Part Two: Administration of Xenophobia

 

In the nearly four years that Trump has been in office, his administration has transformed U.S. immigration at a breakneck pace and governed with an overtly xenophobic posture toward immigrants. In episode two of our audio documentary series “American Mythology,” we chronicle the Trump administration’s war against immigrants from the southern border to the Muslim ban and beyond. Trump has already implemented more than 400 changes to immigration rules and regulations, changes that will impact millions of people. But to portray the extremism of this administration on immigration as an entirely radical departure from decades of policy under Democrats and Republicans is inaccurate. While Trump has wielded his signature cruelty in implementing new policy and has made some far-reaching changes, significant aspects of his policy are rooted in the agendas of his predecessors, from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Trump inherited an already punitive and authoritarian deportation machine constructed by both his Democratic and Republican predecessors and has taken it to new extremes. This episode offers an overview of what has changed and what has remained the same, featuring the voices of lawyers, immigrants, activists, journalists, and others who are on the front lines of the battle over immigrant rights.

Jeremy Scahill: I’m Jeremy Scahill coming to you from New York City, and this is part two of an Intercepted special, “American Mythology: The Presidency of Donald Trump.”

Donald Trump: When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime.They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

JS: Donald Trump ran for president on an often ad-libbed and reactionary campaign of hate, greed, xenophobia, misogyny, and racism. 

DJT: And when I said temporary ban on Muslims, I thought that was the end of my campaign. I didn’t care. I said we have to do something. We have to do something. And my numbers went through the roof. I didn’t know that. 

JS: Trump was the most famous so-called birther, staging publicity stunts purporting to prove that Barack Obama was not actually born in Hawaii, wasn’t a “real” American, and was possibly some sort of Muslim Manchurian Candidate.

DJT: I said, “There may be something on it.” And they asked me, “Like what?” I said, “Well, perhaps because he’s a Muslim, perhaps something.” I mean who knows what’s on it? I don’t know.  

JS: Trump clearly viewed the fact that a Black man had ascended to the presidency as an abomination and rightly assessed that there were a lot of racists who saw the eight years the Obamas spent living in the White House as a crime against the real, white America. 

DJT: I’m very honored to have gotten him to release his long-form birth certificate or whatever it may be. Now, many, many people have questions and very serious questions. I have a deal for the president, a deal that I don’t believe he can refuse and I hope he doesn’t. If Barack Obama opens up and gives his college records and applications and if he gives his passport applications and records —

JS: Back in 2016, Trump already had a brand, he realized early on the power of being an outsider in U.S. presidential elections, and he focused on some key economic issues, including trade, that would play well with people dissatisfied with the two party system’s regular offerings. 

DJT: Mexico is ripping off the United States big, big league. And we’d better do something. But jobs going to China, to Mexico, to Brazil. They’re going everywhere but here. And we’ve lost our manufacturing and we’ve lost our manufacturing base —

JS: But mostly, Trump focused on hate and xenophobia wrapped in the veneer of patriotism.

DJT: Nearly 180,000 illegal immigrants with criminal records ordered deported from our country are tonight roaming free to threaten peaceful citizens. [Crowd boos.] The number of new illegal immigrant families who have crossed the border so far this year already exceeds the entire total from 2015.

JS: In the nearly four years that Trump has been in office, his administration has transformed U.S. immigration at breakneck pace. Within the first five days after his inauguration, Trump issued executive orders to build a wall at the southern border and to hire 10,000 additional immigration officers.

Protester: Is this the America that we believe in? 

Crowd: No. 

Protester: Is this liberty? 

Crowd: No.

Protesters at airport: Go home. Islamophobia has got to go.

Brandi Hitt: Airports have been flooded with protesters angry that the order —

JS: By his seventh day in power, Donald Trump issued an executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.

DJT: I’m establishing new vetting measures to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America.

JS: Vince Warren, the executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, described the confusion and chaos that followed.

