Not much imagination is required to conclude the Trump Campaign is back on the trail with its prime topic for the upcoming elections. Immigration. “Make America Great Again,” was never much more than code for “make America white again,” and the persistent reference to immigration policy, combined with vague commentary about who is under discussion, compounded with a conflation of immigrant with “criminal” doesn’t leave much room for conjecture about intent. Those who advocate for DACA recipients, or who champion comprehensive immigration policy reform, are to be painted with a three inch gesso base-coat brush as protecting the “animals,” and the “criminals.” Consider the following items from this past week:
As he has in numerous private meetings with his advisers at the White House, Mr. Trump used the session to vent about the nation’s immigration laws, calling them “the dumbest laws on immigration in the world.” He exhorted his administration to “do much better” in keeping out undesirable people, including members of transnational gangs like MS-13.
“We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — we’re stopping a lot of them,” Mr. Trump said in the Cabinet Room during an hourlong meeting that reporters were allowed to document. “You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people, these are animals, and we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before.” [NYT]
We can drill down a bit more into the nuances, if such there are, into this round of conflation.
SHERIFF MIMS: Thank you. There could be an MS-13 member I know about — if they don’t reach a certain threshold, I cannot tell ICE about it.
THE PRESIDENT: We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — and we’re stopping a lot of them — but we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals. And we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before. And because of the weak laws, they come in fast, we get them, we release them, we get them again, we bring them out. It’s crazy. [Vox]
As the article posits, there was a definite lack of specificity in this exchange, and a President who was in no hurry to clarify the matter. Clarification was left to a question to the Press Secretary on May 17th, who asserted the President was definitely talking about members of MS 13. This certainly sounds deliberate, and the pretext for the policy becomes subtext for the audience.
“If Trump understands his own administration’s policy, he’s never acknowledged it in public. He sticks to the same rhetorical move every time: refer to some specific criminals, call them horrible people and animals, say that their evil justifies his immigration policy, and allow the conflation of all immigrants and all Latinos with criminals and animals to remain subtext.” [Vox]
The problem, of course is that his actual policy doesn’t match his rhetorical flourishes. A quick look at FY 2017 statistics belies the President’s assertions on who is being deported for what:
“Deportations overall were down during the 2017 fiscal year, most of which was under Trump’s presidency, from the previous year, in part because fewer people were caught illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. But the number of undocumented immigrants without criminal convictions deported from the interior of the country rose dramatically.
People with no criminal convictions accounted for 17 percent of those deported after getting arrested by ICE within the country ― a sharp increase since former President Barack Obama’s last full year in office, when those without criminal convictions made up 8 percent of interior deportations. In total, nearly 14,000 noncriminals were deported from the interior of the country in the 2017 fiscal year, compared with about 5,000 the year before.” [HuffPo] (emphasis added)
One more hammer blow on the nail head — there has been an increase in the number of NON-criminal deportations under the current administration, while the President insists on talking about members of a specific gang. We can probably safely estimate there are between 8,000 and 10,000 members of MS 13 in the US. [AzCentral] Insight Crime has a helpful publication, available in pdf, describing the gang and its operations which is well worth the time to read carefully. One major point to consider from the report is that MS 13 is a transnational gang, not a transnational criminal enterprise. Secondly, it should be noted that the gang follows traditional migration patterns — it is not pro-actively ‘setting up cells.’ The members, indeed are vicious and violent, however neither their numbers, nor their significance deserves the emphasis placed on them by the administration in its efforts to gin up a good Two Minute Hate. They certainly do not stand as proxy for all immigrants coming to this country.
The President, as usual, is basely playing to his base. Nor will it do much good to present facts and figures to the members of that flock. Their response to immigration policy isn’t rational, if it were they wouldn’t be bleating “Build the Wall.” What is necessary is a solution to the DACA recipients’ problems — created by the President himself — and a legislative package of comprehensive immigration policy reform legislation, which doesn’t reflect the ideology of the White Nationalists among us. Given their proclivities, the hardliners in the White House and the Congress would have forbidden the immigration of Dolores Huerta’s grandparents to this country, while being more attuned to the philosophy of the likes of Anders Breivik from Norway?
We can make America great again by doing what we’ve always done. Recognize a problem, analyze it rationally, evaluate possible solutions, and discuss compromise legislative remedies. None of this can occur during a Two Minute Hate, with Sheep, or in the midst of irrational rhetoric and flights of emotional fancy. If 40% of the populace wish to be irrational fear-ravaged sheep, they need not take the remaining 60% of us off the cliff with them.