Dr. Alon Ben-Meira
Since entering office, Trump proposed or implemented policies against immigration which run contrary to the US’s history as a country made up of immigrants. Initially Trump called for massive deportations to “remov[e] the millions of illegal aliens” from the US “as fast as they come in.” To stop illegal immigration, Trump insisted on building a wall along the Mexican border that so far has cost over $11 billion, regardless of the fact that such a physical wall will not stop a determined migrant from entering the US—in fact, most undocumented people in the US are those who overstayed their visas (typically traveling by plane), not those crossing the southern border (700,000 visa overstays in 2017, versus 300,000 crossing the Mexican border, which was also a record low).
To inflict severe pain on immigrants, in May 2018 Trump instructed the separation of more than 2,500 children from their parents, who were held in cages unfit to domestic animals. In January 2020, the Trump administration further expanded its “Muslim ban”, targeting in particular people of color. Furthermore, he refused to provide a path for citizenship to nearly 800,000 DACA recipients and to the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants, the majority of whom have been living in America for decades with children born in the US. Finally, he insisted that asylum seekers should remain in Mexico while stopping pregnant women from entering the US to prevent them from giving birth on American soil, which would automatically make the newly born child an American citizen.
What Trump has sadly forgotten is that this country was built by immigrants from all over the world. Millions of immigrants came to the US to realize the American dream, from the workers who built America’s railroads to the millions who today farm American land, the tens of thousands of scientists, artists, and writers, and many others from all walks of life that have made far-reaching contributions to the advancement of America, which made the country the forerunner in just about every field of endeavor.
It is the tradition of generally welcoming and embracing these immigrants that made America great in the first place, but leave it to Trump to stop the flow of immigrants in the name of making America great again, when in fact his immigration policy is depriving the US from attracting the talents needed to sustain America’s greatness.
Violating human rights
Human rights violations under Trump have crossed many red lines, raising serious questions about the US’ commitment to human rights, an area that America has historically championed the world over. Trump’s violations of human rights are too long to numerate; it will suffice to mention only a few to demonstrate the seriousness of these offenses. To begin with, in June 2018 Trump withdrew the US from the UN Human Rights Council, the world’s most important human rights body, in protest of its frequent criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
He worked to roll back protections for LGBTQ individuals. One of his first acts as president was to revoke Obama’s transgender student guidance for schools; not long after, he declared that transgender people could no longer serve in the military. His administration on the whole generally refuses to recognize gender identity as a protected class under the Civil Rights Act, and particularly Title VII.
Human rights violations are also manifested in the behavior of police officers and immigration agents toward minority and vulnerable populations, influenced by how Trump addresses these transgressions. As of April 30, police reportedly shot and killed 1004 people in the US over the past year. Black Americans are shot at a disproportionate rate – twice the rate of white Americans, while only making up 13 percent of the population. He has endorsed police brutality, and his enthusiastic pardon of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of criminal contempt related to his treatment of immigrants, highlights his vicious streak.
More than 2,500 children were forcibly separated from their parents at the US border by Customs and Border Patrol, under an explicit Trump policy. Staff of the Office of Refugee Resettlement was found to be giving psychotropic medication – sometimes forcibly – to migrant children at a Texas facility.
Human rights abuses, however, are not limited to deliberate acts that violate any individual’s given rights. Millions of American children going to sleep hungry, inaccessibility of medical treatment, homelessness, inequity in pay, and racial discrimination are all human rights violations, which Trump has only aggravated because of his policies. Indeed, no matter how many times he repeats his empty slogan of making America great again, the precise opposite is occurring.
Violating women’s rights
As a womanizer and adulterer, Trump has shown little respect for women, treating them as second-class citizens at best. Trump ended an Obama-era rule that required companies with more than 100 employees to report how much workers are paid by race and gender, which was intended to close both gender and race wage gaps through greater transparency in pay.
Trump does not believe that women have the right to determine their own reproductive plans or family planning, and his administration even called for the elimination of discussion of sexual and reproductive health from United Nations documents. His administration claims that the terms promote abortion, saying “there is no international right to an abortion.” In this regard the US was joined by Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen, Egypt, Libya, and others—all infamous for their attitudes against women.
Trump reinstated the Global Gag Rule, which prevents international aid groups that receive US funding from even educating people about safe abortion. Clinics must make the impossible choice of giving safe and accurate information to their clients but lose US funding, which makes it extremely difficult to keep operating clinics and providing services; or keep US funding but deny essential services to the communities they serve. However, in this regard, Trump simply followed precedent, as the Global Gag Rule is repealed under Democratic presidents and reinstated under Republican presidents.
For a President who brags about making America great again, exhibiting this much disrespect and disregard for more than 50 percent of the population is a return to the medieval era which certainly defies greatness—a legacy that Trump is cursed to live with.
Dr. Alon Ben-Meira regular contributor of Blitz is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.
Opinion expressed in this article are of the author.