Vince Warren: So, we have a scenario where there are executive orders that say one thing. The heads of various administrations are saying another thing. Those are not getting passed down to the rank and file of the people who are responsible for enforcing. They’re not sure what to enforce and what not to. The federal judge says, “Don’t enforce anything.” Some of the agencies are still enforcing it, even though their leaders say that we shouldn’t.

This is the danger of leading by executive order because it’s created so much chaos. Everybody is very confused. And the people that are suffering are the poor people that are coming back to visit their relatives, that are trying to leave the country and don’t know if they’ll ever get back. And they’re put into handcuffs during these types of interrogations.

My assessment is, you know, the Center for Constitutional Rights has been around for 50 years, and for the last 15 we’ve been very deeply in the post-9/11 scenario. And we have been saying for a very long time under George Bush, under Barack Obama, and it’s the same thing under Donald Trump, is that it’s not just the person who is the president that is the ultimate problem — although we have a particularly problematic one these days — it’s the power of the presidency and the power of the executive branch that is the problem.

JS: By February 2017, the Trump administration issued memorandums to increase expedited removal proceedings, expand detention, and broaden who qualifies for priority deportation.

Journalist Aura Bogado described these significant changes in policy between administrations.

Aura Bogado: Under Trump, it is a big shift in policy, in that who is deemed a priority for detention and for deportation has changed. So ICE agents who were somewhat beholden to the Obama administration in the past have much more free reign under Trump. So now, anyone who’s not only been convicted, but done something for which they could be convicted, fall under the category of a person who’s detainable and deportable. And so that’s what we’re seeing now. 

You know, I would say that’s nothing short of a war on immigrants. You can be picked up in your home while you’re hanging out with your family. You can be picked up while leaving a church where you were staying to keep warm. You can be picked up in a hospital while you’re awaiting a life-saving operation for your brain tumor. So there is a shift in priority.

I can definitely critique the Obama administration, but in terms of the tone — and maybe the tone isn’t the correct focus or word here but in terms of the tone and, I think, the hatred, really, with which some of this is being thought out and implemented, is scary. This is different. This is very different.

JS: Around this time Jeff Sessions also assumed office as the U.S. Attorney General. 

Jeff Sessions: The program known as DACA that was effectuated under the Obama administration is being rescinded. I have put in place a zero tolerance policy for illegal entry on our southwest border. If you cross the border unlawfully then we will prosecute you. It’s that simple. If you smuggle illegal aliens across our border then we will prosecute you. If you are smuggling a child then we will prosecute you, and that child may be separated from you as required by law.  

JS: Under the helm of Sessions, we witnessed even more inhumane policies, from rescinding DACA — a program that shielded about 700,000 young undocumented immigrants from deportation — to implementing the so-called zero tolerance policy. 

Under zero tolerance, the Department of Homeland Security began separating thousands of families. 

Lester Holt: Tonight these heartbreaking images from the southern border are sparking growing outrage. Thousands of migrant children being separated from their parents and now newly released audio, you could hear their desperation [child crying] —

JS: According to a report released last year from the Office of the Inspector General, “Without a reliable account of all family relationships, we could not validate the total number of separations, or reunifications.” After public backlash and a court order to stop the practice, the Trump administration initially admitted to separating more than 2,700 children from their parents. But then, under order from the judge, the administration further revealed more children had been taken from their guardians. According to the ACLU the administration has separated more than 4,200 families. But the true number remains unknown and the administration has found loopholes to continue the inhumane practice. 

The Intercept’s Ryan Devereaux said border patrol agents are given a lot of discretion. 

Ryan Devereaux: I spoke to a veteran child care provider who has worked on these issues for 40 years whose organization contracts with ORR, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which takes in a lot of these young people. And she said this is something that she’s been seeing and something that she’s been concerned about. The Border Patrol agents on the ground seem to have a lot of leeway in terms of deciding what happens to the families that they separate. She described the case of a little boy whose father was taken from him, handcuffed in front of him, terrified the kid because he’s running from a country where people with badges and guns and uniforms really are the bad guys. And she said, as far as she can tell, what happened in this situation is that they grabbed the kid, grabbed the dad and they just decided, No, he doesn’t have a credible asylum claim and they quickly moved him out of the country. 

