The Sub-Text of Trump's Immigration Policy: Indiscriminate Collateral Damage
Love Thy Neighbor, Woodcut, 12" x 24", Richard J Van Wagoner, Circa 1970, Courtesy Van Wagoner Family Trust**
But First, Bad Week Recap
In the midst of its disassembly, the Administrative State hasn't had the best of weeks. Weeks can't all be great. The reprieve was welcome, in any event, after all that winning. Plus we now need to catch our collective breath after the FBI's Comey testified about the Bureau’s targets of investigations and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence's Nunes violated his Oath of Office by serving two masters.
Now we have it on fairly credible authority that campaigners and White Housers are wiping clean their phones. Thank god for encrypted apps. For some of the ensnared, the cover-up could be worse than any crime because it may suggest knowledge or some lower-level complicity. For others the gravity of the crime would likely far outstrip any effort to hide it. In the hierarchy of crimes, Article 2, Section 4 of the Constitution is a good place to start. Bribery, Treason, other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.
Parenthetically, no one whose duty it is to serve as an independent check on conflicts of interest seems to care much about "emoluments," which remain front and center. As for that one, Mr. Chaffetz, how about doing your f*#&ing job. Was this an oversight?
In his dress rehearsal for the real challenges ahead, our deal-maker-in-chief displayed his unparalleled negotiating skills in pushing through his promised repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act. He took on the ominous task of facing down the House majority, that same majority having voted scores of times already to repeal Obamacare. As it turns out all those House votes to repeal the ACA and Trump's campaign promises to make it "something terrific," "better," "cheaper," with "insurance for everybody,” were frothy bluster with less substance and structure than methane. Anyone with even a scintilla of self-respect has come to trust that virtually everything that emanates from his orifices and fingertips is, semi-euphemistically speaking, vapor without substance but the pong of a fart. I learned in kindergarten those were called lies. And that it was impolite to pass gas in public.
For Trump, the content of the bill was of no concern. Indeed, the bill's catastrophic impact on millions of Americans mattered not at all. There were chest-thumping bragging rights to be garnered and displayed, and one’s name to be attached to the “repeal” of Obamacare. Any content would do, so long as the bill’s name allowed it to be spun in the proper direction. Astute observers familiar with the master’s negotiating prowess could only nod when he caved to the Freedom Caucus. Who needed a health care bill that provided health care, anyway? But it still wasn’t enough to please anyone.
Massive tax overhaul.
The Executive Orders targeting Muslims haven't gone so well. We'll see what the courts do with what appear to me flagrant violations of the Establishment Clause, among other problems.
Destroying ISIS. The centerpiece of his foreign policy was to waste no time demolishing the Islamic State. His plan (he had a plan, he blustered, but wouldn’t share it because putting ISIS on notice like that would be stupid) was “very real,” “very good,” “foolproof,” “absolute.” Instead, he issued his January 28 Order that military leaders submit their "plan for soundly and quickly defeating ISIS" within 30 days. Oops. He had no plan—very real, very good, foolproof, absolute or otherwise—except what he cryptically shared during his campaign which constitutes war crimes: Indiscriminate bombing, keeping the spoils, killing families of militants. He negotiated with his military leaders to extend that deadline, indefinitely.
Trump’s prowess is, however, on full display. His war on undocumented immigrants continues. He’s taking on an enemy closer to his size, that real threat to the security and economy of the United States: vulnerable undocumented immigrants, the effects of which default substantially to undocumented women and children. Borrowing a chapter from Ted Cruz, whose ignorance of the United States military doctrine itself was on full display during his failed presidential campaign, Trump's declaration of war on undocumented immigrants is the equivalent of indiscriminate carpet-bombing, where the collateral damage, whatever its scope, is of no consequence, at least to Trump. He is not required to negotiate with anyone. So picking on someone smaller, much less powerful than himself gives him an angle, finally, to get a “1” in his win column. Hey, a win's a win!
