Trump Administration Can’t Get Its Message Straight on Immigration Crackdown

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Listening to the various members of the administration of President Donald Trump speak about immigration policy is enough to make your head spin. At the end of the day, what matters is what actually happens on the ground, not what Trump administration officials say in the media. And that reality is just as ugly now as it was when Trump took office.


Any time an administration wants to enact some type of draconian federal policy, it creates, and then heightens the fear level over that issue. Think Richard Nixon’s (and the various succession of presidents after him) war on drugs and then the war on terror.

In 2017, while Trump hasn’t yet explicitly called his immigration crackdown a “war on immigrants,” in reality that’s exactly what it is. But officials can’t explicitly say this, so they’re caught up in delivering a jumbled message.

This tactic of creating a common “enemy,” and then stirring fear among the population is exactly how starting a war on [insert perceived threat here] works. With Trump, it started with a failed Muslim ban that was squashed by the courts and rejected by overwhelming nationwide outrage.

Coupled with that was a crackdown on undocumented immigrants under the guise of “getting rid of the bad guys.” The continued narrative being pushed by the White House this week clearly is designed to link undocumented immigrants of Latinx heritage to gangs, particularly MS-13.

Earlier this week, Trump tweeted the following, buttressing his argument with several similar public statements:


To say the information in this tweet is misleading is an understatement. Trump accused former President Barack Obama of allowing MS-13 to “form in cities across the U.S.,” which frankly is a lie. MS-13 and other gangs like it were formed in the U.S. in the 1980s, and then exported back to Central American countries like El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Trump was off by about three decades with his comment, and in the wrong direction of migration flow.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions went on Fox News’ Justice with Judge Jeanine this week and echoed the same talking point: Dangerous gangs have infiltrated the U.S. and threaten our existence; therefore, our harsh immigration crackdown is justified. It’s the same thing Sessions is doing on sanctuary cities by misstating the truth and over-exaggerating the crime threat.


But the problem is that it’s not just dangerous criminals who are being targeted—law-abiding members of the community, mothers and fathers with families who have been here for years, and DACA recipients are also being deported, despite what the president and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly say in public.


While Sessions continued his crusade against undocumented immigrants this week, Trump and Kelly were attempting to send a slightly toned-down message. In an interview Friday with The Associated Press, Trump said DACA recipients should “rest easy” and that they would not be targeted for deportation. Trump said his administration is “not after dreamers, we are after the criminals.”

But as Fusion reported this week, a 23-year-old DACA recipient was deported under the Trump administration’s crackdown. And according to Homeland Security statistics, in the first month of Trump’s presidency, his administration deported 43 young immigrants who were formerly DACA beneficiaries.


On Sunday, Kelly echoed those claims on CNN’s State of the Union, saying, “If you are simply here illegally, we don’t have the time to go after you. We are looking for bad men and women.”

He was also asked about recent comments by police chiefs in major U.S. cities with large immigrant populations indicating that the reporting of rape and other sexual assaults has dropped dramatically since Trump’s immigration crackdown. The fear of being deported is real and it’s rational. But Kelly again had a confusing message when you compare his words to reality, where the “get tough” policy actually is making people less safe, according to several police chiefs.


“Yes, they should feel comfortable doing it,” Kelly said, referring to reporting crimes as an undocumented immigrant. That comment followed another suggestion that, “You can report crimes, the 911 process is anonymous.”

Kelly also called it a “duty” to report crimes.


So what are we to make of all of this, and what’s the takeaway? In simple terms, Trump and Kelly are trying to shift and soften the argument, while Sessions is on the crusade of his career. Watching what happens on the ground in your city, your community and your state, is where the truth lies.