No doubt, you have experienced that moment of TV or movie suspense when the camera angle leaves the potential victim vulnerable to some unseen threat lingering just off-screen. Yet the music and framing make clear that you should be afraid.

From the beginning, Donald Trump’s remarks have been carefully framed to make sure that America is motivated by the fear of “others”.

As he declared his candidacy, suddenly Mexicans (symbolizing all Latinos) became drug-dealing rapists. Like a tense musical score, his unceasing xenophobic implications were (and are) clearly designed to keep us all nervously looking over our shoulders for something that is just not quite there.

The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems. When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you.
They’re not sending you. … They’re sending us not the right people.
It’s coming from more than Mexico. It’s coming from all over South and Latin America, and it’s coming probably— probably— from the Middle East.

So from Mexico to the Middle East, we must be afraid of the “others”, according to a man whose penchant for willful misrepresentation is well established!

This is not without precedent, his supporters assure us, as if the degradation of entire communities somehow becomes acceptable with adequate practice.

Below are documented summaries of removal efforts carried out against various ethnic communities. Several of the following actions have been cited by the Trump Campaign and now the Trump Administration as justification.

Trail of Tears

In 1838 and 1839, as part of Andrew Jackson’s Indian removal policy, the Cherokee nation was forced to give up its lands east of the Mississippi River and to migrate to an area in present-day Oklahoma. The Cherokee people called this journey the “Trail of Tears,” because of its devastating effects. The migrants faced hunger, disease, and exhaustion on the forced march. Over 4,000 out of 15,000 of the Cherokees died.

Chinese Exclusion Act

In the spring of 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed by Congress and signed by President Chester A. Arthur. This act provided an absolute 10-year moratorium on Chinese labor immigration. For the first time, Federal law proscribed entry of an ethnic working group on the premise that it endangered the good order of certain localities.

Those on the West Coast were especially prone to attribute declining wages and economic ills on the despised Chinese workers. Although the Chinese composed only .002 percent of the nation’s population, Congress passed the exclusion act to placate worker demands and assuage prevalent concerns about maintaining white “racial purity.”

The “Mexican Repatriation” Effort

During the Great Depression, counties and cities in the American Southwest and Midwest forced Mexican immigrants and their families to leave the U.S. over concerns they were taking jobs away from whites, despite their legal right to stay.

The result: Around 500,000 to 1 million Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans were pushed out of the country during the 1930s repatriation, as the removal is sometimes called. During that time, immigrants were rounded up and sent to Mexico, sometimes in public places and often without formal proceedings. Others, scared by the threat of violence, left voluntarily.

About 60 percent of those who left were American citizens, according to various studies on the 1930s repatriation. Later testimony showed families lost most of their possessions and some family members died trying to return. Neighborhoods in cities such as Houston, San Antonio and Los Angeles became empty.

Rejection of Jewish Refugees

Most notoriously, in June 1939, the German ocean liner St. Louis and its 937 passengers, almost all Jewish, were turned away from the port of Miami, forcing the ship to return to Europe; more than a quarter died in the Holocaust.

Government officials from the State Department to the FBI to President Franklin Roosevelt himself argued that refugees posed a serious threat to national security.

(The discovery of a German agent embedded among innocent refugees, and the preexisting antisemitic attitudes in the United States created a decision of fear which cost the lives of 258 refugees who became holocaust statistics. See )

Japanese Internment

Two months after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 ordering all Japanese-Americans to evacuate the West Coast. This resulted in the relocation of approximately 120,000 people, many of whom were American citizens, to one of 10 internment camps located across the country.

Traditional family structure was upended within the camp, as American-born children were solely allowed to hold positions of authority. Some Japanese-American citizens of were allowed to return to the West Coast beginning in 1945, and the last camp closed in March 1946. In 1988, Congress awarded restitution payments to each survivor of the camps.

Operation Wetback

Operation Wetback was launched just as the racial underpinnings of our immigration policies began to be removed. Two years earlier, in 1952, our immigration laws had been changed so that, for the first time since our nation’s founding, being white was not a legal prerequisite for naturalization. Operation Wetback’s enforcement approach—assuming those who were not white had dubious citizenship—reflected the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s (and many Americans’) resistance to this legal shift.

