SPLC Weekend Read - June 29, 2019


Last week, President Trump announced that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would soon begin a coordinated campaign to deport "millions of illegal aliens," surprising the nation and even his own staff.

Not only did ICE officials indicate that they did not plan for Trump to make such an announcement on Twitter, they confirmed significant logistical barriers – including staff and budgetary constraints – to executing immigration raids and arrests on the scale Trump advertised.

But, enforceability was not the point of Trump's announcement.

It was little more than a shock tactic that served to instill fear in immigrant families and to discourage migrants from entering the United States via the southern border.

After several U.S. cities that were targeted for the raids publicly pushed back, vowing not to cooperate with federal law enforcement's plans to arrest more than 2,000 people, Trump announced last weekend a postponement of the mass deportation plan. He tweeted that he would give Congress a two-week period to fix what he sees as "the Asylum and Loopholes problems" along the border with Mexico. "If not, Deportations start!"

Trump's threat of mass immigration raids was not intended to compel Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform measures. Rather, it was an effort to strong-arm lawmakers into providing increased funding for his increasingly hardline enforcement efforts. Those efforts include detaining the children of asylum-seeking families for longer than legally permissible in overcrowded and unsafe facilities that were never meant to serve as long-term detention centers.

The Trump administration is pointing to the surge of Central American migrants held in Customs and Border Protection and Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) facilities as a humanitarian crisis, conveniently ignoring that its own "zero-tolerance" policies, in violation of U.S. and international law, escalate this crisis.

It’s clear that Trump's push for humanitarian aid is primarily intended to execute a harsh enforcement agenda promoted by his closest, most extreme immigration advisers. It’s equally clear that his reinvigorated campaign of xenophobia and fearmongering serves primarily as a vehicle to rile up his hard-core base as he begins his re-election campaign to "Keep America Great."

Trump’s cynical campaign, of course, ignores the fact that we’re a nation of immigrants and that new immigrants enrich our country in many ways. This administration cannot change the facts of history, despite Trump’s relentless assault on the truth.

The great irony of the timing of the immigration raid threats, is that they come at a time when we should be coming together to celebrate the stories of America’s diversity. June is Immigrant Heritage Month.

At the SPLC, we’re doing all we can to protect the civil and human rights of immigrants during these uncertain and frightening times.

Despite the delay, the threat of deportation still looms for many people, and we’re trying to help families, particularly the parents of U.S. citizens, get prepared should they be swept up in a raid.

It’s critical that immigrants know their rights: You do not have to let ICE officials into your homes without a warrant; you have the right to remain silent; you have the right to an attorney and to call family members while in detention; and you should not sign any document in a language you do not understand.

We’re asking you and all of our supporters to call your congressional representatives and urge them not to provide funding to fuel Trump's inhumane detention and deportation machine.

The Editors

P.S. Here are some other pieces we think are valuable this week:


Susan Meltsner