The term “ethnic cleansing” causes many to bristle, as it conjures up images of the often deadly tactics of history’s despots, but Will Bunch recently argued in the Philadelphia Inquirer that this term is befitting of the driving force behind President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.
The Trump administration has targeted both legal and illegal immigration as it seeks to keep America’s population majority white — a feat that is likely impossible over the long term.
Still, Trump and Republicans are doing the exact work they were elected to do. As Bunch noted, studies since 2016 consitently show that Trump voters were driven by “Anxiety over whites becoming a minority in the United States by the middle of the century” more than any other concern.
The Trump administration’s immigration policy — forged by the likes of Stephen Miller — fits the textbook definition of ethnic cleansing, even if it is non-lethal in nature.
The United Nations’ definition of ethnic cleansing is as follows: “rendering an area ethnically homogeneous by using force or intimidation to remove from a given area persons of another ethnic or religious group.”
Bunch examined the policies Trump has employed in an attempt to drastically reduce non-white immigration to the United States:
- Trump reversed protected status that had been granted to those who’d fled natural disasters or other deprivations from places like El Salvador (estimated range from 57,000 to 200,000 people) and Haiti (59,000 people).
- Arrests of undocumented immigrants by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, spiked by 41 percent during Trump’s first year in office, or about 40,000 people — and the vast majority of that increase involved arrests of those with no criminal record, who were explicitly not targeted by ICE during Barack Obama’s presidency.
- The United States accepted some 97,000 refugees in the last year of the Obama administration but after sharp restrictions imposed by Trump is on track to take only about 21,000 in 2018 — virtually none, for example, from war-torn Syria where seven years of warfare, including thousands of bombs dropped from American planes, have left millions desperate for a safe haven.
The Trump administration has also sought to tie reduced legal immigration to protections for Dreamers — immigrants who were brought illegally to the U.S. as children and are currently in limbo regarding their legal status.
The president also wants to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, which is far more figuratively telling than functionally appropriate. A wall between the two countries, meant to keep non-white people out but allow Americans to freely flow to Mexico, would be a physical barrier illustrating the underlying motives of this president and his supporters.
The wall does not even have to functionally keep anyone out of the country. It is a clear message in itself.
Trump has filled his campaign rallies from the beginning with harsh and disparaging rhetoric aimed at immigrants to the U.S., largely targeting those from non-white countries.
He has referred to Mexicans as rapists and criminals; muddied the line between dangerous immigrants, like those associated with the gang MS-13, and the majority who come to the U.S. seeking a better life for themselves and their families; and repeatedly warned of the danger of a migrant “invasion.”
As Bunch noted, Trump’s rhetoric has only escalated since winning the White House: “the harsh dog whistle of Trump’s xenophobia that only his supporters picked up in 2016 is now audible for all to hear.”
The clear motivation of the president and his administration is a drastic reduction in non-white peoples arriving to the United States, and the policies they have implemented only serve to prove an ethnic cleansing is underway.