I mean, we’re seeing a lot of that. The government is deporting parents before these organizations that weren’t consulted before this was implemented even have a chance to start the process of reunification. So there’s parents gone in countries, there are kids — I mean, little kids, I’m talking about a six-year-old blind girl separated from her mother, preverbal kids, nonverbal kids, indigenous kids — who suddenly are on their own track, legally, within the system, who are completely overwhelmed and terrified. And they’re basically being asked to navigate their own case as their parents disappear.

JS: From the beginning, Trump’s approach to upending immigration in the country has been met with legal challenges, including on DACA and family separation. While those challenges wind their way through the courts, the Trump administration has also developed a sophisticated strategy of implementing interlocking changes that will be difficult to undo. They will last for years — and administrations — to come. 

Recent analysis from the Migration Policy Institute finds that the administration has adopted more than 400 changes to immigration rules and regulations. They’re using every tool available, from changing language in employee manuals to executive orders and proclamations. These changes are as vast as empowering officers to limit the period visas are valid to ICE and CBP training Guatemalan security forces in immigration enforcement.

Journalist Juan Gonzalez has written several books dealing with the history of US immigration policy. 

Juan Gonzalez: The fascist trend represented by Trump wants to totally reverse immigration policy to, instead of saying, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free — give me your best educated people, who have the most money, who can essentially buy their way into the United States, either as a graduate student working for Silicon Valley.”

They want family reunification out, because that would only allow the already existing working-class migrants who have already become legalized to bring more of their relatives. They want to end that. They want to bring in a whole different type of migration into the United States, and I suspect also increasingly make it a whiter migration.

JS: Trump has been able to leverage the existing immigration enforcement system to push harsh policies that not only aim to deter, but to systematically subject people to uncertainty and cruelty. Policies that stem back to the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act that have accelerated ever since. Trump has built upon the systems created and implemented by his predecessors. 

Bill Clinton: For example, I’ve asked the attorney general to increase those elements of our border patrol strategy that are proving most effective, including the use of helicopters, night-scopes, and all-terrain vehicles. I’ve asked the members of the cabinet to create, for the first time, a national detention and removal plan to dramatically increase the identification and removal of deportable illegal aliens. 

JS: Trump’s cruel policies have been constructed on the foundation laid by President Bill Clinton, who ushered in a new era of border militarization.

Bill Clinton: One of the cornerstones of our fight against illegal immigration is been a “get tough” policy at our borders. We initiated Operation Hold the Line at El Paso. Operation Gatekeeper in San Diego. Operation Safeguard in Arizona. All with one clear intention to secure the southwest border. 

JS: The stated goal was to fortify the border and close off the easiest places for migrants to cross. The massive Clinton-era undertaking increased border patrol personnel and the use of infrared body heat sensors and other surveillance technology. It also saw the construction of miles of fencing.

Clinton laid the groundwork for what we have in place today and ultimately for Trump’s much-hyped border wall dreams.

This “prevention through deterrence” effort did not address reasons people may be fleeing to the U.S.-Mexico border or sway people from coming. Rather it forced people to make more dangerous journeys. According to data from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection — CBP —more than 7,000 people died trying to cross the border in remote locations between the years 1998 and 2017. And those are just the official statistics. Other reporting and advocacy groups say the number is much higher.

Here’s Ryan Devereaux.

Ryan Devereaux: I look at this situation as sort of, as a continuation of a long historical trajectory of immigration enforcement in this country that’s sort of been passed down through multiple generations. You can go back to the Clinton administration. In the mid-90s, a bunch of Border Patrol chiefs and planners within the Pentagon got together and they drew up a plan for how to do enforcement on the border — it was called “prevention through deterrence.” The idea was you would funnel migration flows out of the border city areas and into more remote regions where enforcement would be easier. And that kind of has been the guiding strategy for the last two decades.

