WE MUST RESIST: Undocumented Immigrants Are the Canaries in Trump's Despotic Coal Mine

[Content Note: Nativism; white supremacy; eliminationism; child abuse; violence.]

Donald Trump did not invent terrible immigration policy. U.S. immigration policy has been broken for a very long time. But he has empowered and institutionalized a nativist, white supremacist, anti-immigrant agenda that I have long been warning will underwrite a targeting of U.S. citizens.

In January, the administration did the previously unthinkable: Revoked a naturalized citizen's citizenship, reverting him to a lawful permanent resident and potentially making him subject to deportation. Last week, a border patrol agent detained two women who are citizens and demanded to see ID because they were speaking Spanish in public. This week, the president suggested that that people who protest state violence (police killings) should be removed from the country.

I have said before and will keep saying: This administration's (mis)treatment of undocumented immigrants is their canary in the coal mine. The targeting of undocumented immigrants is intolerable on its face, but understand that whatever they are doing to undocumented immigrants, they will target others in the same way eventually. We must resist their nativist strategies not only because they are cruel and indecent and unjust, but also because if we fail to resist them, they will proliferate.

We cannot turn our backs on undocumented immigrants.

A month ago, PBS' Frontline did a major piece about how the Department of Health and Human Services lost track of over a thousand children, with some of the "unaccompanied minors" they "released to family or other sponsors" ending up in the hands of human traffickers. EJ Montini, an AZCentral columnist, picked up the story earlier this week, which subsequently resulted in a month-old piece in the New York Times being recirculated and getting lots of attention today.

This heinous story is notable not only for the depth of depravity the United States government is exhibiting toward undocumented children, but for how we must understand what it means in the context of a nativist agenda that is being used for a practice run for the treatment of any and all "undesirables" in the population under authoritarian leadership.

We are meant to not care about undocumented children, lost in a system. And that is why, in addition to the basic decency of protecting children, we must urgently care for them, and what is being done to them.

On Twitter, Yonatan Zunger has written a chilling but necessary thread on this story, detailing the breathtaking scope of the harm and what history tells us may come next. I encourage you to read the entire thread, which begins at the link, but following is an excerpt:



All of this, against a backdrop of the Attorney General of the United States publicly threatening to forcibly separate undocumented families, to detain children separate from their parents. To make them "unaccompanied minors," even if they are actually not.

And such separations are already happening:

Meanwhile, ICE is destroying records of the abuses, even deaths, that happen to people in their custody:

All of this is documented. It is not conjecture. It is not conspiracy theory. It is what's happening. Undocumented families, some of whom have made lives in this country for decades, are being ripped apart. Children are being separated from their parents. Children are being "lost" by the thousands. Records of mistreatment are being destroyed. The government is exploring larger detention facilities.

image of two small Latino children asleep in a tiny room behind a chain-link fence

That is a photo of children "assigned to living areas separated by tall chain-linked fences and segregated by age and gender" — or, more honestly, children being kept in what looks like fucking dog kennels — in a detention center in Nogales, Arizona, where hundreds of children were being kept. And that photo is from 2014 — two years before Donald Trump assumed control of the presidency.

That's what our treatment of undocumented children looked like already under Obama. And now policy is being set by a president whose base doesn't believe this country should accept refugees, who himself calls undocumented immigrants "animals", and who thinks that demonizing Latinx people is a great joke.

As Aphra_Behn noted yesterday, those of us "who are pointing out similarities between what's going on here and other authoritarian, racist regimes are trying to jolt people out of the Dream of American Exceptionalism."

It's not even that it could happen here. It is.

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