A few weeks ago, Trump tweeted that he will quickly deport millions of undocumented immigrants from this country. “They will be removed as fast as they come in,” he barked. Will that happen? Immigrants and asylum seekers will definitely continue to be terrorized and demonized. The arrests, deportations and workplace raids won’t stop.
Trump is now promising to arrest thousands — not millions — of migrant families in surprise roundups across big U.S. cities. That’s more doable for his re-election campaign. At any rate, he loves “triggering the libs” and provoking the anger of big-city Democratic elected officials and activist “snowflakes” who love the alien, brown hordes and despise the regular, white, real Americans.
How far can he go? Trump knows that immigrant labor is a source of enormous profit for American employers. According to the U.S. Labor Department, a majority of the nation’s agricultural workforce is undocumented. Many other industries are dependent upon immigrant labor such as restaurants, retail establishments, meatpacking, healthcare, hotels, building services and some construction trades.
What Trump really wants to do is create a cowering “permanent underclass,” argues Maximilian Alvarez and William Lopez in a brilliant essay in In These Times:
“It is a documented fact that, rather than leave their jobs when the threat of raids and deportations looms large, undocumented workers will subject themselves — out of fear and necessity — to greater exploitation, wage theft and precariousness. Employers, in turn, will seize on the ‘opportunity’ to squeeze as much surplus value out of workers under the coercive threat of destroying their lives and families with one phone call. From bosses and managers to law enforcement to citizens with a grudge, anyone with even a modicum of power will continue to internalize and regularize the fact that they can leverage state-sanctioned terror to exploit, assault and shake down our most vulnerable neighbors, classmates and coworkers.”
Mary Bauer of the Southern Poverty Law Center said Trump is pursuing, “a deliberate strategy of unmitigated, unrelenting cruelty toward people of color who dare to seek asylum in our country.”
A team of lawyers visited a Border Patrol station in Clint, Texas, and found hundreds of children in wretched conditions. Isaac Chotiner of The New Yorker wrote: “The conditions the lawyers found were shocking: flu and lice outbreaks were going untreated, and children were filthy, sleeping on cold floors, and taking care of one another because of the lack of attention from guards. Some of them had been in the facility for weeks.”
The Homeland Security Department’s Office of the Inspector General (the internal watchdog) warned about “dangerous overcrowding” in Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol facilities. These conditions represent “an immediate risk to the health and safety” of border agents and those detained.
The report said migrants experienced prolonged detention without proper food, hygiene or laundry facilities — some for more than a month. Hundreds of children were held for longer than 72 hours. In some cases, kids were held for more than two weeks. Some adults were kept in standing-room-only cells, without access to showers, for more than a week.
ProPublica investigative reporter A.C. Thompson has revealed the existence of secret Facebook pages on which current and former Border Patrol agents joked about the deaths of migrants, discussed throwing burritos at Latino members of Congress visiting a detention facility and posted a photoshopped picture of Trump forcing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to perform oral sex on him. As we delve into the Trumpian heart of darkness, should we wonder if we are in a “pre-fascist” time?
Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole says that we are. Last year, he argued that Trump is conducting “trial runs for fascism” and “test, marketing for barbarism.” O’Toole said “putting babies in cages” was such a test.” He wrote:
“Fascism doesn’t arise suddenly in an existing democracy. It is not easy to get people to give up their ideas of freedom and civility. You have to do trial runs that, if they are done well, serve two purposes.They get people used to something they may initially recoil from; and they allow you to refine and calibrate. This is what is happening now and we would be fools not to see it.”
He says you prepare people for fascism by rigging elections such as happened in the victory of Trump and the Brexit referendum in 2016. There is the development of a propaganda machine, which provides “alternative facts.” But O’Toole says the next step is much more difficult:
“You have to undermine moral boundaries, inure people to the acceptance of acts of extreme cruelty. Like hounds, people have to be blooded. They have to be given the taste for savagery. Fascism does this by building up the sense of threat from a despised out-group. This allows the members of that group to be dehumanised. Once that has been achieved, you can gradually up the ante, working through the stages from breaking windows to extermination.”
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.