Trump and Bannon Consider Expansion of the Southern Strategy Against Immigrants

Remember how Lee Atwater described the Republican’s Southern Strategy?

By 1968 you can’t say “n****r” — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites…But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “N****r, n****r.”

We’ve seen how that played out with the racial insinuations of everything from Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queen” to Mick Huckabee’s comparison of welfare recipients to roaches (of course they were both referring to poor people who receive welfare and not corporate giants). The point of these efforts has always been to fuel racism and bolster their attempts to dismantle the social safety net because it was being abused by “those people.”

The Trump/Bannon White House is now contemplating two additional executive orders that would revive the Southern Strategy as a weapon of division against non-white immigrants.

The Trump administration is considering a plan to weed out would-be immigrants who are likely to require public assistance, as well as to deport — when possible — immigrants already living in the United States who depend on taxpayer help, according to a draft executive order obtained by The Washington Post.

A second draft order under consideration calls for a substantial shake-up in the system through which the United States administers immigrant and nonimmigrant visas, with the aim of tightly controlling who enters the country and who can enter the workforce, and reducing the social services burden on U.S. taxpayers…

The administration has accused immigrants who end up receiving U.S. social services of eating up federal resources, and it has said that immigrant workers contribute to unemployment among workers who are U.S. citizens.

These are yet two more executive orders that have Bannon’s fingerprints all over them. He is the one who thinks that non-white immigrants to this country pose a national crisis.

The draft orders are not only maliciously hateful ways to divide people in this country, they are unapologetically based on lies. Let’s remember first of all that the reduction of Mexican immigrants coming into this country over the last few years is actually hurting small businesses (therefore, the economy) and secondly, immigrants are the life-blood of reinvigorating small town America in many places around the country. So it is impossible to base these claims on any actual data about how they would improve our economy. The only explanation is their appeal to white nationalism.

Beyond those facts, the claim that immigrants are a drain on federal taxpayer-funded programs is a blatant lie.

For more than 100 years, the country has had a provision that allows federal officials to bar immigrants who, based on a specific formula, seem likely to need public assistance after arrival.

That test is known as the “public charge” law, which allows federal immigration authorities to deport immigrants who become dependent on social programs; they also can prevent legal immigrants applying for green cards from obtaining them for the same reasons…

[Welfare reform] severely restricted all immigrant access to social assistance; those who are in the country illegally are barred from almost any federal program designed for the poor. Legal immigrants must live in the United States for a minimum of five years to become eligible for a limited set of social aid programs, and access to Social Security assistance is rarely granted…

Nor have studies shown immigrants to be a greater drain on federal benefits relative to U.S. citizens, he said: “When you compare poor immigrants to poor natives, poor immigrants are less likely to use welfare, and when they do, the dollar value of the benefits they use is lower.”

Too many people in this country are ignorant of these facts. If you listen to conservatives and libertarians, you hear these lies repeated constantly. That’s what Trump/Bannon are counting on and they’d likely score a lot of points with their white base for enacting these executive orders. Doing so would not only hurt our economy, it would fan the flames of fear, division and hate.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.