up by state and military power created networks of concentration camps and, ultimately, the organized killing machines behind “ethnic cleansing.”
None of those orgies of killing occurred in a vacuum, or without prior years in which vast propaganda machines were developed to spew bile at ethnic minorities and to condition the majority to think of those minorities as sub-human, as existentially threatening, as toxic to the well-being and stability of the broader culture. Mass violence never occurs at the beginning of such a process – but frequently occurs as its catastrophic finale.
Trump’s accelerated actions against immigrants, the deliberate codifying of sadism as official state policy, all are warning signs of just how far along this deadly road the United States is now traveling.