CHICAGO – President Trump is playing the media, his detractors and his supporters with his pre-election stunts. Overruling the Constitution to end birthright citizenship? Sending troops to the border to combat the supposed hordes of potentially terrorist-filled migrant caravans?
These are the kind of shiny distractions Trump uses to dog-whistle at his base, hoping to satisfy their craving for fewer immigrants in this country, particularly dark-skinned ones.
The troops the president wants to deploy to our southern border will be able to do nothing more than provide logistical support to the Border Patrol, such as building tents and shoveling manure. That’s because using the military to enforce immigration or criminal laws at the border – or to perform any other law enforcement activities – is itself illegal.
Plus, scads of legal experts, and influential Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan, know that a push to end birthright citizenship will never bear fruit. The rest of us can take cold comfort in understanding that it’s all basically campaigning to energize hard-right voters ahead of the election.
It’s also just one more example of brazen hypocrisy to suggest a radical use of executive authority to keep immigrants shut out of American life. Meanwhile, Republicans screamed bloody murder every time President Obama tried to use an executive order to mitigate immigrant suffering.
But make no mistake: Although Trump’s actions are primarily for the purposes of using hatred to drive people to the polls, his secondary objective of making life harder for immigrants and anyone who might sound or look like one is also going swimmingly.
In September, elementary school students in La Quinta, Calif., were celebrating their Mexican heritage by donning brightly colored folkloric costumes and performing traditional dances at the library. They were told to scrub their presentations of any references to Mexico, and the coordinating teacher was told that next time the students should perform patriotic songs like “Yankee Doodle.”
And last week’s Halloween brought with it a raft of racist costume news stories, like the one about the Kentucky dad who thought it’d be cute to dress his 5-year-old as Adolf Hitler and himself as a Nazi soldier. A news story about the guy’s extracurricular activities as a Civil War and World War II re-enactor noted that he had dressed up as a Confederate soldier last year, and his Facebook account is littered with “White Pride Doesn’t Mean Hate” posts.
None of this is any kind of coincidence. President Trump has valorized white supremacists while demonizing anyone who isn’t white or Christian. As a result we’re living in a country where Jewish people are again being slaughtered in their places of worship just for being Jewish – just like African-Americans since before the Charleston church shooting and to this day.
But back to the border.
Yes, the border, where crossings have been declining for years since a peak in 2000.
And birthright citizenship, in the country where births to unauthorized immigrants has been on the decline since 2009.
And to Hispanics, 54 percent of whom, according to the Pew Research Center, say it has become more difficult to live in this country as a Latino since the 2016 presidential election.
Trump and his acolytes apparently want to make sure it stays that way, but quite possibly are simply reacting to their own fears that Latino voters will someday come in to political power that they could command if they were more reliable voters.
Perhaps they should be scared. Intimidation tactics can be a double-edged sword, with the potential to either cow a people or galvanize them.
Nothing I’ve seen suggests that Latinos and other voters of color are giving up. But I have seen plenty of flabbergasted and sorrowful social-media posts from friends who are, for the first time in their lives, concerned for their safety and well-being in the country they’ve called home for generations.
According to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund, more than 7.8 million Latinos are expected to cast ballots this year. This would represent a 15 percent increase in turnout and a 6.9 percent increase in the Latino share of the vote from 2014.
So, bring it on Trump. You can try your best, but take it from me and about 30 million other Latinos who are eligible to vote this week: We don’t scare so easily.
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @estherjcepeda. (c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group.