George W. Bush: Tonight I’m calling on Congress to provide funding for dramatic improvements in manpower and technology at the border. By the end of 2008 we’ll increase the number of border patrol officers by an additional 6,000. When these new agents are deployed we’ll have more than doubled the size of the Border Patrol during my presidency. At the same time, we’re launching the most technologically advanced border security initiative in American history. We will construct high tech fences in urban corridors and build new patrol roads and barriers in rural areas.

JS: Trump has also utilized and expanded the architecture of repressive agencies created under George W. Bush. Among these—the Department of Homeland Security and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, better known as ICE. 

George W. Bush: Right after the September 11 attacks, I established the Office of Homeland Security in the White House and gave it a critical mission to produce a national strategy for homeland security. And today, I’m sending to Congress our new national strategy for homeland security. This comprehensive plan lays out clear lines of authority and clear responsibilities — responsibilities for federal employees, and for governors, mayors, community business leaders, and the American citizens. With a better picture of those responsibilities all of us can direct money and manpower to meet them.  

JS: In 2005, under Bush, CBP also rolled out the “Consequence Delivery System,” which increased the use of “formal removals” more commonly known as deportations. In other words, no longer were people apprehended by immigration enforcement agents allowed to voluntarily return. Instead people now faced higher consequences, including criminal prosecution and prison, if they returned. 

George W. Bush: This practice called “catch and release” is unacceptable, and we will end it. We’re taking several important steps to meet this goal. We’ve expanded the number of beds in our detention facilities and we will continue to add more. We’ve expedited the legal process to cut the average deportation time.  

JS: Under Bush, more than two million people were formally deported. Under Clinton, the number was roughly 800,000. During Obama’s two terms in office the number of deportations would soar to more than three million. These statistics earned Obama the moniker “Deporter-in-Chief” from immigration rights advocates and activists.

Barack Obama: In the absence of any immigration action from Congress to fix our broken immigration system, what we’ve tried to do is focus our immigration enforcement resources in the right places. So we prioritized border security — putting more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history. Today there are fewer illegal crossings than at any time in the past 40 years. We focus and use discretion about whom to prosecute — focusing on criminals who  endanger our communities rather than students who are earning their education. And today deportation of criminals is up 80 percent. 

JS: Obama would continue to say his administration’s policy was focused on “felons, not families.” But the Marshall Project examined more than 300,000 deportations under Obama. And found that roughly 60 percent of people had no criminal conviction or whose only crime was immigration-related.

BO: The issue is not that people are evading our enforcement officials. The issue is that we’re appending them in large numbers. And we’re working to make sure we have sufficient facilities to detain, house, and process them, appropriately. 

JS: Trump inherited an already punitive and authoritarian deportation machine constructed by both his Democratic and Republican predecessors. In 2014, the Obama administration expanded the use of family detention to deter an increasing number of women and children arriving at the border, including unaccompanied minors.

BO: While we intend to do the right thing by these children, their parents need to know that this is an incredibly dangerous situation. And it is unlikely that their children will be able to stay. And I’ve asked parents across Central America not to put their children in harm’s way. 

JS: While under pressure from immigration rights advocates, Obama did introduce DACA, which was the first form of temporary relief for undocumented immigrants in decades. The Trump administration has steadily sought to undermine, if not eliminate, these minimal protections— leaving hundreds of thousands of Dreamers in limbo. 

Obama focused deportations on recently arrived migrants, and people with criminal records, and gave lower priority to individuals with established roots in the U.S. But Obama’s enforcement strategy set the initial stage for the Trump administration to turn his xenophobic rhetoric into policy. 

