President Donald Trump’s first year in office has been, with little question, the most challenging, discouraging and dangerous in the last four decades of American history.
Guided by unbridled extremism, Trump has done more than simply break our promise to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients. He has assaulted America’s values and interests with regard to immigration, the economy, Puerto Rico, voting rights and, perhaps most disconcertingly, our national unity. Here’s how.
Immigration: Trump has turned his baseless and incendiary anti-immigrant campaign rhetoric into reality. Starting with his infamous Muslim travel ban, to his order to end Temporary Protected Status for hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans, Haitians and El Salvadorans, to his recently infamous and cruel decision to end the DACA program for 800,000 young people, Trump’s draconian measures have forced immigrants deeper into the shadows, tossing tens of thousands into detention centers, keeping children from reuniting with parents and denying due process protections for asylum seekers.
Those policies demonstrate Trump’s disdain for people whose religion and skin color are offensive to him and his Cabinet members. Not since the 1920s has the United States pursued such punitive and callous immigration policies. They will be remembered as some of the most shameful in American history.
The Economy: It’s easy to look superficially at our national economy, as Trump regularly does, and say that unemployment is down and job growth is up because of his presidency. But, as a recent Washington Post article highlighted, “by almost every economic measure, the upward trends Trump cites began while Obama was still in office.”
What is real is the fact that Trump has skewed the economy for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans while pulling the rug out from under low-income and middle-class families.
Working with Republican leaders in Congress, Trump cut taxes on corporations and the wealthiest Americans under the fantastical and provably false premise that tax savings will “trickle down” to ordinary citizens. By doing so, the president and Republican congressional members have set us on a course to significantly reduce the social safety net programs that low-income and middle-class families most depend on: Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid. Add to this the law’s stealthy sabotaging of the Affordable Care Act, which has helped keep millions of Americans healthy and financially solvent, and it’s easy to see why so many in our communities are watching the president’s economic agenda with dread.
Puerto Rico: On election night in 2016, Trump pledged that he would be “President for all Americans,” yet days after Hurricane Maria, Trump was still disengaged from the island’s growing humanitarian crisis. Out of Trump’s $36.5 billion disaster-relief package, only $1.2 billion was earmarked for Puerto Rico. This unconscionable neglect has left many without electricity or the most basic necessities, forcing hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans to resettle in Florida, New York and other states, creating grave shortages in housing and schools. It’s infuriating that neither Trump nor congressional Republicans want to help Puerto Rico during its time of greatest need and pass legislation to rebuild the island in a way that’s sustainable, modern and just.
Voting Rights: Who can forget Trump’s absurd insistence that, but for millions of illegal voters he would have easily won the popular vote in 2016? Less amusing was Trump’s creation of the Election Integrity Commission, led by anti-immigrant activist Kris Kobach, to launch a campaign that targeted Latino voters in looking for “voter fraud,” even though these claims have been discredited for years. Thankfully, enough state officials rejected this federal overreach and the EIC was disbanded. That may have been a victory for voting rights, but it’s clear that the president has every intention of making voting more difficult and will use the considerable power of the Department of Justice to support state-level voter restrictions that have proven highly effective in keeping Latino and other American voters from the ballot box.
National Unity: Over the past 12 months the president has done little to unite our nation, and everything to divide us, in the process diminishing the office of the presidency. Most disconcerting has been his corrosive and vulgar language: His attacks on a free press, his penchant for humiliating friend and foe alike, his naked embrace of white nationalism, and his racist beliefs, which were illustrated most recently when he labeled Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as “shithole countries.” Trump has offered a dark vision for our nation which indicates that our country’s diversity is a negative, and patriotic dissent rooted in reason and fact are tantamount to treason. We cannot ignore these assaults on civic comity because they threaten the very nature of our democracy and the unity of our multi-ethnic nation.
Unfortunately, 2018 promises little relief. But if the coming year promises to bring grave challenges from this administration, it does offer some important opportunities to fight back, to resist. The good news is that we aren’t alone in this fight. The shared experience of coming under attack from the White House has strengthened the bonds that unite people of color, women, immigrants, the working classes, religious minorities, organized labor and the LGBTQ community. In trying to divide us, Trump has compelled us to hold on more tightly to one another.
We know that we face a difficult road before us, but we also know that our families and communities are resilient, and that by working together we can turn the tide and make possible an America that is great again.
José Calderón is president of the Hispanic Federation, the nation’s premier Latino nonprofit membership organization.
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