The Trump Administration

The Muslim Ban

          During his campaign for President, Trump criminalized and dehumanized Hispanic immigrants, particularly Mexican immigrants, frequently branding these individuals as criminals, rapists, murderers, and drug dealers. His inflammatory and bigoted rhetoric sent shock waves throughout the nation, and cultivated a culture of fear Trump would further promote to achieve his immigration goals. In addition to these attacks, Trump campaigned on the slogan of “Build a Wall”. Despite decades of evidence suggesting physical barriers alone cannot cure the root causes of immigration to the U.S., economic instability and persecution by a home country, his administration would work to redirect Pentagon, Military, and Department of Homeland Security funding to fund this wall, despite lack of congressional fiscal support or approval. 

          When Trump assumed the Presidency in 2017, he inherited an excessively militarized border with over 20,000 Border Patrol officers and a minimum of two immigrant detention centers in each state. At this time, roughly 700 miles of border wall already stood along the Southern Border, with the Canadian border having absolutely no fencing barriers. In addition, approximately 750,000 immigration cases maintained an average wait time for a court hearing of over two years. 

          Within days of assuming the Presidency, Trump signed an executive order effectively restricting entrance into the United States by Muslims on January 24, 2017. Though branded as an effort to stop terrorism, the order unilaterally denied immigration to Muslim populations in seven countries with no ties to U.S. domestic terrorist attacks. The seven countries included: Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Venezuela, and Yemen. Though the action did not specifically target Hispanic communities, this effort sent a clear message to black and brown communities around the world that the United States did not welcome non-white immigrants. 

          Weeks following the order, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington deemed portions of the executive order unconstitutional and effectively halted implementation of the order temporarily. However, in 2018, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Trump Administration and re-instituted the Muslim Ban. To this day, the ban remains in effect and has exponentially disrupted the lives of both Americans and non-Americans by preventing visitors visas, permanent residence applications, and refugee/asylum claims. In 2016, 38,900 Muslim refugees gained entrance into the United States. In 2017, the amount decreased to 22,861, and in the first six months of 2018 roughly 2,107 Muslim refugees were allowed into the U.S. 

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Three women protesting the Muslim Ban on Capital Hill

Attempts to Dismantle the Green Card System

          Trump attempted to expand upon the welfare restriction put in place by President Clinton by directing states to remove all exemptions permitting immigrants to access welfare within five years. Though this aligns with Clinton’s measure, Trump’s approach would eliminate states’ rights to determine eligibility for state programs. Due to this disregard of the 10th Amendment of the Constitution which reserves all rights not expressly designated to federal powers reside with the States, the legislation was not implemented. 

           An additional effort by the Trump Administration which would fail is his attempt to fundamentally overhaul the green card system. In August of 2017, Trump proposed only individuals who proved financial self-sufficiency, were highly skilled, and spoke fluent English would be eligible for permanent residency. The measure would also deny adult children of green card holders and extended relatives from applying for green cards. If implemented, the legislation would have reduced the quantity of green cards awarded in its first year from 1 million to 638,000. In conjunction with this legislation, the Administration also endorsed eliminating green card recipients access to public programs such as food stamps or Section 8 Housing. If this action had been undertaken, over 400,000 green card recipients would be affected. 


          Trump continued his rampage against Hispanic immigrants by targeting the Obama Era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by determining the program is unconstitutional, therefore demanding its repeal. DACA was formulated by the Obama Administration to provide a pathway to citizenship for the nearly 700,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as minors. This program was created in response to growing criticisms of Obama’s deportation records, and out of humanity for children who had no participation in the decision making process to illegally live in the U.S. The fate of the DACA recipients, known as Dreamers, remains in the hands of the Supreme Court who will reach a decision in 2020. 

           In similar fashion, the Trump Administration has initiated efforts to deem Temporary Protective Status (TPS) unconstitutional, which would strip 350,000 immigrants from Central America from their right to live and work in the United States. Temporary Protected Status is a program which permits individuals from specifically designated countries with the approval of the Secretary of Homeland Security to work and remain in the United States. As the name suggests, the status is temporary and can be designated for 6, 12, or 18 months at a time. Countries receiving TPS must meet one of the following criteria:

  • An ongoing armed conflict; for instance a civil war which threatens the personal safety of nationals. 

  • An environmental disaster; for example a natural disaster or epidemic threatening the individuals living conditions.

  • Extraordinary and temporary conditions; such as a foreign state preventing nationals from returning home safely. 

          Likewise to DACA, the fate of TPS recipients lies with the courts, with the case currently being presented before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York. 

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Pro-DACA protest in front of White House

Zero-Tolerance Policy

           The most arguably deadly, dehumanizing, and destructive policy to have been enacted by the Trump Administration is known as “zero-tolerance”. One May 7, 2017, the Trump Administration’s Department of Justice began secretly implementing its zero tolerance policy. This policy requires all migrants who cross the Southern border without documentation, including asylum seeker, be referred for criminal prosecution. In addition, those traveling with minors would be separated from their children. This practice has resulted in the detention of over 50,000 people per year in predominantly privately-run facilities unequipped for these purposes. The policy did not become publicly known until May of 2018. The Administration has since received blistering backlash, resulting in an executive order publicly ending the policy. Despite this, the policy remains in tact to this day. Though the Administration denies this, there has been a continuation of court cases, detainee statements, and investigations affirming the practice is still in place. 

          Since the zero-tolerance policy designates all who attempt to access the country without documentation as criminals, even asylum seekers fleeing deadly circumstances are subject to these standards. This has contributed significantly to the exceeding number of family separations at the Southern Border. This is due to a provision in federal law allowing law enforcement to separate children from parents if they are charged with a crime. In the short time this policy has been practiced, thousands of children have been separated from their families and moved to detention centers across the nation, with no governmental plan to reunite them with their deported parents. Most children, likewise to their parents, were relocated to privately run detention facilities which operate with absence of government oversight. In the past two years, numerous members of congress have attempted to conduct wellness checks of these facilities and are denied access due to its private ownership. As we continue with this course, we will delve into the inhumane and unconstitutional treatment individuals endure when detained in these facilities. 

          This policy also expanded the mission of ICE agents to investigate, detain, and deport all immigrants who failed to provide documentation of residency. Previously, ICE maintained a focus on undocumented immigrants who had engaged in felonious activity or violent criminal acts. Under this policy, ICE would direct its resources to detaining all undocumented immigrants, and begin using an array of tactics to do so. These tactics include staking out hospitals, schools, courthouses, and other public areas where an undocumented immigrant may be found, coordinating with hotel chains to obtain guest records to serve as potential targets for detention, as well as combing state drivers license records in areas which allow immigrants to drive. There has also been a surplus of evidence reflecting vasts arrests and raids by ICE under this administration were initiated without legal search warrants or arrest warrants. 

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Two young girls watch a World Cup soccer match on a television from their holding area where hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being processed and held


-Sand and Blood: America's Stealth War on the Mexico Border by John Carlos Frey

Last modified: Wednesday, 4 Mar 2020, 14:47