DJT: For decades, open borders have allowed drugs and gangs to pour into our most vulnerable communities. They’ve allowed millions of low-wage workers to compete for jobs and wages against the poorest Americans. Most tragically they have caused the loss of many innocent lives. 

JS: By the time Trump entered office he inherited a massive immigration enforcement apparatus — a growing bureaucracy that he would build upon with the help of Congress. Since the implementation of “prevention through deterrence” in the 1990s, border patrol spending has increased from $363 million to more than $4 billion annually.

DJT: In the upcoming omnibus budget bill, Congress must fund the border wall and prohibit grants to sanctuary jurisdictions that threaten the security of our country and the people of our country. We must enforce our laws and protect our people.

JS: Since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2003, ICE’s budget has grown from $3.3 billion to $8.4 billion. The number of immigration enforcement officers has also spiked over the decades, from around 4,000 border patrol agents in the 90s to more than 19,000 in 2019.

DJT: Most importantly, let me extend my gratitude to every law enforcement professional representing ICE and CBC [sic], Enforcement and Removal Operations, Homeland Security Investigations, ICE prosecutors, the Office of Field Operations, Air and Marine Operations, and Border Patrol…

JS: Trump has used this growing immigration apparatus to not only increase the powers of agents to target migrants at the border seeking refuge, but also undocumented immigrants in the U.S. who have long-standing ties in their communities, including children, homes, and businesses. His administration has also taken actions to decrease legal immigration while further narrowing humanitarian relief for refugees and asylum seekers.

In early September of this year, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Trump administration’s termination of TPS, that’s Temporary Protected Status. The decision means that some 300,000 immigrants in the U.S. could be deported — people from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan. People who came to the U.S. after experiencing civil unrest, violence, natural disasters, or other humanitarian crises. Under TPS, one qualifies for deferred deportation and the ability to legally work while remaining in the United States. Many people with TPS status have been in the U.S. for years, some of them decades, building a life here. Congress and past administrations have not rectified this to create pathways for TPS holders to apply for green cards or citizenship. Many of them say that going back to their country of origin is not safe or viable. 

That’s what Yanira Arias told us in 2018 when Trump announced ending TPS for Salvadorans.

Yanira Arias: The United States has a big responsibility in how — in the shape of El Salvador, currently.

The amount of money that the U.S. government sent to the government of El Salvador back in the ’70s and the ’80s did a lot of damage to the public infrastructure, to our economy. And over a million people migrated outside of El Salvador because of the war. Remember between 1985 and 1990, 334,000 Salvadorans migrated to the United States due to the war. A lot of the claims, the asylum claims of these over 300,000 people were denied. So, there was a big movement of immigrant advocates, including the American Baptist Church and others. Thanks to that work, George Bush granted the first TPS for the Salvadoran community. 

For me, the cancellation, the termination of TPS, it’s not just an economic impact for my family, but also knowing that El Salvador has the highest rate of violence in the hemisphere is not an option for me to say that the program is going to be cancelled and just go back.

JS: In addition to these policy changes, such as canceling TPS, Trump has — at times — unleashed violent paramilitary forces on asylum seekers to publicly drive home his agenda, as happened in 2019. 

NBC: What started as a peaceful march turned into chaos. U.S. authorities fired tear gas at mostly adult males but some of it hit women and children, including Maria Mesa, her escape captured in this dramatic photo. We caught up with her today. “When I see that photo I just want to cry,” she says, claiming that she wasn’t crossing the border illegally but trying to reach it to apply for asylum. More and more of these tents are springing up at the shelter. U.S. authorities are processing less than a hundred asylum applications a day. 

JS: Suyapa Portillo Villeda, a Pitzer College Professor of Chicano/Latino Transitional Studies, illustrates this assault on asylum.

