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Unlike Obama, Trump’s administration was not complicated in the least when it comes to its impact on undocumented immigrants and refugees. The Trump administration was all-around devastating to immigrants, refugee seekers, the Latinx community, and all immigrants and people of color. From the very beginning of his political limelight, Trump consistently harmed immigrants and asylum seekers with policy and rhetoric. In this first view of the Trump administration, we will focus on the harmful impacts of his hateful rhetoric.
Trump’s infamous wall may be the perfect embodiment of his presidency: big promises that he failed to deliver on, lack of common sense, detrimental diplomacy, division, and of course, hate. Though unauthorized immigration from Mexico has been declining in recent years, one of his first campaign promises was to build a large wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and increase border security to keep out Mexican immigrants. Adding insult to injury was his declaration that the country of Mexico would pay for the wall.
Today, the wall is unfinished. The rhetoric around building a wall served no other purpose than to create division and to gain popularity among those who fear an ‘invasion’ from the southern border. It was a concrete metaphor, solidifying to his supporters that America is for Americans and that Mexicans -and immigrants in general- are unworthy of being here. Unfortunately, that hateful rhetoric was successful in attracting supporters.
The day that Donald Trump announced he would be running for President, he stated that Mexico sent its worst people to the United States. Referring to Mexican immigrants he said “they’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” This hateful language about immigrants and people of color set the tone for his entire presidency. Between tweets and rallies, Trump made countless hateful and racist remarks about Black Lives Matter activists, Asian Americans, Muslims and many others throughout his time in office.
Deportation defense attorney with Polanco Law Firm, Marty Rosenbluth stresses that “Trump’s racism and xenophobia and anti-immigrant tirades had effects way beyond people getting deported, let’s not underplay the violence against immigrants that Trump unleashed.” Similarly, Ilsia Muñiz, DOJ Accredited Representative with Immigrant Connection, mentions that having a President who spoke so negatively about immigrants has been one of the most harmful practices. “I believe the harm has set us much further back than we were from achieving justice for immigrants.”
The hateful language Trump used negatively impacted immigrants and people of color in ways that are nearly impossible to calculate. Ilsia Muñiz adds that “the administration not only normalized the mistreatment of immigrants, but severely impacted the mental health of immigrants living in the US.” Ivan Segura from the SC Commission for Minority Affairs, shares that once Trump got elected, cases of bullying in South Carolina schools were noticeably higher and many of the cases were based on racism and colorism.
Though we will never fully capture the negative effects of this discrimination in a scientific way, the physical and more tangible impacts are somewhat easier to measure. Donald Trump’s presidency has correlated with an increase in hate crimes or a crime motivated by the victim’s ethnicity, race, gender expression, and/or sexual orientation. For example, his hate speech around the Coronavirus inspired attacks on the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in the United States, including a racially motivated mass shooting in Atlanta. According to a study from the University of North Texas, counties that hosted a Trump rally in 2016 had a 226% increase in reported hate crimes compared to counties that did not host a rally.
Words matter, especially if those words are coming from someone with power. The mistreatment and marginalization of immigrants is nothing new. But the outright xenophobic language used by Trump emboldened racists to dust off their explicit, out-loud racism and proudly put it on display. Trump gave them permission to say the things they always wanted to say. Immigrants bearing the brunt of this violence will have lasting harmful effects on our community.