Opinion: Don’t bother paying attention to Trump’s plan to stop all immigration

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Last night, we were treated to another xenophobic tweet straight from the bowels of Trump’s phone. “In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!” the president wrote. And I’m here to tell you not to buy into his hysterics.

Travel restrictions were already in place before this alarmist tweet. As it stood, few people could come to the US anyway. Travel to and from Mexico and Canada has been restricted to a short list of “essential travelers” because of coronavirus, and people returning to the US from other countries not only face exit screening in most places, they also face restrictions if coming from a country heavily affected by the pandemic; and even that definition shifts weekly. Most people from China and Europe are barred from entering as well. More importantly, no one wants to come to the US — the epicenter of the outbreak — right now.

In other words, this executive order is nothing more than a distraction meant to take our eyes off the ball and away from his colossal failure to manage the Covid-19 crisis. Trump wants you talk about something other than the failures of the dangerous dilettante in the White House. If enacted, it would also do colossal damage to an economy already in free-fall.

There’s nothing new about this administration doing everything it can to deny refugee and asylum claims — that policy has been in place since the former attorney general Jeff Sessions worked to break up families and throw children in cages. Later in 2019, the Trump administration instituted the Migrant Protection Protocols and, under AG Bill Barr, the “remain in Mexico” policy. Between these two programs, Trump and his cronies have long ensured that most asylum claims are either unable to be processed or denied.

In Mexico, applicants looking to lawfully apply for asylum are forced to brave inclement weather and dangerous conditions in early morning hours to get on long lists and make court appearances. Then those court appearances are often canceled and rescheduled at hours that clients can’t make. For instance, they might have showed up in Juarez for a scheduled court date and end up dumped by border officials in Nogales, on the Arizona border, after the hearing was canceled. Nogales is a six-hour drive from Juarez. According to Human Rights Watch, as of November of last year, more than 56,000 asylum seekers, including 16,000 children (about 500 of whom were under 12 months old) had been sent back to wait in Mexico.

From the Muslim ban, to chants of “build that wall”, to kids in cages and canceled asylum hearings, there is nothing new here to see. Trump campaigned on a promise to institute regressive, xenophobic policies in violation of international human rights norms once in office and that is precisely what he has done. The only difference between now and then is that the raging child in the White House insists on making things worse by squandering resources and personnel on his racist endeavors to win political gains with white supremacists in the middle of the worst health crisis we’ve seen since the flu of 1918, and the worst economic crisis we’ve undergone since the Great Depression of 1929. You don’t have to be a Democrat to see the problem with that.

While we have never truly been the “land of the free” that we lay claim to in our national anthem, thanks to our essential workers like immigration attorneys on the border, store clerks, janitors and medical personnel we continue to be the home of the brave. Unfortunately, we are also the home of the sick, with the US leading the world in number of deaths and cases of coronavirus and a shameful lack of testing.

There is only one way to end this monstrosity of a presidency — vote the child in the Oval Office out in November, along with all the politicians who supported his legacy of human rights violations, divisiveness and indifference to human suffering. If we don’t, things could still get worse — and not just for immigrants.

Originally published at https://www.independent.co.uk on April 21, 2020.

IHRL attorney & writer. Bylines in: PBS, USA Today, Independent UK, Al Jazeera, Romper, Ravishly, & National Catholic Reporter.

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