Beyond Words, the Cruelty of Trump’s Actions

When Donald Trump was running for president, he occasionally embraced a “deport ’em all” strategy in response to undocumented immigrants. At other times, he suggested that his administration would focus on deporting criminals.

As it turns out, what the Trump administration has actually been doing was described very well by Gabe Ortiz as a “death-by-1,000 cuts approach to its mission to deport as many immigrants as possible.” That has included an attempt to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) as well as Temporary Protected Status (TPS). In other words, young people who were brought here illegally as children and those who came here as a result of war or natural disasters in their home country have been targeted by this administration for deportation.

Over the last couple of days, we’ve seen a couple of additions to the “death-by-1,000 cuts approach” that are both mind-boggling and cruel. For example, the San Francisco Chronicle reported this:

The Trump administration has arrested 170 undocumented immigrants who came forward to try to take migrant children out of government custody, federal officials said Monday. More than 100 of those arrested had no criminal record.

The arrest totals were released as the number of undocumented immigrant children in government custody has reached record highs, with no signs of slowing down. The number has surged to more than 14,700, according to a source familiar with the total…

According to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman, the agency arrested 170 immigrants from July through November on the basis of information the government learned about them when they applied to take an immigrant child out of custody. Of that group, nearly two-thirds, or 109, had no criminal record.

As Adam Sewer wrote: cruelty is the point. Every American should be outraged that the cruelty isn’t just targeted at the undocumented adults who stepped forward to take care of a child and found themselves arrested. It is also directed at the children who continue to suffer needlessly in tent cities that have been converted into long-term detention facilities. Now we learn this:

A 7-year-old girl from Guatemala died of dehydration and shock after she was taken into Border Patrol custody last week for crossing from Mexico into the United States illegally with her father and a large group of migrants along a remote span of New Mexico desert, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Thursday.

The other decision the administration recently made puts the status of many refugees of the Vietnam War in question.

The Trump administration is resuming its efforts to deport certain protected Vietnamese immigrants who have lived in the United States for decades—many of them having fled the country during the Vietnam War.

This is the latest move in the president’s long record of prioritizing harsh immigration and asylum restrictions, and one that’s sure to raise eyebrows…In essence, the administration has now decided that Vietnamese immigrants who arrived in the country before the establishment of diplomatic ties between the United States and Vietnam [in 1995] are subject to standard immigration law—meaning they are all eligible for deportation.

A spokeswoman for DHS claims that this change is about deporting Vietnamese who have been arrested, convicted, and ultimately ordered removed by a federal immigration judge. But over and over again this administration has pretended that their focus will be on deporting criminals, only to stretch that word beyond any real meaning with their actions against otherwise law-abiding people. So this decision has sent shock waves throughout the Vietnamese-American community.

I often feel that we can get caught up in rage at the ignorant and cruel things Donald Trump says and tweets. While that is understandable, there are very real human beings (including children) who are suffering, not because of what this president says, but because of what his administration is doing. We must never lose sight of that fact.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.