On July 1, President Trump said he’d increase deportations of undocumented immigrants, starting after the Fourth of July.
This led to widespread advice to people perhaps vulnerable to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, called ICE: “Lock your doors” and demand search warrants.
On July 12, “Lights for Liberty” events occurred nationwide. Protesters consider activities of ICE truly chilling. Reports of roundups began on July 14. And on July 22, President Trump said that his administration would expand fast-track deportations and strengthen ICE.
Roundups and deportations have occurred before in the United States. This country, for example, did roundups and deportations roughly a century ago, but the circumstances were much different.
Between 1919 and 1921, U.S. Attorney General Alexander Mitchell Palmer and his Department of Justice joined with Immigration and Naturalization Services in rounding up somewhere between 3,000 and 10,000 suspected Communists, Socialists and anarchists (estimates vary) in 33 cities.
J. Edgar Hoover was in charge of the Justice Department’s Bureau of Intelligence. Eight cities had suffered bombings. One bomb damaged Attorney General Palmer’s home in Washington, D.C.
Over 550 people rounded up in the “Palmer Raids” got deported. These nearly century-old deportations occurred as part of the “red scare.” Views of Communists and Socialists struck the powers-that-be as too radical to be permitted.
Now it’s undocumented immigrants who face deportation, and some Americans fear this is part of a “brown scare.”
Unfortunately, President Trump’s undisciplined tweets are helping fuel fear that racism is providing some of the current impetus for deportations. He’s attacking four congresswomen — Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib — whom he considers too radical. Collectively, the four have been dubbed “the Squad.”
Some pundits theorize that Trump’s anti-Squad Twitterfests are a diversionary tactic: Get the media to focus attention on his Squad-taunting. The more time the media spends on Trump’s rants against the four congresswomen, the less time it will have to spend on, say, Trump’s relationship with billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, who’s in jail awaiting trial on charges of sex crimes with under-aged females, or on Robert Mueller’s appearance on Capitol Hill.
But the primary problem with Trump’s anti-Squad tweets is that they add weight to the viewpoint that President Trump is a racist. Of all the vile categories used to separate people into groups that are acceptable or unacceptable, race is one of the most pernicious, if not the most pernicious.
Rank-ordering of the most vile forms of discrimination is not the goal here. Clearly, discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity goes against the grain of the American ideal, an ideal that is still unachieved and perhaps undergoing setbacks as a result of Trump’s rhetoric.
Trump’s undisciplined use of Twitter included his telling the four congresswomen to “go back” to their countries. He tweeted on July 14:
So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly......— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2019
....and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2019
....it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2019
Three of the four congresswomen were born here. Ilhan Omar, from Somalia, became a citizen in 2000. The U.S. Constitution requires that representatives have “been seven Years a Citizen of the United States.”
On July 16, the House of Representatives passed a “RESOLUTION Condemning President Trump’s racist comments directed at Members of Congress.”
It contains 16 “whereas” clauses, with statements on immigration that include “immigration of people from all over the Earth has defined every stage of American history” and “the commitment to immigration and asylum has been not a partisan cause but a powerful national value that has infused the work of many Presidents.”
The resolution also invokes former presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Franklin D. Roosevelt and John Kennedy, with Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton included for good measure.
The resolution declares that “ the Founders conceived America as a haven of refuge for people fleeing from religious and political persecution....”
But what about President Trump? According to the resolution, “President Donald Trump’s racist comments have legitimized fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color.”
Pointedly, the resolution ends by saying that it “strongly condemns” his “referring to immigrants and asylum seekers as ‘invaders.’” And it emphasized and condemned the factual errors made by the president when he said that “immigrants, and those who may look to the President like immigrants, should ‘go back’ to other countries” and that “Members of Congress who are immigrants (or those of our colleagues who are wrongly assumed to be immigrants) do not belong in Congress or in the United States of America.”
Four Republicans joined the Democrats for a vote of 240 to 187 in favor of the resolution. Did this stop Trump’s attacks on the Squad? Of course not. The next day, July 17, he called the Squad members out by name at a rally in Greenville, North Carolina. He drilled down a laundry list of things he said Rep. Omar did.
Among other things, he said she “smeared U.S. service members involved in Blackhawk Down,” said that Al-Quaida made her “proud,” and “blamed the United States for the crisis in Venezuela.”
After he told the crowd that “Omar has a history of launching vicious anti-Semitic screeds,” he then stood silent for 13 seconds while the crowd chanted “send her back.”
Later, Trump falsely claimed he tried to stop the chanting, although the video was there to set the record straight.
Did the House resolution at least slow down Trump’s Twitterfest against the Squad? Not a bit. On July 21, he tweeted:
I don’t believe the four Congresswomen are capable of loving our Country. They should apologize to America (and Israel) for the horrible (hateful) things they have said. They are destroying the Democrat Party, but are weak & insecure people who can never destroy our great Nation!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 21, 2019
On July 22, he doubled down, tweeting:
The “Squad” is a very Racist group of troublemakers who are young, inexperienced, and not very smart. They are pulling the once great Democrat Party far left, and were against humanitarian aid at the Border...And are now against ICE and Homeland Security. So bad for our Country!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 22, 2019
This “not very smart” comment echoes his “low IQ” comment about African-American Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who chairs the House Financial Services Committee.
Roughly a year ago, on July 24, 2018, Trump said, “Instead of supporting our ICE officers, many of these Democrat politicians who are, really, disciples of a very low IQ person, Maxine Waters, and perhaps even worse, Nancy Pelosi, they’ve launched vicious smears on the brave men and women who defend our communities.”
The next day, Rep. Waters corrected the record, saying: “I’ve never said a word about abolishing ICE.” But she has criticized separating children from their families.
Oh, my. To help solve our immigration problem and improve racial relations, we need a big-hearted, fact-loving genius for president — preferably one who eschews Twitter.
Sandy Davidson, Ph.D., J.D., teaches communications law at the MU School of Journalism.