The evidence in his first 100 days — by word, deed, and policy — couldn’t be clearer. Our president does not care for people of color. No? Let’s look at the evidence. It is voluminous.
Immediately after his hallucinatory inauguration, President Donald Trump loudly reaffirmed the need to keep Mexicans out of the United States, and that a “beautiful” wall would be erected quickly to bar Mexico’s riffraff from entering our nation.
And Mexico would pay for the wall, a hot air balloon that has progressively become deflated — going from “Mexico will definitely pay for the wall,” to “well, we will impose taxes that will result in Mexico really paying for the wall,” to “OK, work with me on this —Congress will provide the money to build the wall until Mexico pays for it.” This occurs despite much evidence suggesting that the wall will not stop undocumented immigration.
A week after his inauguration, Trump decreed a travel ban affecting seven Muslim countries, which caught many people off guard and generated massive havoc for travelers worldwide. Soon afterward, a federal judge in Washington state overturned the travel ban. Trump responded with Muslim Ban Lite. He did minor tweaks, excluding Iraq from the travel ban. Shortly, two federal judges — in Hawaii and Maryland — ruled against the second travel ban.
Trump issued an executive order in late January that reaffirmed that the wall would go up and expanded the categories of people who could be deported. The order also called for a significant increase in Border Patrol agents and immigration officers. The edict also mandated an expansion of detention centers, a worrisome measure. Private detention centers, the largest run by CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America) and GEO Group, are sure to make massive profits once the Trump mass deportation machine goes into effect. As of early March, the stock value of CoreCivic had risen by 120 percent since the November election, and that of GEO increased by 80 percent.
This is a significant change from September when private detention centers were at risk of losing their contracts with the government. The Department of Justice had decided to phase out private prisons because of declining prisoner populations and major concerns about safety, security and medical care.
While the massive deportations have not yet materialized, there is intense fear in the immigrant community. That’s because even people without criminal records are potential deportees. Trump and Attorney General Jeff Session have threatened communities and counties with the loss of federal funds if they designate themselves as sanctuary cities, places that provide safe space for unauthorized immigrants — particularly those entities that do not fully cooperate with immigration officials on detainer requests. A federal judge in San Francisco recently ruled against Trump on this as well. Dreamers — undocumented immigrants brought here as children — are also unsure about their security. Trump has suggested that he likes them and will not put them at risk, but there is plenty of cause in Trump’s record to worry.
Haitian immigrants who were granted special immigration status following the devastating earthquake that shook Haiti in 2010 also face uncertainty as Trump has yet to renew their status. If he does not do so by July 22, approximately 50,000 Haitians risk deportation. While mass incarceration has disproportionately snared people of color over the past four decades, recent criminal justice reform represented a ray of hope.
But Trump and Sessions now seek to undo these measures. Never mind that the crime rate is about 42 percent below that in 1997. believing that the Department of Justice should not take on that role.
All these efforts will put people of color at greater risk of being racially profiled, disproportionately arrested and sentenced, and having their civil rights violated. People of color and, more broadly, the poor were targeted in Trump’s unsuccessful effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. Trump had an embarrassing setback in not being able to eliminate Obamacare. Yet he is not giving up. He and congressional allies continue to try to dismantle Obamacare piecemeal, now concentrating on cost-share subsidies. He tried to swap $1 of such subsidies for every $1 that Democrats pony up for the border wall.
Despite the problems that plague Obamacare, it continues to be a lifeline for many people who otherwise could not afford health insurance. According to data from the American Community Survey, between 2010 (when Obamacare was signed but before it went into effect) and 2015, 26.7 million more Americans had insurance; the majority of them were white. The number of poor Americans with health care insurance rose by nearly 4.3 million during this five-year period, again with poor whites being the largest group (39 percent) of new beneficiaries. Many of these poor whites rallied behind Trump and helped put him in the White House. Obviously, Trump does not have their best interests in mind.
Trump has surrounded himself with few people of color. His Cabinet is the least diverse since that of Ronald Reagan. Nearly four-fifths of Trump’s 33 Cabinet members are white men. Only four are persons of color (two Asians, one African-American and one Latino) and merely five are women (two of whom are doing double duty as a female and a person of color). Throughout his campaign, Trump used hateful racist rhetoric against people of color. He embraced alt-right and white nationalist groups, and selected a prominent member of these groups —-Stephen Bannon—- to serve as his chief strategist.
It is not surprising that in his first 100 days as president — marked on April 29 — Trump has shown that he is not a friend of people of color. His policies and priorities are intended to firmly put people of color in their place, including through deportations and by not allowing others to enter our country. This is what he envisioned in his quest to “make America great again.” In the process, however, Trump has alienated and insulted so many groups — including people of color, the poor, women, immigrants, Muslims, the GLBTQ community and others — that he has roused the American spirit of protest. He has politicized many good people who realize they cannot accept Trump as normal and that he must be vigorously challenged.
This has the real possibility of making Trump either a one-term president or bringing about his impeachment over the numerous questionable and unethical actions that continue to pile up.
Rogelio Sáenz is Dean of the College of Public Policy and holds the Mark G. Yudof Endowed Chair at the University of Texas at San Antonio. He is co-author of Latinos in the United States: Diversity and Change. (Note: This article was originally published in the San Antonio Express-News on May 6, 2017.)