Trump and Discrimination

Empowering Exclusionary Ideologies


          On July 21, 2016, Donald Trump accepted the Republican nomination for President. Since the inception of his campaign a year earlier, Trump exercised bigotry, fear mongering, and discriminatory rhetoric vilifying primarily Hispanic immigrants. The catch phrase of his campaign “Build The Wall” aptly encompasses the divisions his campaign was formulating among voters, and its popularity elevated this discrimination to the forefront of the Republican Party. The very next day following Trump’s acceptance of the nomination, David Duke filed paperwork to run for U.S. Senate in Louisiana. 

          As the infamous white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan leader registered for the election he claimed “the climate of this country has moved in my direction...I believe my time has come, the people of this country, the patriotic, decent, God-fearing people of this country are now right with me.” Likewise to Trump, David Duke adopted the slogan “America First”, claiming there was “massive racial discrimination going on right now against European Americans.” In the same speech, he continued to refer to the Black Lives Matter movement as a “terrorist organization.” From this, we can conclude the discriminatory climate cultivated by the Trump Campaign was so pervasive it empowered renowned white supremacists to step into mainstream politics with a sense of security and comfort. 

Political Power to Deny Civil Rights through Executive Action

           On January 25, 2017, Trump signed an executive order effectively expanding the powers of immigration officers, and exponentially increasing the deportation of immigrants. The order titled Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, targets sanctuary cities, attacks immigrants, and broadens standards for removal. The executive order begins with a prelude criminalizing undocumented immigrants, claiming those who enter the U.S. illegally or overstay visas “present a significant threat to national security and public safety.” The order then criticizes sanctuary cities writing “these jurisdictions have caused immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic. Tens of thousands of removable aliens have been released into communities across the country, solely because their home countries refuse to accept their repatriation. Many of these aliens are criminals who have served time in our Federal, State, and local jails.” 

            In an effort to dismantle sanctuary cities, the executive order writes that states or subdivisions of states acting as a sanctuary city are not eligible to receive federal grants, unless the grant is for law enforcement purposes. Furthermore, the order designates the utilization of a weekly public report listing criminal actions committed by noncitizens of a jurisdiction designated as sanctuary cities. These provisions of the order blatantly discriminate against areas housing undocumented immigrants by threatening the withholding of financial assistance which benefit all individuals residing in the area. This can be viewed as an explicit example of a dominant group fueled by exclusionary ideology working to deprive a less powerful group of their rights.  

           The assertion the majority of undocumented immigrants have served time in incarceration is unequivocally and resoundingly false. The statistics Trump often utilizes encompass all noncitizens, with those undocumented being only a sliver of the analyzed groups. Additionally, he frequently references statistics which evaluate the time period of August 1955 to April 2010. In reality, undocumented immigrants commit a fraction of criminal infractions compared to native-born Americans. For instance, a study published in March 25, 2018 by Michael Light, a professor of sociology and Chicano/Latino studies at the University of Wisconsin, negates Trump’s assertions against undocumented immigrants. 

           Light uncovered communities with large immigrant populations experience lower crime rates, and that the crime rate within an immigrant community is lower than the rate of crime among U.S. citizens. A study conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2013 concluded crime rates rise among second-generation immigrants as a result of assimilation with native-born peers. Despite these studies, the Trump Administration enacted an executive order which broadened the standards for the deportation of undocumented immigrants. The order writes undocumented immigrants qualifying for deportation include those who:

  • Have been convicted of any criminal offense;

  • Have been charged with any criminal offense, where such charge has not been resolved;

  • Have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense;

  • Have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency;

  • Have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits;

  • Are subject to a final order of removal, but who have not complied with their legal obligation to depart the United States; or

  • In the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.

           This final provision effectively places an order of deportation for every undocumented immigrant in the United States. Differing from the Obama Administration which focused on those convicted of violent crimes, this order qualifies an undocumented young mother who was raised in the U.S. for most of her life and contributes to her community with a person convicted of a violent crime. The first underlined component accomplishes this because under the Trump Administration’s zero tolerance policy, being undocumented in the United States is a criminal offense. Furthermore, the latter underlined component permits deportation under the discretion of the immigration officer. Essentially, any and all immigration officers maintain the authority to determine if an undocumented immigrant will be deported. This massive endowment of power significantly undercuts individuals’ civil and constitutional right against unreasonable search and seizures secured in the Fourth Amendment. 

          The executive order then calls for the hiring of an additional 10,000 immigration officers, as well as states local law enforcement agencies across the U.S. are entitled to “perform the functions of an immigration officer in the interior of the United States to the maximum extent permitted by law.” This provision essentially allows any law enforcement officer to maintain the power to deport an undocumented immigrant, as well as significantly increases the potential of deportation to every corner of the country. Additionally, the order calls for the creation of the Department of Justice Prosecutions of Immigration Violators and the Office for Victims of Crimes Committed by Removable Aliens. The former is under the direction of the Attorney General and Secretary of Homeland Security and consists of the development and implementation of a program “devoted to the prosecution of criminal immigration offenses.” The latter requires the Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to establish an office dedicated to serving victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.  

