Immigration is a highly contested topic in America and throughout the time of Trump’s administration, this issue has become more polarized and dangerous. The dehumanization and intolerance of undocumented immigrants has become normalized and is evident in the way we accept hate and injustice.
In recent decades, America has had an influx of immigrants varying from refugees to laborers, but the diversification of our country has led to boiling tensions and hateful rhetoric. Muslim and Latinx groups have bore the brunt of rising hate speech and the xenophobic platform of the Trump administration. This is evident as the Executive Order 13769 — the Muslim ban — and the border wall between Mexico and the United States have been top priorities from the Trump administration.
President Trump has situated himself against immigrant communities saying in 2015, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” This is a deliberate attempt to associate undocumented immigrants with crime and violence.
The criminalization of undocumented populations coupled with hateful language such as “illegals”, “aliens”, or even “animals” is used to dehumanize certain groups and make them the “other.” When hateful language infiltrates politics and the public sphere, it is often accompanied by violence and injustice — this is seen in many examples throughout history such as the Armenian Genocide, lynching in the U.S., and the Holocaust.
In the case of undocumented immigrants, the hateful rhetoric is used in order to justify deportations, child separation, detention centers and other human rights concerns.
Research from Pew shows that two-thirds of undocumented immigrants have lived in the U.S. for over 10 years, meaning that the majority of undocumented persons are people who have built networks, communities, and familial ties in the U.S overtime. This contrasts with the picture being painted in the media of “swarms” of undocumented criminals stealing resources, jobs, and committing crimes.
A study in the Journal of Criminology looked at whether states with larger populations of undocumented immigrants had higher crime rates and found that there was no correlation between the two. Another 2018 report by the Libertarian Cato Institute found that native-born residents were much more likely to be convicted of a crime than legal or illegal immigrants. So where is the threat that the Trump administration has been warning about?
Is it the women and children who come seeking asylum from violence to be met with separation? Is it the thousands of people in detention centers awaiting deportation? Is it one of the eight hundred people who complained of abuse and bias in thirty four different immigration detention jails? Perhaps it’s one the several women who suffered miscarriages while detained? The worker trying to feed his family that was picked up on a raid? Or the thousands of children who reported sexual abuse at the government-funded detention facilities?
These injustices that immigrant communities have faced in the name of border security are unjustifiable, unethical and immoral. Violence, intolerance and regressive policies towards undocumented immigrants have become normalized due to the hateful rhetoric that dehumanizes the “other.”
President Trump and his administration’s rhetoric and policy matching show that there is danger in words and words can often lead to action. The continued mistreatment of migrants cannot be accepted and America must push back against demonizing language that allows violence to occur.