Renee and the Red Car, Watercolor, "21 x 28", Richard J Van Wagoner, Circa 1980, Courtesy Van Wagoner Family Trust**
I have no problem with deploying the finite resources of ICE and DHS to rid the United States of that small percentage of undocumented immigrants who are actual threats to our health and safety or national security, a strategy at least as complex to develop and deploy as that for defeating ISIS. Trump has, however, rolled back the prior administration’s prioritizing enforcement against immigrants who pose a threat to safety or national security. Conscripting state and local law enforcement to assist, Trump targets virtually any undocumented immigrant as a priority for removal.
Let’s examine some of the collateral damage his carpet-bombing campaign is causing and decide whether this is really who we are and want to be. It should come as no surprise that victims of the collateral damage of Trump’s carpet-bombing immigration policy are primarily, but by no means exclusively, vulnerable women and children.
Undocumented women are particularly vulnerable to abuse and extortion of every measure. The following is taken from an article authored by Amanda Baran, the former Principal Director of Immigration Policy at the Department of Homeland Security, where she co-founded the Department’s Council on Combating Violence Against Women. She said it well.
"Immigrant victims of violence do not trust law enforcement. Some studies indicate that immigrant victims are afraid to call the police or access shelter, courts, or other resources for fear of being deported. Abusers often threaten their victims with deportation in order to further the cycle of abuse, power, and control, making it even scarier for individuals to seek help or protection.
In a world where all immigrants are priorities for removal and state and local law enforcement are expanding partnerships with ICE, these victims will be even less likely to seek protection, for themselves or their children. Stories of victims being picked up at courthouses or other safe spaces will increase this chilling effect, and in particular, transgender women of color, may be more reticent to access services because of fear of the institutionalized transphobia that exists within the justice system.
Undocumented women are the lifeblood of our workforce. Many of these women provide care and other services that make our lives comfortable.
Undocumented women take care of our children, harvest our crops, and look after our aging parents. These jobs are difficult, pay low wages, and workers are often left vulnerable to exploitation, some staying trapped in situations where wages are withheld or where they endure abusive work relationships because they are threatened with deportation.
In fact, a study published by the National Domestic Workers Alliance found that 85 percent of undocumented domestic workers who faced problems with their working conditions did not complain because they feared their immigration status would be used against them.
The new enforcement paradigm set forth by the Trump administration will exacerbate this problem and drive immigrant women workers further underground.
Since the advent of the executive orders, undocumented mothers, many who have been here for decades, are facing the very real possibility that they will be swept up in the new administration’s indiscriminate net of enforcement.
Earlier [in February], ICE deported Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, an undocumented immigrant who was convicted in 2008 for using a false Social Security number. Since her conviction, Guadalupe had been raising her two U.S. citizen children and checking in faithfully with ICE, complying with all their requirements. At her last meeting with ICE, she was detained and deported within 24 hours, simply because under the Trump executive order she was now an enforcement priority.
The Migration Policy Institute estimates that 4.1 million U.S. citizen children live in “mixed-status” families — households where at least one parent is undocumented.
Kelly, Oil on Masonite, 16" x 18.5", Richard J. Van Wagoner, Circa 1968, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust (this painting was not part of Amanda Baran's article)**
Thus millions of children, like Guadalupe’s, are facing a future without a mother. And mothers are facing the prospect of being ripped from their children’s lives. The long-term impacts of this interruption of the mother-child relationship will be felt for generations. Donald Trump’s immigration executive orders purport to make our communities safer. But how are we safer when a child-care provider fears reporting an abusive employer to authorities? How are we safer when a mother is separated from her children? How are we safer when a victim of violence is more afraid to seek services and protection than to remain in an abusive situation?
The truth is, we are not. If abusers are not held accountable for their actions and families are separated, all our communities suffer. And if all our communities suffer, our nation is that much poorer for it.
*My brother the fiction writer and novelist, Robert Hodgson Van Wagoner, deserves considerable credit for offering both substantive and technical suggestions to lastamendment.com
**My daughter Angela Moore, a professional photographer, photographed nearly 500 pieces of my father's work. On behalf of the Van Wagoner Family Trust, she is in the process of compiling a collection of his art work. The photographs of my father's art reproduced in lastamendment.com are hers