By Bill Mefford
Though I definitely do not recommend this, I have been getting in a lot of “conversations” with trump followers on various social media platforms lately. It is a walk on the dumb side, but if you feel so inclined just watch an hour of Fox News prime time and you will hear every talking point you will need to refute the ridiculous arguments that are being made to support the most ridiculous of leaders and the worst of policies. They are not working with a lot of creativity.
So, to save you the excruciating pain of having to actually watch Fox News prime time I am sharing below some of the arguments I keep coming across and a few ways to respond, and I am focusing on the latest idiotic and inhumane administrative rule to be handed down: the public charge rule. This rule would allow the Department of Homeland Security to bar legal immigrants from obtaining green cards if they receive certain government benefits. The goal of this administration is and has always been to stop the inevitable browning of America through limiting all forms of immigration.
And let me say from the outset, I believe it is far better to engage people who believe differently about these issues with a missiological and relational approach than with an attempt to out-argue people. No one wins these kinds of arguments first of all. Further, statistics and logic do not sway people who do not use either. Relationships are far more transformative. So, as I normally do, I strongly encourage you to invite those who operate from a position of fear to enter into safe spaces with people directly impacted by injustice so that even the possibility of incarnation can begin to happen. That is the only means I have seen to truly bring about authentic transformation.
But if that cannot happen - and especially if creating those spaces for people who are driven by fear would bring any kind of harm to people directly impacted by injustice (whose safety is our top priority), here are some common arguments I have seen that are entirely specious and baseless:
trump is simply enforcing the law. The truth is that every past administration has enforced the law. Under George W. Bush DHS initiated mass workplace raids (remember the devastating Postville raid in Iowa in 2008 to kick them all off?) and President Obama became known as the “Deporter-in-Chief” for deporting well over 2 million immigrants. Militarization of the Southern border has long been US policy as this helpful article points out and in 2015, if I remember correctly, well before trump came into office, there was more money poured into militarizing the border than all federal money spent on law enforcement combined. It was something around $18 billion! Lastly, why in the hell would past administrations NOT enforce the law? As much as I admit having to say this, what political gains has any politician made by not enforcing the law? No one - not a single politician - has ever run on a platform of being soft on national security or soft on crime. That is simply ludicrous to say trump is the first guy to “enforce the law.”
The truth is that what makes this administration far more dangerous to the immigrant community is that they are applying zero priorities to enforcing the law - every thing to them is a priority. They are playing whack-a-mole with a sledge hammer rather than intelligently applying the law when it makes the most sense and where resources can have the greatest impact. In other words, they are treating an undocumented grandmother who has been in the US for decades the same as someone who has committed serious crimes and has been in the country for six months.
Take for instance the Mississippi ICE raids where they rounded up nearly 700 undocumented immigrants, all on the first day of school. As a result, children came home to parentless homes. What makes this especially incompetent and cruel is that ICE eventually released 300 parents to go home to care for their kids. Why did they arrest them at all if they were going to release them? They knew who they were arresting and what their situations were so they arrested 300 people for no other reason than to inflict fear and terror in the lives of parents and especially their children. This is not law enforcement. This is state-sponsored terror.
trump is just doing what “Obama, Bush, Clinton (or fill in whatever name you want)” did. Whether it is kids in cages, instituting family separation as policy, mass workplace raids, zeroing out the number of refugees allowed in, purging legal residents from crucial social services, or any other cruel and heartless (as well as ineffective) policy you want to mention, a trump follower always names someone else who did it first. Their constant fallback is to blame someone else. For someone who lives to brand himself and who loves to claim how terrific he is, he is incredibly unoriginal. No matter what it is, if there is any critique to be made, then it must be laid at the feet of someone else. Pathetic.
The truth is that it is much more nuanced than some would prefer. And nuance does not play well with trump or his mindless followers. Yes, families were separated briefly under President Obama, but they stopped this practice when there was push back from immigrant communities and their allies. And yes, there were mass raids under Bush, but ICE made adjustments and scaled down the raids, especially after there was such bad press. In other words, past administrations have done awful things, but they have been willing to pull back if not only for the sake of PR. This administration knows no shame. Literally. And what differentiates this administration from all others is that they have yet to meet an inhumane and incompetent idea they didn’t want to enforce.
No administration has combined kids in cages, family separations, administrative rules restricting the number of refugees allowed in, mass raids, and the demonizing rhetoric coming from the White House like this administration has. Don’t allow yourself to get pulled into talking about one policy isolated from the others like the public charge rule. Bring up all of the other policies, some of which I just listed, for it is the sum of whole and not just one part of it that we must see. There is no administration as committed to state-sponsored terror like this one. No one.
trump isn’t against legal immigration, just “illegal” immigration. OK, I have been as nice as I can. This is total and complete bullshit. And the reasoning behind public charge rule, the attempt to completely stop all refugees from entering, and the numerous incompetent attempts to stop Muslims in particular from entering, all goes to prove that trump is not focused on undocumented immigrants - they hate ALL immigrants. All of this emanates from the sadistic mind of Stephen Miller, the White House staffer voted the staffer America would most like to beat up. Miller and trump think alike in as far as they think at all. They know the country is changing; it is browning. And in their devotion to white supremacy they do not like it. At all. Not only do they enjoy being cruel to immigrants, they have an end in mind; to stop people of color from entering the United States. Thus, we must call this - and them - what they are and what it is: white supremacy.
Once again, I do not encourage you to enter into online conversations with trump backers, but when you see something that is clearly baseless, we should all be willing to point it out, no matter how uncomfortable it makes those around us feel, including ourselves. The truth will indeed win out unless it is never spoken.