Wednesday, January 31, 2018


J. Keppler cartoon, Puck Magazine, January 11, 1893. Title: "Looking Backward"

I was on KGET 17 News' Sunrise edition this morning with Cathy Abernathy, discussing Donald Trump's State of the Union address.

While I made a couple of points about Trump taking credit for an economy he had nothing to do with (like a rooster taking credit for the sun coming up) and discussed his "extortion-like" immigration plan, I wasn't able to elaborate further because our time had been gobbled up by the station's decision to discuss last night's Full Moon before we appeared.

Below are the points I wanted to discuss, which includes some of the things we need to understand about Donald Trump's immigration plan. In a few words, his proposed immigration plan is a disaster for American ideals.

As I pointed out on air, what the Trump administration is proposing is akin to having "a flower in one hand, and a sledgehammer in the other." It says, "We'll let in a million-plus Dreamers, but only if you give us a border wall, establish a 'merit' based immigration system (abolishing our current visa program as we know it), and end the chain migration policies that brought millions of migrants to America during the 19th and 20th centuries."

In effect, Trump is dangling 1.8 million "paths to citizenship" to DACA recipients and other "meritorious" groups, but then slamming the door. In exchange, the Trump administration wants a free hand to scapegoat and create a climate of fear so they can pursue scary brown people.

This is not negotiation. It's hostage taking.

Simply stated, the Trump administration is using Dreamers as leverage to extort, from congressional Democrats, a set of fear-drenched immigration policies. These policies will supercharge law enforcement and create a hostile environment for "suspicious looking" immigrants, which has already started happening. Think about what has transpired over the past year.

We have Border Patrol agents climbing on to buses in Florida, asking people about their immigration and citizenship status (they were after a Jamaican grandmother). Motel 6 routinely gave guest names and information to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials in Arizona. The Michigan story of landscaper Jorge Garcia being deported, after marrying and years of raising a law abiding family, made national news. Then we have the Kern County story - outlined in our documentary, American Migrant Stories - of a female adult who was a legal refugee. She was married to a U.S. citizen, and had a small child. She was arrested during one of her weekly check-ins last year, and subsequently deported.

While all of these stories are important because none of them involved the "bad hombres" Trump said he would be looking for, there's another angle here that overshadows the human interest element. Bluntly speaking, they tell us that America is already on the path towards becoming a police state, where "your papers, please" will become a common refrain if Trump gets his way.

How this happens is rather interesting, and disturbing. And it starts with the 4-point immigration plan Trump presented in last night's State of the Union address.

Trump's plan begins with the "flower" of putting up to 1.8 million undocumented immigrants on a path towards citizenship. Then comes the sledgehammer, that's built around a twisted sense of "merit." There's an education requirement. There's a work requirement. There's a morality clause (it's not new, it's effectively DACA 2.0).

You might be saying, "Well, what's wrong with this? We should have some standards."

The reality is, if we had had these requirements 100 years ago, Donald Trump's grandfather would never have been allowed to stay in the United States, after he was refused repatriation back to his native Germany (people forget that Trump' brothel running grandfather was no moral pillar of society, and was not welcome in Germany). If these guidelines had been in place when the families of Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) came to America, they might not be here either.

How draconian is the plan? Take one of the tests that Republicans proposed last year, and see if you could could get into the country. Seriously, click here and take the test. Then ask yourself if your ancestors could have made it to America under the proposed guidelines.

And for those of you crying about living in a terror-filled world, and how we need to protect ourselves from all the scariness, all I have to say is grow up. You stand a greater chance of being hit by lightening, winning the lottery, or being killed by a deranged (white) gunman in America than you do of being involved in a terror-related attack.

In a few words, Trump's State of the Union address was full of lies and distortions. The worst part of it, if we're reading the tea leaves correctly, is that it included an immigration plan that speaks more to fear mongering and Trump's desire to create a police state than it did to pathways towards citizenship, or America's better angels.

If we're being honest with ourselves, we should acknowledge Trump's immigration plan for what it is. It's a blueprint for an ethno-nationalist American security state, that does little to speak to the noble ideas that helped build America into the nation many now see slipping away.

- Mark

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