Nativism Watch

Trump welcomes anti-immigrant groups, begins implementing their agenda

Lindsay Schubiner • Jan 25, 2017
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Today Donald Trump announced two executive orders implementing draconian policies targeting immigrant communities. Many of these policies appear to be ripped from the pages of platforms promoted by extremist anti-immigrant groups that have gained a strong foothold in Trump’s administration

Trump is not even bothering to hide his association with these groups. While announcing today’s executive orders, Trump spoke at length about activists affiliated with anti-immigrant group The Remembrance Project, some of whom were in attendance. This includes The Remembrance Project’s co-founder Maria Espinoza, who stood behind Trump during today’s executive order signing ceremony.

Read more: Nativists at the White House

The Remembrance Project takes real stories from victims of crime and their families and disingenuously uses them to spread fear of immigrants. The group paints entire immigrant communities as criminal in order to promote fear based on racialized stereotypes and foment nativist sentiment. The Remembrance Project has accepted significant funding from U.S., Inc. the foundation of John Tanton, a white nationalist and founder of the organized anti-immigrant movement.

Maria Espinoza, co-founder of The Remembrance Project, stands second from the right as Trump signs an executive order on immigration

Providing a platform for members of the organized anti-immigrant movement is hardly new for Trump, who fêted The Remembrance Project at the Republican National Convention and has recruited to his Administration several of the movement’s prominent leaders and allies, such as Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL).

As Trump begins to dictate policy in the first week of his term, he is providing nativist organizations with the opportunity to turn their wildest dreams into a disturbing reality.

In his executive order on interior immigration enforcement Trump mandates the creation of a new office to provide services for victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, long a priority of The Remembrance Project. The group proposed a similar policy in a letter to all GOP candidates last year. The new office would only serve this particular group of victims, turning assistance into a political weapon against immigrants as a whole. (A national office for victims of crime already exists.)

The executive order includes other policies that extremist anti-immigrant groups have advocated, such as the reinstitution of the problematic Secure Communities program, cutting federal funding to so-called sanctuary jurisdictions, and aggressive interior enforcement.

In Trump’s executive order on border issues, he called for the construction of a border wall using language (such as “operational control” of the border, a wildly unrealistic standard) favored by anti-immigrant groups. His order included other policies that anti-immigrant groups have specifically called for, such as prioritizing dangerous 287(g) immigration enforcement policies, mandatory detention for immigrants in custody at the border, including vulnerable populations such as children and pregnant women (Trump refers to this as ending “catch-and-release” policies, dehumanizing language used by nativist groups), and making it significantly more difficult for asylum seekers to remain safe in the U.S.

It remains to be seen which aspects of Trump’s orders will in fact be implemented, given significant legal and practical barriers.

In response to the executive orders signed today, the Center for New Community’s executive director Terri Johnson said, “The actions of the Trump administration are deplorable. Taking advice from known anti-immigrant figures and, worse, implementing the deeply dangerous policies they promote is intolerable. Draconian interior immigration enforcement measures, building a wall along the border, denying asylum to people seeking safety, and deputizing local police to target immigrants are all part of policy platforms promoted by anti-immigrant groups.”

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