With a few ill-advised strokes of his pen, Donald Trump demonstrably changed the environment for millions of immigrants in America and hundreds of thousands hoping to gain entry to the States.
Trump’s executive orders on immigration — the first struck down in court, the second currently in legal limbo — sparked a wave of violence and vitriol against immigrants and people of color, while grassroots efforts rose to fight for their lives and rights. Across the nation, protesters flocked to airports and intersections to demonstrate their displeasure with Trump’s actions.
It appears the effects of Trump’s travel ban are two-fold. On one hand, racists are attacking immigrants and minorities with increased frequency, emboldened by Trump’s implicitly supportive rhetoric. On the other, progressive America is undergoing an awakening, sparked completely by Trump’s ascension to the presidency.
The second iteration of Trump’s travel ban was rolled out with the hopes of minimal judicial challenges. The revised language removes a provision for religious discrimination, which was among the hardest hit criticisms of the first executive order. Additionally, the act excludes Iraq from the original seven majority-Muslim countries. Immigrants from six countries — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — would be banned from obtaining visas for 90 days in the new order. Refugee admissions from Syria banned for 120 days, shortened from an indefinite period of time on the first order. Currently, 13 mostly Republican-led states have filed legal briefs in support of Trump’s immigration ban.
Those impacted by his actions are not an abstraction, they are real people who live in our communities. A Kent State University doctoral student, Iranian Mansoureh Shasti, was banned from returning home after visiting family in Iran and was unable to reunite with her husband for nearly two months due to Trump’s actions. The couple and their 1-year-old daughter live in Stow and have been in the States since 2011. This is the impact of the travel ban; families are torn apart and the difficulties of immigration are exacerbated and compounded.
Trump began his campaign in June of 2015. Coincidentally, the Southern Poverty Law Center notes a 197 percent rise in anti-Muslim hate groups since 2015. The rise in hate is among the most devastating, immediate and violent impacts of the president’s actions. The president, whose ascension was heralded by white supremacists like David Duke, has quietly acquiesced to the violence striking the nation and stutter-stepped in disavowing support from hate groups.
This racism hasn’t been reserved for only Muslims and immigrants. A wave of anti-Semitism has swept Jewish communities across the nation, with reports of painted swastikas and vandalism spiking. Indeed, this racist violence knows no bounds outside of ignorance. Indian Americans, many immigrated from India or South Asia, have been harassed and killed by people emboldened by Trump’s nationalism as well.
The precipitous rise in anti-Muslim hate since Trump’s campaign kicked off has been documented by the Bridge Initiative at Georgetown University. The study recorded 174 incidents of anti-Muslim violence during 2015, including 12 murders, 8 arsons, 54 acts of vandalism and 9 shootings or bombings. In a harrowing trend, the study found that some children as young as 12 years old were perpetrators of threats and anti-Muslim violence.
The pendulum of invigoration brought on by Trump’s election swings both ways. Progressive America is awakening, with regular people — many with no prior organizing experience — diving headlong into the fray to resist the presidential madness. A day after the inauguration, some 3 million people marched in cities across the country to participate in the Women’s March. Worldwide, participation in the marches was estimated to be around 5 million.
This massive display of dissent was only the beginning. In the months since the inauguration, countless organizations, initiatives and movements have launched. Established advocacy groups, like the ACLU, have received exponential support in the wake of the president’s actions. In particular, the ACLU raised more than $24 million in online donations after Trump signed the first travel ban. That number and the speed with which it was raised, demonstrate the wildfire of concern and empathy sweeping the nation.
Activism hasn’t been restricted to the national stage. In true grassroots fashion, organizers are pushing on their local city governments to embrace immigrants and refugees, many demanding they adopt the “sanctuary city” title. One such city is Columbus, Ohio, where the mayor rolled out an executive order meant to keep law enforcement from helping with federal deportation activities and ensure the city remains a safe place for the displaced. His order fell short of officially adopting the “sanctuary city” title. This progressive push in Columbus wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for the organizers working throughout the city to build networks of support for immigrants and push on the local politicians to enshrine protection in policy.
Trump is a president insulated from public outcry by his dangerous administration, gilded disconnect and near-constant consumption of Fox News television. He has never been a man of the people, but merely a man who tapped into the darkest, most warped fears of some people. His presidency is not a death knell, but rather a call to action for those ready to fight like hell to ensure the rights and safety of America’s most vulnerable.
No demographic is safe from his onslaught. He’ll continue attacking immigrants, women, people of color, the working class, students and the poor without compromise or pause. The onus is on us to band together, embrace our differences and fight with a renewed sense of solidarity. We have to manufacture community where he seeks to fracture it. We have each other in this fight, and with that power we can stymie and resist him at every step. If he’s hell-bent on destroying America, then we have to fight to make his life hell.