Day 33 — Since President Trump’s recent Executive Order banning citizens of seven predominantly Muslim nations was denied by a federal judge, Trump has been busy formulating a new order. The Department of Homeland Security issued guidelines that reveal the President’s plan to create new detention facilities, strip illegal immigrants of privacy protections, deploy local law enforcement officials as enforcers, and accelerate the deportation process.
Scott Pruitt; Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, Flickr
A rejection of immigration policy of past administrations, Trump’s agenda allows for the government to employ the full force of government resources to track down and eventually expel all illegal immigrants. This is an escalation of the policy under the Obama administration that instructed agents to prioritize the removal of illegal immigrants who had committed serious crimes. Now, the President will allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers to subject any person in the United States illegally to arrest, detention and potentially expulsion from the country. This policy will certainly strike fear into the hearts of illegal immigrants. It may also discourage people from seeking asylum in the United States. Sanctuary cities—select cities that allow for certain procedures to shelter illegal immigrants, like denying municipal funds or resources to be employed in further enforcement of federal immigration policy—are conflicted because Trump’s new directives would enlist local police officers and sheriff’s deputies to help with the deportation process, which directly contradicts their welcoming stance.
Scott Pruitt, Trump’s pick for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, has raised concern among environmental groups over the direction of the agency, citing his communications with players in the fossil fuel industry and his lack of transparency in reporting the extent of these talks to the public. He is also a climate change denier and has a history of undermining environmental regulations. Pruitt, one of Trump’s most controversial cabinet appointments, sued Obama’s EPA several times while he served as Oklahoma’s Attorney General over what he considered to be governmental overreach by the agency with its regulations, specifically regarding the Clean Water Act. During his Tuesday meeting with about 100 employees, Pruitt criticized Obama’s EPA and promised change. President Trump is expected to gut some regulations put in place by the last administration’s EPA, such as the Clean Power Plan and the Clean Water Rule, and Pruitt wants to emphasize cooperation with agencies and energy industry at the state level. Environmental groups and Democrats are skeptical of Pruitt’s motives and qualifications, while dozens of staffers in the agency’s Chicago office participated in a lunchtime protest earlier this month to oppose Pruitt’s nomination. Workers anxiously await Trump’s Executive Orders to roll back the Clean Power Plan, thus signaling the agency’s direction.
Trump is considering implementing a system of federal tax credits to channel public money into private schools. The idea is to offer working-class families the ability to choose their children’s schools through vouchers that would grant them public money to use for private school tuition. This proposal already faces strong criticism from left and right. Public school advocates argue that this is just a veil that would divert funding via tax dollars from public schools that desperately need it. The program may be capped at $20B. On the other hand, Republicans fear that such a program would give the government too much of a role in education and that it would push states to adopt uniform state tax credit programs. While Betsy DeVos served on the board of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, she and others introduced Florida’s tax credit scholarship program. 80% of scholarship recipients used them to attend religious schools, a byproduct of the type of schools that accept these students. This program has been met with legal opposition, and groups that represent the nation’s public school systems vow to fight against any proposal to introduce similar legislation at the federal level.
President Trump, while speaking at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, denounced the rise of anti-Semitism in America. Acts and even attacks against the Jewish community have occurred at an alarming rate since Trump took office. This past Monday, eleven bomb threats were called into Jewish community centers across the nation, and a Jewish cemetery in University City, Missouri was vandalized when gravestones were pushed over. The culprit(s) and the reasoning for this act remain unclear. Trump has finally responded to demands from Jewish leaders and activists after weeks of requests for help. His referral to the rise of anti-Semitism as “horrible” and “painful” represents a rare acknowledgement of the need to heed the demands of external forces, in this case major Jewish organizations. While many of these groups are thankful for Trump’s recognition of the issue, they want him to take more steps to ensure that the problem is addressed directly and handled with gravity. Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, referred to Trump’s acknowledgement of anti-Semitism as a “band-aid,” calling for the President to respond to the issue without pressure from Jewish organizations.
I am very curious to see how the courts and legal organizations like the ACLU handle Trump’s new immigration proposals. In addition to moral questions that arise from this plan, I have a hard time figuring out who will pay for the building of new detention centers. Furthermore, the supposed wall Trump wants to build will cost about $12B-$15B. So much for the party of fiscal responsibility. Also, what happens to the U.S. economy if/ when illegal immigrants are taken out of the workforce? I imagine the country will struggle to cope with the loss of a large portion of the workforce.
It is inherently troubling to me that the head of the EPA is a man who has worked closely with the fossil fuel industry. I can only imagine the fear that EPA employees feel right now, knowing that their hard work to produce regulations to protect our landscapes and resources will potentially go down the drain.
I applaud President Trump for finally addressing the issue of anti-Semitism (2:47). While it is certainly not enough, it is a start that I hope he will build on. While I will not accuse the President of being a racist, it is impossible to deny that his campaign rhetoric appeals to those types of groups, as embodied by the KKK’s official endorsement of his campaign and presidency. It is heartbreaking to see the acts of hatred against one of America’s ethnic and religious groups. Thank you Mr. President for taking this first step. Now act to make sure it will not happen again.