Trump's new immigration ban feeds his base with a steady dose of xenophobia

Trump's new immigration ban feeds his base with a steady dose of xenophobia
Comment: Trump's latest order isn't aimed at protecting the health and safety of Americans, rather it seeks to distract from his failings and incite racism, writes Mobashra Tazamal.
5 min read
24 Apr, 2020
Trump announced a new immigration ban on Monday, but as usual, details were lacking [Getty]
This past weekend, Trump supporters demonstrated against state lockdowns and measures of social distancing in place to minimise the spread of the deadly Covid-19 virus. Viewing these steps as an attack on their "freedom," these individuals were supported by none other than the Commander-in-Chief, as he called on them to "liberate Virginia," "liberate Michigan."

At a time when true solidarity is needed to save lives, the leader of the United States chose to promote partisan propaganda.

On Monday, President Donald Trump continued his divisive attacks by taking to his favourite platform to announce yet another iteration of his go-to policy move: an immigration ban. On the evening of 20 April, when over 42,000 Americans have lost their lives to the coronavirus, POTUS decided it was the perfect time to refocus the country's attention on the supposed real problem: immigrants.

Stoking xenophobia has been Trump's go-to tactic in rallying support; it's what he does best. Anti-immigration policies were a cornerstone of his 2016 presidential campaign and have been central to his presidency. Chants of "build the wall" were a mainstay at his campaign rallies, which incited violent assaults and hate crimes across the country as black and brown people became the targets of Donald Trump and his supporters.

Throughout his first term in office, Trump has instituted a wide array of policies with the aim of stopping immigrants of colour entering the country. From the 
Islamophobic Muslim ban to the African ban, to the targeting of DACA and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) programmes, Trump's affinity for white nationalism and downright racism have ben made very clear.

Stoking xenophobia has been Trump's go-to tactic in rallying support

Each of these discriminatory actions has been greeted by his core support base (white, evangelical, working-class Americans) with ecstatic approval, as supporters use claims of immigrants "stealing our jobs" to mask their blatant racism.

Trump has successfully instrumentalised these racist sentiments to divert attention from giving 
massive tax breaks to the rich, responsible for the widening income inequality in America. 

Given 2020 is an election year, Monday's call for a blanket immigration ban is straight out of Trump's campaign playbook as he feeds his base what they crave. His latest action isn't aimed at protecting the health, safety, and welfare of Americans, rather it seeks to inflame xenophobia by scapegoating black and brown people for the failures of his administration.

The Executive Order, which President Trump formally signed into effect on Wednesday evening, serves to divert attention away from the administration's complete failure in light of the pandemic. Covid-19 has ravaged America and brought the government's incompetence to the forefront.

Over 46,000 Americans have 
died as a result of the virus, accounting for the largest death toll in the world, and that number is only increasing daily. Worryingly, Black Americans infected with the coronavirus are dying in disproportionate numbers, revealing the underlying racial disparities in healthcare.

Experts have noted that had the President instituted a lockdown earlier, there would have been a significant decrease in the number of deaths. Healthcare workers have pleaded for personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators, and additional resources from a president who refused to acknowledge the severity of the situation.

The pandemic has spotlighted the fragility of America, as George Packer brilliantly illustrated, stating "when the virus came here, it found a country with serious underlying conditions, and it exploited them ruthlessly." A staggering 22 million people have filed unemployment claims.

Instead of acknowledging the government's failures and implementing measures that would assist healthcare workers and provide desperately needed relief for millions of Americans, President Trump has employed 
partisan rhetoric, encouraged armed protests that flout social distancing orders, shared conspiracy theories, and now seeks to blame immigrants for the instability.

Read more: Travel ban 3.0 still doesn't conceal Trump's anti-Muslim bias

The way in which the latest attack on people of colour was announced is in line with all of Trump's past actions: Announce the initiative first to get his base riled up, and let the policy people figure out the details later. Under this administration, there's been an inversion of the conventional policy-making process, stated Dr Peter Mandaville during a conference in February 2020. Whereas traditionally an idea would originate within the bureaucracy and the broader government would work together to shape the policy before it's publicised, under Trump, the policy-making body learns about the action via a tweet, and then has to work backward from there. 

A classic example of this was Trump's January 2017 
Executive Order banning all Muslims from a number of countries from entering the United States. The announcement created absolute chaos - not to mention distress - at airports as the order came with no guidelines or regulations.

Monday's call for a blanket immigration ban is straight out of Trump's campaign playbook

This latest iteration of an immigration ban only increases the number of people whose lives have been halted. Wednesday's executive order will result in stopping the issuance of some types of green cards for 60 days, potentially longer. It will separate even more families as it blocks visas that would reunify parents with their children, along with spouses and minor children of lawful permanent residents living outside the country.

The order has nothing to do with re-energising the economy, instead, "it simply uses the tragic Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to further the administration's policy goal of destroying the American immigration system," 
states Maya Berry, Executive Director of the Arab American Institute.

For Trump, it doesn't matter if people's lives are thrown into complete disarray, so long as his base applauds his action, and the media refocuses their energies on him rather than the effects of his policies.

Attacking people of colour has been Trump's central principle during this presidency. The latest announcement, while coated in the rhetoric of "protecting" Americans, does nothing to alleviate the damage caused by the pandemic, and only exacerbates the division and hate that's been a hallmark of the Trump presidency since day one. 

Mobashra Tazamal is a researcher on Islamophobia at The Bridge Initiative at Georgetown University. Her work has appeared in Al Jazeera, The Independent, Middle East Eye, and AltMuslimah.

Follow her on Twitter:@mobbiemobes

Opinions expressed here are the author's own, and do not necessarily reflect those of her employer.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.