Originally Published on HuffPost.
Juan Escalante,HuffPost Opinion•December 26, 2018
To mark the end of 2018, we asked writers to revisit some of the year’s most noteworthy (for good or evil) events, people and ideas. See the other entries herebetween now and the new year.
Donald Trump is doing exactly what he promised to do back when he kicked off his presidential campaign in 2015. In this, his second year of office, the president’s sick and deranged racist fantasies came to life through his xenophobic policies and the rise of his deportation force. And for immigrants, 2018 can be summed up in just one word: fear.
(Of course, the president said and did plenty of other horrendous things to immigrants prior to 2018 ― e.g., the Muslim travel ban of 2017 ― but this year Trump’s racist policies became front and center on a whole new level.)
The year kicked off with a congressional fight over three pieces of legislation designed to address the future of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals beneficiaries, commonly referred to as Dreamers. One of those bills was Trump’s xenophobic wish list, which included a “border wall and an end to the visa lottery system and family-based migration that Trump calls chain migration.”
Republicans overwhelmingly rejected the bill, which was ultimately defeated by significant margins, thus handing the president and his administration an embarrassing defeat. The other two legislative proposals failed because Democrats and immigration advocates couldn’t agree on whether to pass a “clean” Dream Act, which would’ve done nothing to address Republican demands, or a more moderate bill that would protect Dreamers... in exchange for $25 billion in funding for border security and the construction of Trump’s racist border wall, plus prohibit green card holders from sponsoring their adult children.
With Dreamers left in the cold by Congress yet again, the Trump administration wreaked havoc on immigrant and refugee communities across the U.S. The Republican anti-immigrant agenda sped up in 2018 as tens of thousands of people with temporary protected status (immigrants who live in the U.S. due to circumstances that make their home country “unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately,” including Haitians, Salvadorans and Hondurans) saw that status terminated by the Trump administration. They’re now on a sure pathway toward deportation unless legislation or court rulings protect them.
Immigrants without criminal records also found themselves in Trump’s sights in 2018. This year, immigrants the federal government previously deemed “low priority” for deportation were suddenly being picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents despite not having a criminal record. Even born U.S. citizens fell victim to the “unshackled” practices of ICE and local police forces.
Ordinary civilians weren’t the only ones terrorized by Trump and the GOP in 2018. Local and state governments continuously found themselves at odds with the federal government’s ruthlessness toward immigrants and other vulnerable minorities. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf took to local news stations earlier this year to alert residents of ICE activity in the area ― a move that earned her the scorn of the White House, with Trump urging the Department of Justice to consider prosecuting her.
In this, his second year of office, the president’s sick and deranged racist fantasies have come to life through his xenophobic policies and the rise of his deportation force.
And if that doesn’t strike you as retaliatory behavior from a taxpayer-funded law enforcement agency, then take note of how ICE and the Department of Homeland Security have retaliated against New Jersey in recent weeks. ICE activity across the Garden State has increased significantly after the state’s new Democratic attorney general directed state law enforcement to limit cooperation with the federal agency.
It’s impossible to ignore the effect that immigration raids had on local communities in 2018. Last summer, immigration enforcement agencies cranked their activity all the way up as local communities and the federal government bent over backward to deal with the consequences of Trump’s deportation force. In August, the small town of O’Neil in rural Nebraska had to open its public elementary school doors as a sanctuary to anyone who needed it in response to an immigration raid that affected 60 to 80 families. Those people ― parents of young children, their lives disrupted by Trump’s anti-immigrant crusade ― could’ve just as easily been your neighbors, your friends or even me, your friendly HuffPost columnist.