No matter how much he tries to portray himself as a champion of the white working class, US President Donald Trump is pitting himself against his country’s heritage with his latest executive orders against immigrants.
Given his way, which is now a foregone conclusion that he will get, he will build a wall not only with the border of Mexico, but around the entire country through executive actions that seek to bar refugees, curb immigration and deny visas to citizens of certain countries.
More damaging is the fact that the countries named in the yet to be signed executive order whose citizens will be denied visas for an unspecified period are all Muslim states, some of which have been bombed or invaded by US forces. At least one, Iraq, is an allied government engaged in a fight against the same terrorist groups that Mr Trump says he wants to bomb out of existence.
Dealing with the labyrinthine complexities of the Middle East requires sound judgement and subtlety, qualities that Mr Trump clearly doesn’t possess and that the executive orders reportedly waiting for his signature lack even more.
For the time being, he has signed an order to start work on building the wall with American funds, while reactivating programmes that practically force police in cities to hunt down undocumented immigrants. It has vague language to pull people into its dragnet, such as anyone who may have engaged in “fraud or wilful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency”, meaning even a tiny inadvertent error while filling out an application could lead to an individual being targeted for deportation.
Denial of visas to citizens of seven Muslim countries — Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Yemen and Somalia — is under serious consideration, because issuing such visas would be “detrimental to the interests of the United States”. If this is what we get in the first week of the new presidency, one can only imagine what is to come in the years ahead.
One could argue endlessly that ‘America is a country of immigrants’, but it is up to the leadership of that country to decide what sort of country they want to be. What is appalling in these actions is the vindictiveness, the pettiness, and the crass disregard for what are clearly US interests ie maintaining and building ties with the populations of those countries where anti-American attitudes are spreading with growing ferocity.
By cutting his country off from the rest of the world, Mr Trump is in fact digging himself into a hole. The revival of torture and ‘black sites’ for detention, the revocation of trade agreements like the TPP or Nafta, will not make America more secure or revive the engines of its prosperity. It will only fuel the fires that have now encircled the superpower.
Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2017