Trump/Pence Regime Lays Siege to Immigrant Communities: Fascist Escalation of Attacks on Immigrants
March 6, 2017, Updated March 22, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
In his speech to the joint session of Congress on February 28, Trump declared, “As we speak tonight, we are removing gang members, drug dealers, and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our very innocent citizens. Bad ones are going out, as I speak, and as I promised throughout the campaign.”
But, as a matter of fact, the Trump/Pence regime has set in motion attacks on immigrants whose only “crime” is being driven to this country, working, going to school, and trying to survive. People are being swept up in “collateral” arrests simply for being in the vicinity when someone else, who had an arrest warrant, is detained. People are being detained and deported while carrying out normal, legal, day-to-day survival activities. And an atmosphere of terror is spreading.
When Donald Trump talks about “the bad ones,” he’s talking about people like 48-year-old Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez. On February 28, Avelica-Gonzalez dropped off one of his daughters at school in the Highland Park district of Los Angeles, as he has done every day before heading to his job at a restaurant. As he was on his way to drop off his other daughter, 13, at school, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents pulled over his vehicle and seized him while his weeping daughter filmed her father’s detention. ICE said in a statement that Avelica-Gonzalez was arrested because he has “multiple prior criminal convictions.” According to Ricardo Mireles, executive director of the charter school that Avelica-Gonzalez’s daughter attends, those “multiple prior criminal convictions” consist of a DUI conviction from an incident that occurred nearly a decade ago and another run-in with the law 20 years ago after Avelica-Gonzalez said he unknowingly purchased a car with an incorrect registration sticker. As of today, Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez is in custody.
A recent article in the New York Times gave a sense of the range of escalation in the war on immigrants: “In Virginia, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents waited outside a church shelter where undocumented immigrants had gone to stay warm. In Texas and in Colorado, agents went into courthouses, looking for foreigners who had arrived for hearings on other matters. At Kennedy International Airport in New York, passengers arriving after a five-hour flight from San Francisco were asked to show their documents before they were allowed to get off the plane.” (“Immigration Agents Discover New Freedom to Deport Under Trump,” February 25, 2017)
Immigrants in Los Angeles, interviewed recently by the Revolution Club, painted a picture of people living in a state of siege: a girl calling her mother saying don’t come here, ICE is in the neighborhood. A woman said her children tell her, “Mommy, don’t go out. I don’t want them to take you. I don’t want them to take us to a shelter or a place like that.” Word is spreading that people who the government has said are not targets are being deported. And the Revolution Club heard reports that the danger of deportation hangs heavily over immigrant students deciding whether or not to be part of resistance to Trump—something that points to the reality that each day the Trump/Pence regime is able to further tighten its grip on the reins of power, the more difficult resistance becomes.
The Egregious Detention of DREAMers
DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) is a policy implemented by the Obama administration to not deport “DREAMers”—undocumented immigrants who came to this country as young children. These are people who have grown up in this country, often don’t speak the language of the countries of their birth, and who have avoided any significant encounters with law enforcement. In his press conference on February 27, Trump claimed, “We are gonna deal with DACA with heart.” Reality: Since this heartless monster came into office, there have been a number of high-profile arrests of DREAMers or people applying for DACA status.
In one particularly high-profile and egregious case, ICE agents arrested Daniela Vargas, a 22-year-old DREAMer, on March 1, shortly after she spoke at a press conference held by attorneys, churches, and the Mississippi Immigration Rights Alliance in front of city hall in Jackson, Mississippi. Daniela Vargas was brought to the U.S. from Argentina when she was seven years old. Two weeks earlier, ICE agents in Mississippi detained her father and brother outside the family’s Jackson home as they left for work. Vargas barricaded herself in a closet as agents burst into the family’s home. After handcuffing her, agents later released her. Consciously or not (and most likely consciously), the timing of this arrest sent a message that undocumented immigrants, even those qualified for DACA, dare not speak out, tell their stories in public, and expose what is going on.
Other DREAMers have also been seized. A man in Washington state who came to the U.S. as a seven-year-old is facing deportation because ICE claims he associated as a youth with gang members (the man denied ever being involved in a gang). A 22-year-old man in the LA area with no criminal record was grabbed by ICE, and for 10 days, his attorney couldn’t find where he was being detained. A 19-year-old Honduran art student, Josue Romero, with a work permit through DACA, was arrested by San Antonio, Texas, police for marijuana possession as he was leaving a park where he’d been skateboarding. He was turned over to ICE agents and taken to a detention prison. Romero said the ICE agents told him “within the next week I would be flying to Honduras... even when I asked about DACA, they told me there was nothing I could do, that there were no second chances with Trump.” (See “ICE Agents Arrest ‘DREAMer’ After She Speaks at a Press Conference.”)
