—President Trump ran a campaign in 2016 which greatly emphasized the prevention of illegal immigration. Immigration has been a catalyst behind one of the most tumultuous presidencies in recent memory. Now, a “caravan” of immigrants has descended upon the United States border. Our contributors lay out the arguments as to whether or not the immigrants should be allowed entry into the United States of America.—
The Faireway Staff
Since its founding, the United States has presented itself as a place of refuge for those coming from other nations. We recognize the power of immigrants because we are a nation founded by them, displaying our pride in this American value by engraving it in stone on the Statue of Liberty:
“Give me your tired, your poor
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore
Send these, the homeless, tempest – tossed to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
It appears that our founding principle of welcoming immigrants, including and especially those who are suffering, is not as permanent as it once was. In her book, Families We Choose, Kath Weston writes, “A person or group must first be outside or other to invade, endangered, and threaten.” Such ‘othering’ is reflected in the criminalizing rhetoric President Trump uses to describe the migrants currently fleeing Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. It is arguable that this rhetoric, in combination with policy decisions of the current administration, serves to not only promote nationalistic and xenophobic political ideologies in the United States, but also fundamentally undermine the values upon which this country was founded.
From the inception of his political career, Trump has made his sentiments towards those who do not represent his core “American ideals” clear to the public. It was in his very announcement that he was running for president where he began his attack on immigrants, saying, “[Mexico is] sending people that have lots of problems…They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” Based on his statements, the America Trump desires is devoid of any “foreigners,” whether that be indicated through one’s skin color, native language, or religion. It is unsurprising that Trump’s public lust for homogeneity would provide conditions where people feel entitled to be intolerant towards those they perceive as the “other” – according to the FBI, hate crimes have risen by 17% in the last year. One need look no further than his executive order enacting a Muslim ban, or his constant insistence for a Southern border wall, to understand why Trump’s reaction to the news that a large group of migrants from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador is heading to the United States was so immediate.
Since the news of the exodus, Trump has continuously manipulated the ways in which the American public view the migrants and their purpose. Rather than exploring the reasons for their migration – which many understand to stem from the extreme poverty, violence and government corruption that citizens of these countries are facing – Trump has promoted the idea that this is “an attack on America” with implications “that are critical to the future of our civilization.” He has sought to reaffirm his campaign rhetoric that labeled foreigners as hostile and violent, describing the exodus as an “illegal alien mob,” and its members as “tough, tough people” and even “gang members” to rally his base (it must be noted that numerous reports have revealed that the exodus consists mainly of women and children).
Consequently, it is evident that Trump’s intent behind his rhetoric is not to deliver objective facts about the group of migrants to the American people. Rather, he is capitalizing on the fear of foreigners that he has already fanned the flames of in order to gain traction during the midterm election season. It would be naive to consider it a coincidence that Trump began drawing so much attention to the caravan right before important midterm elections were to take place – especially when we consider the fact that these caravans have been taking place multiple times per year since 2008. He has deliberately turned this into a partisan issue, going so far as to claim that the “Democrats are paying members of the caravan” to reach the border by election day ostensibly to harm the Republicans. Trump even went as far to refer to the midterms as “the election of the caravan.” This vivid image of hardened migrant criminals colluding with the Democrats is a blatant attack on the left’s immigration stance–a rallying point for many of Trump’s supporters.
In addition to exciting his base for the midterm elections, it appears that Trump’s divisive political rhetoric surrounding the exodus has consequences that reach far beyond November 2018. His language has shifted to allow for the creation of more systemic change to the immigration system. Instead of only focusing on criminalizing immigrants, he is using powerful rhetoric to dehumanize them. He has described immigrants as an “infestation” – making it justifiable to treat them horribly and take away their fundamental human rights. In doing so, he has moved beyond merely opposing illegal immigration to also seeking new laws that restrict legal immigration.
Using this exodus as justification, Trump has been able to gain significant traction for specific legal restrictions on asylum seekers. On November 8, 2018, Trump declared that migrants who cross the border outside of designated ports of entry would automatically be denied asylum. Under current immigration laws, a migrant’s claim for asylum will be heard, no matter how they crossed the border. Unsurprisingly, the proposed change has been met with significant legal resistance; Trump is fighting back by using the same authority he exercised for his initial Muslim travel ban: arguing that it is within his rights to exclude any migrants who “are detrimental to the interests of the United States.”
Regardless of whether or not Trump will succeed in changing asylum laws, his message is clear. Whereas previous administrations have recognized the value that immigrants have in our nation, Trump appears to be sending the message that the United States accepts only very specific types of foreigners–none of which are present in the group of men, women, and children who are part of the exodus. What does this mean for the future of our nation? Will this be the defining shift in American values, from pride in being a nation founded by immigrants, to finally locking the golden door?
The rule of law is exceedingly important now, as one political party seeks to use illegal immigration to undermine our rule of law, and grant amnesty to illegal immigrants, most of whom would surely vote Democrat, given the chance. Upholding the rule of law in America is an undisputed requisite for liberty. Securing Ordered Liberty for the American people means securing our border.