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Resisting the US’s racist president

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As Donald Trump dramatically escalates his dangerous racist rhetoric and his vicious assaults on migrants, Alistair Farrow spoke to activists in the US about what they’re doing to resist
Issue 2664
Activists are taking on Donald Trumps attacks on migrants
Activists are taking on Donald Trump’s attacks on migrants

Donald Trump’s racist filth is at fever pitch. He is now launching openly racist attacks on his political opponents in Congress, calling on them to “go home”.

And his war against migrants and refugees is steaming ahead on multiple fronts. This means militarising the US’s southern border, hunting down undocumented migrants, and overcrowding prisons with people fleeing violence or searching for a better life.

The most recent attack is the administration’s latest attempt to deny people asylum. It means that people will not be able to claim asylum in the US if they have passed through another country without trying to claim asylum there first.

The move will deny tens of thousands of people the right to come to the US legally. The new legislation is illegal under international law.


Those affected are often fleeing the proxy wars of the US, or the attacks of regimes backed to the hilt by the US such as in Honduras.

It will mean that people will increasingly seek to find dangerous illegal routes into the US. It will mean more people will die.

“So-called ‘deterrence’ policies don’t work—rather, they put asylum seekers in grave danger,” said Spencer Tilger from the Immigration Equality NGO.

“Denying them refuge in the US will lead to the increased use of high-risk migration routes, and those forced to apply for asylum in third countries like Mexico or Guatemala will also be at risk.”

There are many more examples of the deadly consequences of forcing people to take more dangerous routes.

It feels like every time every time he goes down a level, people here get more alarmed

In June Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his daughter Valeria drowned while trying to cross the Rio Grande river from Mexico to the US. They were fleeing El Salvador, where the US waged a “dirty war” in the 1980s that continues to shape politics there today.

Children have died in detention and frozen to death under bridges, and thousands more people have died trying to cross the border.

Trump has turned the US’s southern border into a killing ground. Even for the racist cesspit that is mainstream US politics, the latest assaults are a new low.

“It feels like every time every time he goes down a level, people here get more alarmed,” migrants’ rights activist Alicia told Socialist Worker.


Yet there is no telling what depths Trump will plumb.

He has consistently stuck with racism as the primary method of mobilising his supporters. Now with the 2020 presidential elections edging closer, he is ratcheting it up.

Alicia argued that Trump has polarised US politics. “When Trump has his rallies it mobilises his base,” she said. “Trump’s real agenda is to terrorise and terrify.”

A large part of that agenda, which has seen children torn away from their parents, has been profit. These are boom times for the industries associated with the migrant detention.

Immediately after Trump’s election his racist attorney general Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance policy” on undocumented migrants.

Welcome to America: our vicious border controls just got nastier
Welcome to America: our vicious border controls just got nastier
  Read More

This meant more Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) agents, more Border Patrol guards, and more funding for private prisons. It has also meant a slackening of already lax regulations—easing restrictions on detaining asylum seekers in prisons, for instance.

The private prison companies that backed Trump’s campaign, and shelled out hundreds of thousands for his inauguration celebrations, have seen their stocks skyrocket.

The good news is that people are resisting the onslaught.

Trump wanted to get Ice agents to conduct a targeted series of raids in June. Public outrage pushed him back.

Then Ice announced it would be targeting 2,000 undocumented migrants in ten cities across the US from Sunday of last week.

Migrants rights activists protested across the country last week against the crackdown. They effectively blocked Ice operations, with few of the planned raids taking place.

Protests took place in up to 800 towns and cities on Friday 12 July. They were called under the banner of Lights For Liberty, which had the support of the Women’s March and other organisations with strong backing from the Democratic Party.


But the burgeoning migrants’ rights movement is more than just a vehicle for mainstream political forces to cover their left flank.

“When I saw there was nothing organised in LA, I created it,” activist Jessica Craven told Socialist Worker. “I knew that other people would join in. Before I knew it we put a meeting together. In the end 4,000 people came out for the protest.

“We held the protest in front of the Metropolitan Detention Centre. This is where migrants are moved when they are first arrested, where they are held with other prisoners. Then they’re moved to other migrant detention centres.

