Donald Trump’s first 100 days have been widely perceived as a failure. That’s to be expected for a president who, apart from being a blight on humanity, has historically low approval ratings, a string of high-profile legislative and judicial defeats to his name, and has flipped-flopped on many of his campaign promises.
All of these things are true. Trump’s cruelty has often been thwarted by his incompetence. He has proven to be about as loyal to a string of supposedly cherished objectives as he has been to his wives. Yet there is one thing Trump has never wavered on: his racism and his hatred of immigrants. It’s driving some of his most vicious—and, so far, viciously effective—policies.
It’s sometimes easy to forget, amidst fights over health care, bombings of Syria, and idiocy about basic American history, that Trump’s core political commitment has always been to white nationalism. He is so erratic, and the mania piles up so quickly, that we can lose sight of just how disciplined he has been in his racism.
It’s not an accident that the most chillingly electrifying moment of his very first campaign speech was the slander of Mexicans as “rapists.” It’s not an accident that the first major act of his presidency was an attempt to ban Muslims from American shores—or that he was so besotted with the idea that he tried to do it two different times. It’s not an accident that, even as the press has been filled with stories about a war between his key advisers over huge swaths of political terrain, none of them report any serious ideological fallout over issues of race or immigration. And it’s not an accident that so many of those key advisers—from chief strategist Steve Bannon to Attorney General Jeff Sessions to top aide Stephen Miller—speak about demographic change in America with the clash-of-civilizations fervor seen in so many far-right and fascist Europeans.
Based on all available evidence, Trump is with them every step of the way. No matter how loosely he may think about any other policies, he is dead-set on targeting and terrorizing immigrants and people of color.
Let’s take just one example: the actions of the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. Trump has radically broadened the number of undocumented immigrants considered “high priorities” for deportation. ICE, which had a lot of practice deporting record numbers of people under Barack Obama, has responded with eager enthusiasm at Trump’s desire to outdo his predecessor.
The results have been instantaneous. The number of deportations of immigrants with no criminal records has doubled. The Guardian recently reported that “more than 90% of removal proceedings initiated in the first two months of the Trump administration have been against people who have committed no crime at all other than to be living in the country without permission.”
A mother in Ohio with no criminal record who has lived in the U.S. for decades is being torn from her children. A father in California was yanked away by ICE in front of the daughter he was bringing to school.
Agents have been arresting immigrants inside courthouses. People are being detained when they show up to apply for green cards, or when they go to previously scheduled check-ins with ICE. Young people ostensibly protected under the federal DACA program are still finding themselves targeted.
Naturally, this has caused a great deal of fear and anxiety for people. The numbers of immigrants reporting sexual assault and domestic violence, or trying to access basic social services, has dropped all over the country, thanks to worries that any contact with the government could lead to deportation.
The administration has also gone out of its way to portray undocumented immigrants as a uniquely maligning force in America. Jeff Sessions has ordered federal prosecutors to spend more time rooting them out. The White House has tried—so far without much success—to target sanctuary cities that won’t cooperate with immigration authorities.
Just this week, ICE set up a special hotline where people could receive information about crimes committed by “removable criminal aliens” in the country. The hotline has run into some major difficulties, but that it was launched at all tells you all you need to know.
The president conducting a racist, ruthless, and deliberate campaign against immigrants has not risen to the top of the mainstream news agenda with any frequency. Nor has it become a core theme of the media’s 100 days coverage. For instance, a CNN deep-dive into Trump’s tenure released Friday, with contributions from 22 of the network’s top political journalists, makes no mention of it, and barely any mention of immigration at all. And coverage of the thwarted Muslim ban has mostly focused on its “botched” rollout, rather than the poison at its heart.
The Associated Press’s Julie Pace recently conducted a lengthy interview with Trump about his first 100 days. His deportation record never came up, beyond a question or two about DACA recipients. Pace also allowed Trump to falsely claim that his deportation squads are only targeting “hard-line criminals.”
This kind of approach is not acceptable. Trump is carrying out a project of white supremacy. His administration is united behind him. That should count for much, much more than it has so far in judging his presidency.