President Donald Trump plunges his administration into chaos every chance he gets. Yet he has remained consistent on one front: waging an increasingly destructive war against immigrants in the United States.
Over the past couple of weeks, it has become even more clear just how far Trump and friends are willing to go to erode our nation’s values, destroy immigrant families and attack politicians who defy the White House’s mass-deportation agenda. Insults and intimidation from federal officials remain at the forefront of Trump’s arsenal, but a different tool in their fight against immigrants has been revealed in recent days: lying.
Last week, our anti-immigrant attorney general, Jeff Sessions, traveled to California to engage, once again, in the increasingly volatile tit for tat the Golden State and the Trump administration have had on immigration.
Sessions was not in California to talk over policy with elected officials. Instead, he announced that the Department of Justice intended to sue the state over what it had determined to be the “insubordination of California lawmakers and what [Sessions’] called the dangerous obstruction of federal immigration laws.”
This vindictive attack on one of our nation’s most diverse and pro-immigrant states adds up to nothing more than a political stunt, but Sessions’ lawsuit arrived just days after Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf went on local television to warn residents of local Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids.
The results of Schaaf’s actions were predictable. Thomas Homan, the dangerous acting ICE director, threw a hissy fit in the media and blamed Schaaf’s actions for his agents failing to arrest an estimated 800 undocumented immigrants who were targets for possible deportation.
However, it appears that is not exactly what transpired. One of ICE’s spokespeople recently resigned after he could no longer stomach the exaggerations that his bosses were pushing him to disseminate.
“I quit because I didn’t want to perpetuate misleading facts,” James Schwab told the San Francisco Chronicle. Schwab added, “I told them that the information was wrong, they asked me to deflect, and I didn’t agree with that. Then I took some time and I quit.”
Schwab said ICE was unwilling to correct the claim that immigration agents were unable to nab 800 immigrants, a figure Schwab argued was far lower. He added that the claim that these immigrants were “public safety threats” was false. Schwab said he felt unconformable about “fabricating the truth” and about his instructions to deflect questions from reporters. Realizing that his employer would not address his concerns, he resigned.
“ICE and DHS are currently undergoing a drastic culture change to justify Trump’s aggressive attacks against immigrant communities.”
This is an incredibly revealing development within the nation’s immigration enforcement agency, and it illustrates that ICE and the Department of Homeland Security are currently undergoing a drastic culture change to justify Trump’s aggressive attacks against immigrant communities. We are no longer a “nation of immigrants” in the eyes of the Trump administration, remember?
I guess that California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) was right to describe the Trump administration as being “full of liars.”
Here is why all of this should matter to you.
Right now, Congress is debating the federal budget, and the Trump administration is frothing at the mouth over the idea of obtaining money for additional ICE and Customs and Border Protection agents, the “beautiful” and racist border wall, and extra beds within private immigration detention centers.
That means that your tax money could be going toward the incarceration and deportation of immigrants like Felix Garcia, a loving father and valued community member in Georgia. Garcia, like many of the immigrants ICE is currently targeting, has no criminal record ― and now stands to lose his livelihood in the United States and not see his eldest daughter graduate from medical school.
It also means that we could see Trump’s out-of-control immigration enforcement force expand. Just a couple of days ago, the Senate voted to move forward the confirmation of Kevin McAleenan, likely the next head of CBP.
“We’ve been lied to at least once ― what will keep these agencies from lying to us again?”
With McAleenan as acting commissioner, CBP oversaw the detention of Rosamaria Hernandez, a 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy seeking an emergency surgery in Texas last year. We have already witnessed what ICE under the direction of Homan looks like, so we can only expect to see similar behavior from CBP under McAleenan ― who will have jurisdiction over 200 million Americans and possibly continue his agency’s disturbing practices of raiding trains and buses.
All of these threads tie up to a single and common theme: We cannot take our eyes off of Trump or his deportation force. Not even for a second.
To do so would be to give a free pass to Trump to inflict harm on the lives of aspiring Americans while repudiating policies that would enrich our country. We’ve been lied to at least once ― what will keep these agencies from lying to us again?
Just as we call our elected officials to demand action on immigration, gun control, health care and other critical issues facing our country, we must also demand that they hold the agencies they fund with our tax dollars accountable. So just as you pick up the phone to fight for or against that bill, remember to also ask your members of Congress to defund an agency that, in the words of The Washington Post’s Molly Roberts, acts as an “immigrant disposal system.”
If you believe that the phrase “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is more than just words politicians toss around to make us feel warm and fuzzy about our country, then you need to help us speak out against all of the injustices that ICE, CBP and other government agencies commit on a daily basis. If you work for one of these agencies, just as Schwab once did, then you have a duty and responsibility to report misconduct by your colleagues.
Otherwise, expect your newspapers and social media feeds to fill up with more stories of mothers and daughters being detained in separate detention centers, more fathers like Garcia being prepped for deportation, and people dying trying to flee immigration agents. Is this really how we make our country “great again”?
Juan Escalante is an immigrant advocate and online strategist who has been fighting for the Dream Act and pro-immigration policies at all levels of government for the past 10 years.