Suyapa Portillo Villeda: Tear gassing unarmed women and children, youth, is just deplorable. It’s first of all, a violation of international rights under the Refugee Convention of 1961. People have a right to ask for asylum. This is not something that’s up for grabs. I think that we’ve seen sort of the ignorance of the Trump administration over, and over, and over. This is a big oversight. This is an international oversight. We are beholden to these international conventions, and we must allow and review these asylum policies at the very least, right? So, if people come to our borders and seek asylum, they have a right to do that. They have a right to do that in any country at any time.

[Reporters speaking to detainees.]

JS: As the humanitarian crisis on the border continued in 2019, Vice President Mike Pence visited two migrant detention centers in Texas. In the footage you can see Pence being given a tour, standing in front of a chain link fence holding in 400 men who are crammed inside. Reporters said there was no room to lie down, no mats or pillows, and what they called a “horrendous” stench.

Mike Pence: The facility here at McAllen is at the very center of the crisis on our southern border. And this facility here today, while it’s clean and sanitary, is doing their level best to deal with this unprecedented flow. 

JS: That same year, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Trump administration’s rule that bars asylum seekers from traveling through another country to apply for asylum in the U.S. — effectively disqualifying Central American asylum seekers who do not apply for asylum in the home countries they are fleeing from. And then the COVID pandemic hit.

Joe Kernen: Have you been briefed by the CDC? 

DJT: I have. 

JK: Are they worried about a pandemic at this point? 

DJT: No, we’re not at all. And we have it totally under control. It’s one person, coming in from China. And we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine. 

Tom Costello: The warning from the CDC: the coronavirus is spreading so quickly around the globe it may only be a matter of time before it begins rolling across the U.S. with the potential to become a pandemic. 

Lester Holt: Good evening everyone, tonight as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in this country climbs to over a million and deaths surpass American losses in the Vietnam war… 

JS: Almost from the beginning of the pandemic, the Trump administration has used Covid-19 as the pretext to further limit immigration. 

DJT: By pausing immigration, we’ll help put unemployed Americans first in line for jobs as America reopens. So important. It would be wrong and unjust for Americans laid off by the virus to be replaced with new immigrant labor flown in from abroad. 

JS: Trump has effectively ended asylum at the southern border and suspended new visas for immigrants and nonimmigrants. Despite federal laws requiring the U.S. to accept children at the border, under CDC orders, Customs and Border Protection turned away more than 2,000 unaccompanied child migrants between March and June of this year. Active-duty military personnel have also been sent to the U.S.-Mexico border to operate alongside the 5,000 troops already there as well as border agents. 

Stephen Miller: I will not take moral lectures from a party that endorses the slaughter of innocent Americans in sanctuary cities. I will not take moral lectures from a party that has zero empathy for the thousands of Americans killed by drugs, killed by criminals who have no right to be in our country because they oppose immigration and border control. 

JS: That’s Trump’s senior advisor Stephen Miller deploying his favorite tactics: fear mongering and spewing false statistics. Miller has long been called the architect behind Trump’s immigration policies — from the Muslim travel ban to family separation, and ending asylum. A top DHS official told the New Yorker that Miller “was obsessed with the idea of consequences.” Miller proposed ideas like sending migrants to Guantánamo Bay, enlisting the FBI in immigration raids, and getting ICE to pull children out of schools. The Southern Poverty Law Center published hundreds of emails from 2015 and 2016 between Miller and editors at the right-wing news site Breitbart. In one email Miller suggested deporting people on trains as a scare tactic. Now, the pandemic has given Miller and the administration a silver bullet to close borders and halt immigration into the U.S.

SM: This administration, for the first time in history, has taken action to restore immigration enforcement after five decades of bipartisan betrayal of the American worker.

JS: Stephen Miller and the Trump administration often frame their anti-immigration rhetoric around protecting American workers, claiming immigrants are depressing wages. However, there are conflicting studies on the effects immigration influxes have on wages. Decline in unionization, globalization, automation, and the erosion of workers’ rights and bargaining power have had a tremendous effect on wages, particularly for blue-collar jobs.