New Policy Toward Refugees from Central America: Depravity Barely Describes It
“Women and children crossing together illegally into the United States could be separated by U.S. authorities under a proposal being considered by the Department of Homeland Security, according to three government officials. Part of the reason for the proposal is to deter mothers from migrating to the United States with their children, said the officials, who have been briefed on the proposal.” (Reuters. March 4, 2017)
This is but a glimpse of the internal day-to-day operation of the Trump/Pence regime’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as they turn depravity into policy. The plan being developed would end the policy of releasing from detention/custody and allowing mothers with children to remain in the U.S. while they await their court hearing to challenge their deportation or have their application for asylum heard before a U.S. immigration judge. Under the new guidelines, according to Reuters, parents would be separated from their children by forcing the parents to remain in custody the entire time while they contest their deportation, or await an asylum hearing. The children would be held until they can be taken care of by a U.S. relative, or a state-sponsored guardian.
The Obama administration deported record numbers of immigrants. But, in the face of global outrage over the situation of young refugees fleeing terrible crime and violence in Central America, Obama implemented the Central American Minors (CAM) in-country refugee processing policy that provided some minimal recourse for these children and their families (for background see “‘Outsourcing’ Deportation Back to Hell”). The CAM policy was suspended by one of Trump’s early executive orders.
And in late February, DHS Secretary John Kelly ordered immigration agents to deport or criminally prosecute parents who facilitate the illegal smuggling of their children. This criminalizes the very act of procuring whatever assistance one can to make the dangerous journey from Central America to seek asylum in the U.S.
Exploitation, Demonization, Deportation of Immigrants Is Foundational to the USA
From the earliest days of the USA, in addition to extracting colossal wealth from the enslavement of African peoples, the rulers of this country have subjected wave after wave of immigrants to extreme exploitation. In the current era of globalization, the U.S. has literally plundered the world, bringing in immigrants to do the most dangerous and low-paying work in sweatshops, construction, and corporate agriculture, as well as robbing countries like India and Pakistan of skilled professionals in medicine, technology, and other realms. And based on its position atop a world of exploitation, much of humanity’s scientific, cultural, and academic resources are concentrated in the U.S., requiring people from around the world who want to engage in these realms to come here to study or work.
At different times, concessions have been made to struggles for immigrants’ rights, and moves to integrate some immigrants, at some level, into U.S. society. In juggling the contradiction between the need for immigrants and the need to maintain immigrants in an oppressed state, the Obama administration made some concessions (like DACA) while at the same time deporting a record three million people.
Lines Being Crossed
But now, the Trump/Pence fascist regime is taking things to a whole new, unprecedented, and extremely ominous level. Trump has demonized immigrants. There is an intensifying climate where xenophobes and racists feel emboldened to attack immigrants—witness the murder of an Indian-American tech worker in Olathe, Kansas, by a man who shouted, “Get out of my country.”
Trump has declared he will take the “handcuffs” off ICE agents. He describes roundups of immigrants as a “military operation.” Lines are being crossed. High-profile arrests of DACA youths... staking out churches to seize human beings seeking shelter from the cold... grabbing people who are appearing in court on matters unrelated to any accusations of crimes or their immigration status... demanding of people arriving in New York from a flight from San Francisco, “Show us your papers”... ripping children from their mothers who have made the horrific journey from Guatemala, El Salvador, or Honduras seeking asylum...
And executive orders and memos from the Trump/Pence regime signal more drastic escalation of the war on immigrants. Trump has threatened to cut off funding for cities that are sanctuary communities, and his Secretary of Homeland Security, General John Kelly, is calling for hiring 15,000 more Border Patrol and ICE agents, and much more tightly integrating local police into rounding up immigrants. Escalating the scale of deportation to the level of ethnic cleansing—including deporting people to countries like Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador where many will face certain death—has genocidal implications.
All this crosses into new territory that is a hallmark of fascist regimes, where anyone, anytime, for any reason, is required to prove to authorities they have a legal right to carry out normal, everyday activities. A society where those who cannot produce “papers” are living in an increasingly untenable situation, caught between persecution and demonization here and deportation to lands where they may have no connections or means of survival. And where expressions of outrage and resistance are met with brutal repression. A society where everyone not directly under siege becomes passively or actively complicit, and the whole culture and climate of society goes dark.
You will see this, from the new call by Refuse Fascism, again and again at revcom.us because it is real and needs to be urgently confronted and acted on:
Fascism is not just a gross combination of horrific reactionary policies. It is a qualitative change in how society is governed. Fascism foments and relies on xenophobic nationalism, racism, misogyny, and the aggressive re-institution of oppressive “traditional values.” In Trump’s election campaign he encouraged and fed on the threat and use of violence to build a movement and come to power. In his inaugural address he pledged allegiance only to this movement. What is crucial to understand is that once in power fascism essentially eliminates traditional democratic rights.
Even as the Trump/Pence Regime is moving fast, they have not yet fully consolidated their regime, or, as yet, been able to implement their full program. But, this is their objective and it is very possible. It might only take a single serious crisis—international or domestic—for this regime to drop the hammer. We do not have much time.
It is in that light that the escalating assault on immigrants needs to be resisted by everyone in society with a heart and a conscience. That resistance needs to be strengthened. And more than that, the Trump/Pence regime must be driven from office.
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