The Deep Roots of Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Policies

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Donald Trump speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference on February 10, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Gage Skidmore / Flickr) The last week of January began with the Supreme Court’s conservative majority allowing the Trump administration’s bid to exclude poor immigrants from entering the United States, denying green cards to anyone deemed “likely” to use a wide array of public benefits, to go into effect. It ended with Trump extending his travel restrictions, which began as a Muslim ban in 2017, to six more countries: Myanmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Sudan, Tanzania, and, most consequentially, Nigeria, whose people Trump once worried would never “go back to their huts” if they came to the United States. Nearly a quarter of Africa’s population is now estimated to face restrictions on US immigration visas. You perhaps missed all of that thanks to the lead-up to the Iowa caucus, impeachment, and the coronavirus outbreak. But after years of attacks on asylum seekers and undocumented people, and political fights to “build the wall,” this represents among Trump’s most consequential and brutal attacks on legal immigration. As with the entirety of Trump’s war on immigrants, this expansive interpretation of the “public charge” rule is both a cruel innovation and also very old, rooted in a long history of racist anti-immigrant policies that, in this particular case, dates to 1882. The travel ban, by contrast, is new in its method but, like the public charge rule, old in its intention: using immigration law to shape racial demographics, attempting […]

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