           In response to this executive order, religious leaders in Los Angeles formed the Rapid Response Team, an underground network of private residences ready to house undocumented immigrants. The movement focuses on locating private properties because federal authorities cannot enter without a signed warrant. In an article by CNN, Pastor Ada Valiante shows reporters a home she purchased to host three families. In a separate area of Los Angeles, the article interviews a Jewish man who has prepared a spare bedroom in his home to host an undocumented family. When asked his motivations for participating in the network he stated “It’s hard as a Jew, not to think about both all the people who did open their door and their homes and take risks to safeguard Jews in a moment when they were really vulnerable, as well as those who didn’t. We’d like to be the people who did.”

Political Power to Deny Civil Rights Via 2020 Census

          In January 2017, The Washington Post and Vox reported a draft executive order directing the Census Bureau director to “include questions to determine U.S. citizenship and immigration status on the long-form questionnaire in the decennial census.” Though this executive order was not codified by the President until July 11, 2019, the reporting did uncover the beginning of what will become an extensive effort by the Trump Administration to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census. An investigation revealed a trove of hidden emails and memos between White House advisers, the Department of Justice, and Census Bureau officials pressuring the Census Bureau to include the question despite a lack of legal basis. Despite this internal turmoil, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross testified before Congress March of 2018 confirming the decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

          In response, more than two dozen states and cities filed lawsuits against the inclusion, and eventually the case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In June of 2019, the court ruled the Trump Administration could not include the citizenship question, as documents were uncovered by a recently deceased Republican strategist detailing a plan to include the citizenship question as an effort to increase white male voting power over minority groups. In July, the Trump Administration enacted the executive order requiring the question. The day following his release of the executive order, however, Trump announced he would no longer seek to include the citizenship question on the 2020 census. 

          The ramifications of including a question regarding citizenship on the 2020 census consist of an inaccurate count of individuals residing in the U.S. and subsequent reduction in Congressional representation and financial assistance. The census determines the quantity of federal representatives a state is delegated, as well as the amount of finances a state will receive from the federal government. The inclusion of a question of citizenship during a period of mass deportation serves to decrease the number of representatives in areas housing immigrant communities, further sowing divisions and reducing resources between these communities and primarily citizen occupied areas. Though the question will not be included, the two year conflict surrounding the questions has increased fears among undocumented immigrant communities regarding participation with the census. 

Political Power to Deny Citizenship through Denaturalization Campaign

           In June of 2018, the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Francis Cissna announced the establishment of an office in Los Angeles dedicated to reviewing the naturalization records of individuals dating back to 1990. Known as the “Denaturalization Campaign”, the prerogative is to strip citizenship away from naturalized citizens if the office determines the individual engage in fraud in order to obtain naturalization. Denaturalization as a means of policy has not been invoked in the United States since McCarthyism and the enactment of the Internal Security Act of 1950, which removed citizenship from individuals due to political beliefs. Under the Trump Administration, denaturalization is a tactic to target immigrant communities and strip individuals of their sacred right to vote.

          In response to the Denaturalization Campaign, Ruth Ellen Wasem, a clinical professor of policy at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs and former domestic policy specialist at the U.S. Library of Congress’ Congressional Research Service, wrote:

          “the Trump administration is sending a clear signal to all naturalized citizens: They are under review and vulnerable. I have encountered citizens who fear that their use of a fake ID years ago may prompt denaturalization proceedings. This initiative fits into the Trump administration paradigm that views immigrants as criminals. Most disturbing, this initiative has a chilling effect on civic engagement.”

          These efforts by the Trump Administration to remove citizenship from naturalized citizens is a clear and explicit example of a dominant group utilizing laws and political power to deny civil rights, voting rights, and citizenship to a group of people. 

Political Power to Deny Visas through “Public Charge” Proclamation

          In October of 2019, the Trump Administration unveiled its newest policy plan to deny green cards or visas to individuals determined to be a “public charge.” The public charge policy refers to individuals using government programs such as Medicaid and food stamps. During visa interviews, individuals must provide significant proof to immigration officers they will not use these government programs, and maintain the finances to do so. One aspect of the policy targets healthcare, stating those intending to utilize Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, or any form of subsidized care will be denied access to the United States. Applicants will have to provide evidence they will be covered by an approved healthcare plan, such as employer-sponsored, family coverage plans, and unsubsidized individual plans, within 30 days of entry into the U.S.

          This policy explicitly discriminates against immigrants who are not of strong financial means. An analysis conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation concluded approximately 27 percent of legal immigrants’ green card applications will be reviewed negatively, and 79 percent of applicants facing even greater scrutiny. Despite numerous federal judges across the country ruling the policy was unconstitutional, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the policy in a 5-4 vote along ideological lines. This policy aptly reflects the Trump Administration's use of law and political power to target the civil, voting, citizenship rights of immigrants. 


Last modified: Wednesday, 4 Mar 2020, 14:56