by Josh Heath
Last month’s El Paso shooting was just the latest incident of white nationalist terrorism currently overtaking the United States and our allies around the world. These horrific events continue to follow the same depressing script – a heavily armed racist walks into a public place and shoots as many innocents as possible, all in order to combat an “immigrant invasion” threatening society.
Then the media debates whether or not President Donald Trump is responsible for what happened. Critics argue his bigoted leadership inspires lunatics to act on their hate, while others say such violence would occur no matter who was in office. It’s impossible to know which side is correct, since the motivations behind any tragedy are often complex and multifaceted.
What’s undeniable are the similarities between Trump and racist extremists. The president has regularly portrayed migrants as agents of chaos who endanger America’s security and economic well-being. In over 2,000 tweets, speeches, and campaign ads, he claimed there was an ongoing “invasion” of the country by these people, according to the New York Times.
At a recent rally in Florida, when one man suggested solving things with guns, he responded with a smile. And like the white nationalists, Trump is more than willing to use extreme brutality to stop foreigners from coming here, as his administration’s actions at the border make clear.
We now incarcerate as many migrants as legally possible, whether they are children, disabled or violent criminals. Consequently, federal detention facilities are overflowing and have turned into sites of unimaginable suffering. Toddlers become severely ill, no one has room to lie down, and there is insufficient access to food or basic hygiene products.
Family separations continue at record rates, even though a federal court demanded an end to the practice. To get around this, the administration is using a legal loophole which says children can be taken away if their parent puts them at risk. According to the ACLU, border patrol officials are broadly interpreting that and have separated over 900 families in the past year, often for wickedly minor reasons. For example, fathers have lost children for failing to change a diaper or if they were discovered to have previously driven drunk.
All the while, Trump threatens to send federal agents into our communities and round up millions of undocumented people like cattle, crystalizing his shared agenda with the white nationalists. In one voice, they tell migrants “you are not welcome and if you try to enter America anyway, we will respond with violence, either through mass murder or barbaric government power”.
One cannot underappreciate how cruel that is. The desperate masses who come here are often hispanic asylum seekers looking to be safe from harm, find decent employment and see their kids thrive. But bigotry is a blinding force, whether lodged inside the heart of a president or a lone gunman. It turns innocent folks crying out for help into dangerous threats who need to be destroyed.
What would we say if German Chancellor Angela Merkel had governed similarly when dealing with the Syrian refugee crisis a few years ago? Imagine if she echoed the ideology of Neo-Nazis, called them criminal invaders, locked up families in horrifying conditions, and separated children from their parents. Who among us wouldn’t be ashamed and argue that Germany’s dark history had come back to life?
Trump claims his harsh approach makes sense because the immigration rate is so dangerously high; over a million people are expected to be stopped at the border this year. But this is no excuse. Since 1980, four of our last six presidents faced something similar on their watch, and they were able to handle it without resorting to such heartless policies.
Americans can disagree on taxes, the Supreme Court, healthcare, or abortion, but one thing we should all be able to agree on is any leader closely aligned with extremist hate has no place in the Oval Office.
Copyright 2019 Josh Heath. Heath is a two-term delegate to the California Democratic Party and Magna Cum Laude graduate of UCLA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org