On Sunday April 7, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned. Nielsen oversaw the implementation of controversial U.S. child separation policies at the U.S.-Mexican border. She stepped down when the Trump Administration asked her to violate a court order against the practice to resume such family separations. Nielsen’s departure will not deter the Trump Administration, nor can it heal the traumas accrued from years of forced family separation policies and politics.
The derision of Latinas/os and Latin American immigrants has been a central and calculated strategy of the Trump administration from the infamous 2015 campaign announcement maligning Mexican immigrants as “criminals” and “rapists” and continues through to the dismissal of Puerto Rico after the devastation of Hurricanes Maria and Irma, the execution of a “zero tolerance policy” on undocumented families on the U.S-Mexico border, the incarceration of more than 2,400 children, the challenge to birthright citizenship, the deployment of 5,200 troops to the border, and prolonged derision of a caravan of Central American migrants. Even the 35-day government shutdown and the recent declaration of a national emergency rest on racialized narratives casting immigrants as “animals,” “thugs,” “national security threats,” and “terrorists” to justify a costly border wall. These attacks once again became the campaign “dog whistle” of the 2018 midterm elections as several Republicans banked on a relentless strategy of derision to consolidate a nationalist identity, assuage a fragile masculinity, and ultimately mobilize white voters.
We don’t have to go to the Nazis to find precedents of our contemporary moment. We can see this in the images of children separated at the border, which echoed two earlier traditions: slavery abolitionists and Indian Boarding Schools.
The politicization of the migrants’ journey has obfuscated the far more serious humanitarian crisis unfolding at the Southern border. Central Americans are arriving to seek protection from entrenched forms of violence and deep inequalities in their countries. And, as the images of the women, many carrying children, in the caravan hint at, it is a humanitarian crisis that affects women and girls especially.
On September 21, a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to make its main official behind the 2020 census citizenship question — Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross — available to testify out of court for the lawsuits over the hotly contested question. More than two dozen cities and states have filed lawsuits to try to remove the question. The Gender Policy Report sat down with demographer Sara Curran to get some background on the Census and the inclusion of an immigration question in 2020.
In June of 2018, after tortuous weeks of hinting, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed Matter of A-R-C-G, a 2014 case recognizing some types of domestic violence claims as a valid basis for asylum in the U.S. Utilizing a rarely employed mechanism, the AG certified a case, Matter of A-B-, to himself in order to instruct Immigration Judges under his authority to cease considering domestic violence claims legally sufficient for asylum. The case, technically a Memo from the Attorney General to Immigration Judges, appears at first blush to merely reverse A-R-C-G-, but Sessions went much further. The decision is racist, misogynistic, and dehumanizing. It bears all the ugly hallmarks of the world’s rising nativist leaders.
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