To garner points with far-right voters and keep the spotlight centered on his campaign, Donald Trump capitalized on the media’s fascination with his barrage of controversial statements by frequently spewing anti-immigrant rhetoric and proposing radical – and often irrational and unconstitutional – changes to our immigration system. Because of statements he made on the 2016 campaign trail like claiming Mexico was sending “rapists” and “drug dealers” to our border or that he would ban all Muslims from entering our country, on the night of the election many immigrant families watched in horror, not knowing what parts of this disturbing rhetoric might translate into actual law and policies.
Unfortunately, a central component of Trump’s presidency has indeed been the abysmal treatment of immigrants and implementation of irrational policies to appease his racist base and distract from his own shortcomings. Ignoring judicial pushback and uproar from activists and immigrant communities, he has continued to push offensive rhetoric and even more dangerous policies as he sought to undermine the U.S. immigration system, even when the results of these developments have proven inhumane and economically devastating.
- Pursuing a racist and ineffective border wall, which would cost taxpayers billions – even shutting down the federal government and declaring a national emergency at the border over funding for the wall,
- Enacting a travel ban that bars entry of nationals from eight Muslim-majority countries,
- Reducing the number of refugee admissions to the lowest it’s been in more than 30 years,
- Pushing an unspeakably cruel family separation policy, which ripped apart thousands of immigrant families from children and infants as young as four months old, and
- Revoking humanitarian protections such as DACA and TPS which could leave millions of residents and workers without legal status in the coming years — pending litigation by a Supreme Court now packed with Trump’s conservative justices.
Even in smaller ways that have not been heavily publicized, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has implemented internal policy changes to key areas like asylum procedures and the refugee vetting process that have devastated many immigrants as they fight to obtain legal status.
Equally troubling are recent reports from the border and in detention facilities, where immigrants are being held for seemingly indefinite periods of time and forced to suffer in dangerous, overcrowded, and unsanitary conditions. Even worse is that Trump has used these detention centers to target immigrant children, arguably the most vulnerable casualties in his hostile campaign.
Immigrant children who have been forced into CBP and ICE custody have had to endure hardships like family separation, illegal denials of asylum hearings, and untreated medical conditions. Recent reports also indicate that Trump has cut off basic services such as legal assistance, English classes, and recreational activities. These services cost taxpayers very little while greatly benefiting the quality of life for children being held in detention—withholding them is just one more unnecessarily cruel jab at immigrants without an ethical or objective rationalization.
There have also been reports of even more human rights abuses at the border, including allegations that thousands of immigrant children reported being sexually abused by adult staff in detention and six minors who have died due to lack of care in USCIS custody. There was also a recent story that a number of children aged 5-12 were held in a van, some for as long as 39 hours, while they were waiting to be reunited with their parents.
If the policies implemented by Trump were truly meant to create disincentives to immigrants from traveling to our border to seek asylum or find other forms of humanitarian relief, he has failed miserably. The number of monthly arrests by CBP are at their highest point since 2007 and unauthorized border crossings have almost doubled in the past year. All of this is indicative of what many immigrants and policy experts have known all along: Trump’s immigration policies are inhumane, unnecessary, and entirely ineffective.