Donald Trump was still standing on the Capitol’s steps waiting to be sworn in as the nation’s forty-fifth president when the White House website announced its plans for immigration. Squarely positioned as a law enforcement matter, President Trump views immigration, the website suggests, as equivalent to rioting and homicides.
Much has been written about the White House website shedding all references to climate change. At the same time, the Trump Administration’s digital home launched six issue areas that presumably we can expect to occupy the Administration’s early days. Among those is a strongly worded declaration about the proper role of law enforcement in the United States. Titled “Standing Up For Our Law Enforcement Community,” the issue statement leaves no doubt that the Administration believes police officers have been hamstrung and, as a result, the safety of our communities has suffered. Shootings, rioting, violent disruptions, and fearful parents, senior citizens, and young children all make an appearance in the first two-thirds of the short statement.
The rest is devoted to immigration. Indeed, one-third (108 of 329 words) of the issue statement about law enforcement sets its eyes on immigration topics that made frequent appearances during the campaign. Here is the relevant language in its entirety:
President Trump is committed to building a border wall to stop illegal immigration, to stop the gangs and the violence, and to stop the drugs from pouring into our communities. He is dedicated to enforcing our border laws, ending sanctuary cities, and stemming the tide of lawlessness associated with illegal immigration.
Supporting law enforcement also means deporting illegal aliens with violent criminal records who have remained within our borders.
It is the first duty of government to keep the innocent safe, and President Donald Trump will fight for the safety of every American, and especially those Americans who have not known safe neighborhoods for a very long time.
Like candidate Trump, early signs from the Trump Administration suggest that there is little value to pointing out the false premises upon which several of these comments rest. They would just be cast off as “alternative facts,” to borrow White House advisor Kellyanne Conway’s infamous Orwellian doublespeak.
Moving beyond the realm of verifiable fact, the Trump Administration’s decision to cabin immigration among its law-enforcement priorities leaves a strong impression that it will continue the Obama Administration’s heavy-handedness towards migrants—and perhaps then some. With the exception of his repeated attacks on sanctuary cities and the website’s sweeping claims about the “tide of lawlessness associated with illegal immigration,” much of the issue statement’s language reflects the Obama Administration’s positions.
What is missing is the Obama Administration’s humanitarian edge, best captured in President Obama’s support of DACA. Of course, it took President Obama until 2012 to back DACA. Given the Trump Administration’s slow start on most things, I’m willing to give them more time to inject some humanity into the new president’s charged rhetoric.
So far, there is little reason for hope. Aside from Jeff Sessions, whose anti-immigrant record is well-known, reports indicate that the former executive director of the rabidly anti-immigrant Federation for American Immigration Reform Julie Kirchner has been appointed chief-of-staff at the Customs and Border Protection division of the Department of Homeland Security.