Also, from day one, according to analysis from the Economic Policy Institute, of 50 of the most egregious actions Trump has actually rolled back worker protections and rights. This includes preventing workers from earning overtime, attempting to take away workers health care, and stacking agencies and the Supreme Court with anti-worker appointees. The “America first” rhetoric and the attacks on immigrants, it’s really just a racist shield that enthralls Trump’s base by signaling that he will end immigration from non-white countries. 

DJT: 700 percent increase refugees coming from the most dangerous places in the world, including Yemen, Syria, and your favorite country, Somalia right? You love Somalia. [Audience boos] This guy loves Somalia. Biden will turn Minnesota into a refugee camp, and he said that. Overwhelming public resources, overcrowding schools, and inundating your hospitals, you know that. It’s already there. It’s a disgrace what they’ve done to your state. It’s — it’s absolute — it’s a disgrace, OK?

JS: At this moment, tens of thousands of migrants — many who are asylum seekers — remain in ICE custody in jails, prisons, and detention centers across this country. This as the administration has already reversed the practice of releasing asylum seekers on parole to wait out their cases in the community. Instead, the administration has opted for detaining people and issuing blanket parole denials, leaving many to languish in carceral facilities indefinitely or until people give up their claims and self-deport.

DJT: We stopped asylum fraud and we’ve deported 20,000 gang members and over a half a million criminal, illegal aliens of the worst kind. We’re enforcing the clear requirement that newcomers to our country must be financially self-sufficient and not reliant on welfare. They have to sign a document.  

JS: The deadly coronavirus pandemic adds another layer of inhumanity. More than 6,000 people in ICE custody have tested positive for Covid-19 and a total of eight people have died as of this reporting.

Back in 2018, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez visited Intercepted before she was universally known as AOC. It was right as she was running to unseat longtime Democratic incumbent and Nancy Pelosi ally Rep. Joseph Crowley. And in that conversation she called for abolishing ICE. 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: This is really about, in some ways, we need to go all the way back to the root of our immigration policy to begin with, which the very first immigration policy law passed in the United States was the Chinese Exclusion Act in the 1800s. And so the very seed — bedrock — of U.S. immigration policy, the very beginning of it was a policy based on racial exclusion. And I think that we need to really reimagine our immigration policy based around two things: foreign policy and criminal justice, and additionally our economic goals as well. And we really kind of need, I think, to reimagine our immigration services as part of an economic engine, as part of an accommodation to our own foreign policy aims and, where necessary, enforcement of serious crimes like human trafficking and so on.

So abolishing ICE doesn’t mean, get rid of our immigration policy, but what it does mean is to get rid of the draconian enforcement that has happened since 2003 that routinely violates our civil rights, because, frankly, it was designed with that structure in mind.

JS: While the total number of people deported under Donald Trump has not reached levels recorded under Obama’s two terms in office, the anti-immigration policies this administration has adopted put millions of immigrants — documented and undocumented — living in the country at risk.

This has been part two of an Intercepted limited documentary series, American Mythology: The Presidency of Donald Trump. 

Over the next week we are going to be releasing an episode each weekday focusing on a different aspect of the Trump presidency and digging into the history and context of the actions of this administration. Make sure to tune in tomorrow to part three of this series where we’ll take an in-depth look at Donald Trump’s policies on race and the wars at home.

American Mythology: The Presidency of Donald Trump is an Intercepted limited documentary series. You can follow us on Twitter @Intercepted and on Instagram @InterceptedPodcast. Intercepted is a production of First Look Media and The Intercept. Our lead producer is Jack D’Isidoro. Our producer is Laura Flynn. Elise Swain is our associate producer and graphic designer. Betsy Reed is editor in chief of The Intercept. Rick Kwan mixed the show. Transcription for this program is done by Lucie Kroening. Our music, as always, was composed by DJ Spooky. Make sure to tell your friends and foes about this series and tune in for episode two tomorrow. Until then, I’m Jeremy Scahill.

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