The INS celebrated the success of the program publicly. Papers also ran photos of apprehended men held in crude holding pens set up in city parks and in the parking lots of processing centers, of men marched as captives through border towns, of men packed onto charter buses and of lines of those buses waiting to cross the border. In movie theaters across the nations newsreels showed Mexican immigrants rounded up and made to stand in the hot sun as their bodies and their belongings were searched.

The press coverage also failed to capture the many instances in which immigrants were roughed up, detained, and summarily deported without due process, often with no chance to notify their families that they had been swept up in raids on factories, fields, boarding houses, and even the same movie theaters that showed the newsreels. Mexican Americans had to prove that they belonged. INS agents dismissed the legitimacy of draft cards or Social Security cards, insisting on birth certificates, which few people carried around on their person. Mexican Americans who couldn’t produce birth certificates quickly enough were deported.

Obama Deportations

President Obama apparently felt that a show of strength would give him greater credibility in bringing about comprehensive immigration reform. It did not, earning him the title of “deporter-in-chief”. Politifact summarizes media coverage of deportations during the Obama years.

2010: The Washington Post reported that “the Obama administration is deporting record numbers of illegal immigrants.”

2012: NPR reported that the Obama administration “deported a record 1.5 million” in his first term.

2014: An analysis by The New York Times found that since Obama became president, “two-thirds of the nearly two million deportation cases involve people who had committed minor infractions, including traffic violations, or had no criminal record at all.”

2016: The New York Times reported in June that Obama “has carried out many more deportations than previous presidents, setting a record of more than 2.4 million formal removals.”

Eventually, through executive actions, the Obama administration sought to offer relief from deportations through the DACA and DAPA, shifting focus to violent criminals. Nonetheless Donald Trump promised to rescind all such actions and remove as many undocumented residents as possible.

2017 Ban on Seven Muslim Countries with Exceptions for Christians.

While campaigning for president days after a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif.,Donald Trump called for”a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”

In June 2016, after a terrorist attack in Orlando, Fla., Trump reiterated his call for a temporary Muslim ban, saying in a speech: “I called for a ban after San Bernardino, and was met with great scorn and anger, but now many are saying I was right to do so.” But he also said he would suspend immigration from areas “where there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe or our allies.”

A week after his inauguration, the Jan. 27, 2017 order temporarily prohibits from entering the United States virtually all people traveling on passports from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.

After the order took effect, Trump supporter and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was asked how Trump decided on the seven countries. Giuliani said: “So when he first announced it, he said, ‘Muslim ban.’ He called me up. He said, ‘Put a commission together. Show me the right way to do it legally.’ … We focused on, instead of religion, danger — the areas of the world that create danger for us. Which is a factual basis, not a religious basis.”

Trump’s statements evidently were pivotal for Sally Yates, whom Trump fired as acting attorney general after she instructed the Justice Department not to defend the executive order. A letter she wrote showed she was bothered by the focus on majority-Muslim countries. And the New York Times, citing senior officials, reported that Yates “became convinced, based on the president’s own statements, that he had intended to unlawfully single out Muslims.”

After the attorneys general of two states obtained standing to challenge the legality of the executive action, President Trump not only initiated a campaign against the judicial system, but sought to blame judges for any future acts of terror that might occur in the country.

After only three weeks in office, he is launching an unusual attack — not just on a particular ruling, but targeting a specific judge.

“Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril,” Trump wrote. “If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!” Trump wrote.

Do you hear the music? You can’t see them, but beware of the unseen others.

“People pouring in,” Trump falsely insists.  He would have us to be afraid and ignore our country’s historical low-points and Constitution. 

There is reason for concern, but the REAL THREAT to our American life and values is NOT powerless undocumented immigrants.

About Larry Eppley

Larry Eppley's background is diverse. A former pulpit minister, he was a real estate agent before spending about ten years as a computer software trainer and IT support specialist. Now retired, he teaches English as Second Language classes for Spanish speakers, as well as a weekly bilingual Bible class.


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