As the Covid-19 pandemic has picked up steam over the past four months, the Trump administration has used it as cover to implement a wish list of anti-immigration policies.
At this point, pretty much all immigration into the United States is temporarily on hold. Now, under the iron fist of Trump adviser Stephen Miller, the administration is readying even harsher, potentially more permanent measures: Last week, it proposed a rule that would make it all but impossible for asylum seekers who transit through other countries to claim asylum here. It is also looking to clamp down on a range of work visas. These announcements are expected to be rolled out in the coming weeks.
Before that can happen, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has already issued an emergency rule that stands out for its sadism, even amid all of the Trump gang’s other policies: Building off guidelines issued in April, DeVos’s rule would bar colleges and universities from giving any Covid-19-related relief funds to foreign or undocumented students, including those with DACA status.
There could be more coming: Some immigration attorneys have recently shared rumors that the administration may try to curtail work visas for asylees, refugees, and those holding Temporary Protected Status as well. This is unconfirmed—although it would certainly be in keeping with the administration’s efforts to make it ever harder for immigrants to survive in the United States.
There’s no good reason for any of this. These new proposals and emergency rules are solely designed to use the might of the federal government to beat up on vulnerable groups, much like last week’s move to put transgender people in danger by stripping anti-discrimination protections from the Affordable Care Act. There is no economic or medical logic to allowing insurance companies and doctors to deny services to trans Americans. This is raw bigotry—election-season red meat masquerading as public policy.
It’s also about distraction. In recent weeks, the protests against police brutality that were started by black organizers have expanded to encompass other pro-democracy demands, sparking a vast moral awakening across the country. That’s one part of the Signal at the moment. Meanwhile, Trump’s beleaguered team is doubling down on their signature politics of division. On a near-hourly basis, they are ramping up the Noise, hoping to drown everything else out.
After all, we’re also still in the midst of a rampaging pandemic—one that, in this country, has infected more than 2 million people and killed more than 115,000. That’s the second part of today’s Signal. Nonetheless, Trump is doubling down in pushing for states to reopen their economies at breakneck speed. His administration has sided with those who don’t want to extend past July the more generous unemployment benefits passed in response to shelter-in-place measures. This means that those who still can’t find a job will be left in the cold, and those who are afraid of contracting the novel coronavirus if they do go back to work will have no choice but to play Russian roulette.
It’s no surprise that infection rates are spiking again, as states reopen and the president tells followers that they don’t need to socially distance or wear masks. As of this past weekend, daily numbers for new diagnoses were climbing in 22 states—and Trump no longer even pretends to care. In the face of warnings from local public health officials, he is going ahead with plans to hold an indoor rally in Tulsa, Okla., on Saturday. After a disagreement with North Carolina’s governor over public health concerns around this summer’s Republican National Convention, most of the convention events originally scheduled to take place in Charlotte will now move to Jacksonville, Fla. There, Trump has been assured by Jacksonville’s quiescent politicians that his followers will be allowed to gather indoors with optional masks and no effort to socially distance.
Are these huge indoor gatherings a risk? Public health experts say they are. In a tacit acknowledgment of that reality, Trump’s campaign is making all attendees to the upcoming Tulsa rally sign a waiver saying they will not sue the campaign if they become sick from attending.
There are four and a half months to go until the election. Expect every day of those long months to be filled with Trumpian distractions and venom, and with policies designed to destroy the lives of those unlucky enough to be pawns in the president’s totalitarian games. Remember that none of these new rules have been codified into law by Congress. They are hastily constructed, flimsily argued, and legally dubious—ghastly overreaches by an out-of-control executive. We must keep track of every sadistic executive order, emergency rule, and regulatory change, and demand that the next administration roll back every single one of these awful policies on day one.