The Sub-Text of Trump’s Immigration Policy: Indiscriminate Damage, Both Direct and Collateral

Kelly, Oil on Masonite, 16" x 18.5", Richard J. Van Wagoner, Circa 1968, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**

NOTE: I wrote a version of this two months after Mr. Trump’s inauguration. I have updated it only sightly. The damage “will be felt for generations.” But negotiating with a terrorist would only reinforce his strategies, strengthen his resolve and result in greater harm and human suffering.

Trump’s prowess is on full display. His war on undocumented immigrants continues. He’s taking on an enemy closer to his size, that real threat to the security and economy of the United States: vulnerable undocumented immigrants, the effects of which default substantially to undocumented women, teenagers, children, toddlers, infants. Borrowing a chapter from Ted Cruz, whose ignorance of the United States military doctrine itself was on full display during his failed presidential campaign, Trump’s declaration of war on undocumented immigrants is the equivalent of indiscriminate carpet-bombing, where the collateral damage, whatever its scope, is of no consequence, at least to Trump. Why? It might get him something, a wall, which he cares about only because he wants to diminish his impotence among his base. His negotiating strategy was to create an active hostage situation that would end only with Congress giving in to the terrorist’s demands, paying ransom. So picking on someone smaller, much less powerful than himself gives him an angle, finally, to get a “1” in his win column. Hey, a win’s a win! Will the moral outrage get him that wall?

Love Thy Neighbor, Woodcut, 12" x 24", Richard J Van Wagoner, Circa 1970, Courtesy Van Wagoner Family Trust**

I have no problem with deploying the finite resources of ICE and DHS to rid the United States of that small percentage of undocumented immigrants who are actual threats to our health and safety or national security, a strategy at least as complex to develop and deploy as that for defeating ISIS. Trump has, however, rolled back the prior administration’s prioritizing enforcement against immigrants who pose a threat to safety or national security. Conscripting state and local law enforcement to assist, Trump targets virtually any undocumented immigrant as a priority for removal.

Let’s examine some of the collateral damage his carpet-bombing campaign is causing and decide whether this is really who we are and want to be. Undocumented women are particularly vulnerable to abuse and extortion of every measure. The following is taken from an article authored by Amanda Baran, the former Principal Director of Immigration Policy at the Department of Homeland Security, where she co-founded the Department’s Council on Combating Violence Against Women. She said it well.

Immigrant victims of violence do not trust law enforcement. Some studies indicate that immigrant victims are afraid to call the police or access shelter, courts, or other resources for fear of being deported. Abusers often threaten their victims with deportation in order to further the cycle of abuse, power, and control, making it even scarier for individuals to seek help or protection.

In a world where all immigrants are priorities for removal and state and local law enforcement are expanding partnerships with ICE, these victims will be even less likely to seek protection, for themselves or their children. Stories of victims being picked up at courthouses or other safe spaces will increase this chilling effect, and in particular, transgender women of color, may be more reticent to access services because of fear of the institutionalized transphobia that exists within the justice system.

Undocumented women are the lifeblood of our workforce. Many of these women provide care and other services that make our lives comfortable.
Undocumented women take care of our children, harvest our crops, and look after our aging parents. These jobs are difficult, pay low wages, and workers are often left vulnerable to exploitation, some staying trapped in situations where wages are withheld or where they endure abusive work relationships because they are threatened with deportation.

In fact, a study published by the National Domestic Workers Alliance found that 85 percent of undocumented domestic workers who faced problems with their working conditions did not complain because they feared their immigration status would be used against them.

The new enforcement paradigm set forth by the Trump administration will exacerbate this problem and drive immigrant women workers further underground.

Since the advent of the executive orders, undocumented mothers, many who have been here for decades, are facing the very real possibility that they will be swept up in the new administration’s indiscriminate net of enforcement.

Earlier [in February], ICE deported Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, an undocumented immigrant who was convicted in 2008 for using a false Social Security number. Since her conviction, Guadalupe had been raising her two U.S. citizen children and checking in faithfully with ICE, complying with all their requirements. At her last meeting with ICE, she was detained and deported within 24 hours, simply because under the Trump executive order she was now an enforcement priority.

The Migration Policy Institute estimates that 4.1 million U.S. citizen children live in “mixed-status” families — households where at least one parent is undocumented.

Thus millions of children, like Guadalupe’s, are facing a future without a mother. And mothers are facing the prospect of being ripped from their children’s lives. The long-term impacts of this interruption of the mother-child relationship will be felt for generations. Donald Trump’s immigration executive orders purport to make our communities safer. But how are we safer when a child-care provider fears reporting an abusive employer to authorities? How are we safer when a mother is separated from her children? How are we safer when a victim of violence is more afraid to seek services and protection than to remain in an abusive situation?

The truth is, we are not. If abusers are not held accountable for their actions and families are separated, all our communities suffer. And if all our communities suffer, our nation is that much poorer for it.

*My brother the very talented fiction writer and novelist, Robert Hodgson Van Wagoner, deserves considerable credit for offering both substantive and technical suggestions to

*My daughter Angela Moore, a professional photographer, photographed nearly 500 pieces of my father’s work. On behalf of the Van Wagoner Family Trust, she is in the process of compiling a collection of his art work. The photographs of my father’s art reproduced in are hers

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