“The centre is next to the Ice headquarters in LA, so they were shut down as well—we were happy about that.”

The protests didn’t end on the Friday, but continued into the next week and beyond. A wide spread of migrants’ rights groups, human rights organisations and socialist parties were behind the protests.

This is too urgent to ignore. We are taking bold direct action

In Washington DC, up to a hundred people blocked all the entrances to the Ice headquarters on Tuesday.

“This is too urgent to ignore. We are taking bold direct action,” said one Never Again activist in a live broadcast from the headquarters.

“We are calling on our elected officials to do the same, because all they’ve done so far is to give more money to Ice, to the Border Patrol and to detention centres.

“All Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic establishment has done is help this crisis continue.

“We are taking action now to say no. This has gone on far too long.


“We have reached new heights of cruelty and inhumane treatment of immigrants under Trump. But the inhumane treatment of immigrants started far before Trump.

“The process of dehumanisation takes years to build. It was taking place under the Obama administration, which deported 3 million people.”

In Denver, Colorado, last Thursday a Never Again Action protested outside the federal building in the city to call on the state’s governor to take a position on the migrant crisis.

“With children detained in unacceptable conditions, raids targeting our communities, and people dying at the border while seeking safety in the US, we are seeing the signs of a mass atrocity,” said a statement from the group. “We refuse to wait and see what happens next.”

In the space of a few days, protesters have mounted a serious challenge to an arm of the state’s repression machine.

It’s a new example to point to—and one which doesn’t involve simply calling on Democratic politicians to pass laws or to make statements.

Children in cages is business as usual

Five year-old children are being held in cages at Border Patrol facilities. Diseases such as scabies, chickenpox and shingles are increasingly common.

Some detention centres designed to hold 125 people are being used to imprison over 900.

In June the Department for Homeland Security’s own inspectorate said, “Border Patrol agents told us some of the detainees had been held in standing-room-only conditions for days or weeks.”

This is what Trump’s migrant crisis looks like.

Overcrowding such as this is the horrific inevitability of treating migrants and refugees as criminals

It’s a common refrain from politicians and officials that the conditions at the centres are because of a sudden influx of people. But the Border Patrol leadership knew about the conditions for months before the news came out. Its own staff had raised the alarm.

Taking aim at those who do most to defend migrants

Ilhan Omar has borne the brunt of Donald Trumps racist rhetoric
Ilhan Omar has borne the brunt of Donald Trump’s racist rhetoric (Pic: Leopaltik1242/Wikimedia commons)

Trump is singling out a group of left wing politicians from ethnic minorities to attack personally. They are Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib.

Over the weekend of 13 and 14 July Trump tweeted that the group of four women should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

He doubled down on 15 July and said, “These are people that hate our country. They hate it, I think, with a passion.”

Of the four Democratic members of congress Trump singles out, one comes under attack more than the others—Ilhan Omar.

This is because Omar wears the headscarf, and because she is the one of the four that is a migrant. It is because she is on the left of the Democrats, and because she is an outspoken critic of the Israeli state and backs the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

Trump made this clear in a speech on 17 July in North Carolina.

“Omar has a history of vicious antisemitic screeds,” he said, presumably referring to Omar’s criticism of the state of Israel. Trump wants to deflect criticism of his racism by smearing his opponents, in this case as antisemitic.

The crowds of his supporters assembled at the rally chanted, “Send her back” repeatedly. Trump let this happen uninterrupted, contrary to his later claims.


Omar and others strike a different tone to the established leadership of the Democratic party represented by Nancy Pelosi. This will see important arguments in the run up to the 2020 presidential election over questions such as migrant rights.

Yet there is also disagreement on the left of the Democrats over the extent to which the party should tack left.

For instance, left wing candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are, at best, equivocal over their position over Israel. That puts them to the right of Ilhan Omar on the question.

It means they do not come running to her defence when she is attacked by both Trump and Pelosi over the question of her support for BDS.

Many commentators have said the North Carolina rally marks a definitive shift in Trump’s politics.

Trump’s rallies are deeply racist and aggressively nationalistic events. Previously his supporters at the rallies have called for the deportation of migrants and screamed for the border wall. Trump and his supporters have also previously called for his opponents to be locked up.

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