Here’s How Trump’s Administration Is Already Targeting America’s Most Vulnerable

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As the first week of the Trump administration slithers along, we’re beginning to see patterns in the campaign promises Trump won’t keep — like maintaining Medicare and Medicaid — and the ones it seems very evident he will, like building a wall between the US and Mexico, limiting immigration of Muslims and refugees, and moving forward with the Dakota Access Pipeline. One thing’s for sure: the actions Trump and his team are moving forward with in their first weeks of the presidency, like the executive orders he signed today, are designed to target vulnerable populations of racial and ethnic minorities in the US.

The US/Mexico Border Wall

Today Trump is expected to sign an executive order that will ”shift federal funds toward construction of a wall” between the US and Mexico, the construction of which he says will begin “within months.” He has persisted in claiming that “We’ll be reimbursed at a later date from whatever transaction we make from Mexico… I’m just telling you there will be a payment. It will be in a form, perhaps a complicated form.” This claim is both bizarre and ominous, given that Mexico has repeatedly confirmed that they will not fund a project that, in the words of the Dallas Morning News, they “they haven’t sought and don’t support.” This plan is both legislatively difficult — the amount of money required for a wall of the size he wants would need cooperation from Congress — and logistically complicated. The Texas Observer explains that:

Along the 1,250 miles of Texas-Mexico border, 110 miles of fencing already exist. If the Trump administration decides to construct more fencing along the rest of the Texas border, it will have to navigate deep canyons, a national park, an ever-shifting river and a treaty with Mexico that requires binational consent before structures can be built in the river’s floodplains.

How will all those contradictory facts be reconciled? You probably have about as good an idea as the administration does.

Immigration Pushback and Muslim Ban

One executive orders Trump signed today also enacts “a temporary ban on most refugees and a suspension of visas for citizens of Syria and six other Middle Eastern and African countries” — not worded as a “Muslim ban” but clearly intended to target immigration from primarily Muslim nations. According to Reuters, the ban is expected to be in place for “several months” and have exceptions for “religious minorities escaping persecution, until more aggressive vetting is in place,” but given the general trends of the administration so far (and the views of would-be Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has opposed even legal immigration), there may not be reason to realistically expect that immigration restrictions will be lessened in the future. The block on Syrian refugees is “indefinite.” The NYT has published a copy of an early draft of today’s EO on refugees.

Interestingly, as the Washington Post notes, overall American views towards Muslims and Islam have been growing more positive, not less:

Attitudes toward “Muslim people” became progressively more favorable from 53 percent in November 2015 to 70 percent in October 2016… Even attitudes toward Islam itself (generally more unfavorable than attitudes toward Muslims) showed significant improvement: favorable attitudes went from 37 percent in November 2015 to 49 percent in October 2016, reaching the highest favorable level since 9/11.

WaPo traces the shift to backlash against Trump himself, arguing that “evidence suggests that during the election year, attitudes of most Americans toward Islam and Muslims improved overall precisely because Trump the candidate was seen to have the opposite view,” advancing the thesis that there’s high “incentive for leaders and groups to advance counternarratives to those of Trump’s supporters.”

Trump’s plans are also reported to include “sharply increasing efforts to round up and remove some of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States — including by enlisting state and local officials to track and apprehend them.” Joanne Lin of the ACLU told the NYT she is “tremendously concerned about the impact that could have on immigrants and families across the country.”

Pipeline Construction and Indigenous Sovereignty

One of the executive orders Trump signed on Monday allows continued construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which endangers the health and water quality and violates the land rights of the Standing Rock Sioux and which water protectors have been resisting for months now. It’s likely that this is only the beginning of the Trump administration’s money and land grabs at the expense of America’s Native people, continuing the long history of American governments profiting from violence against Native Americans. Some are concerned that we’ll see a concerted campaign mounted to privatize Native land in order to strip it of resources. From Alaska Indigenous/Countercurrent News:

Saglutupiaġataq’s [“the compulsive liar” in Iñupiatun] administration apparently began mobilizing to pursue the privatization of Indian lands as early as October 2016 with the formation of his 27 member Native American Affairs Coalition. The Coalition is chaired by “Cherokee” pretendian Rep. Markwayne Mullin. Like the termination policy of more than 60 years ago, the Coalition contends that impoverished tribes are saddled by federal regulations that stymie self-reliance and prosperity. Tribal lands should be privatized, it argues, so that American Indians can pursue development projects that lift them out of poverty.

…American Indian reservations are federally owned lands held “in trust” for tribes. The “vast untapped domestic energy reserves” referred to in Saglutupiaġataq’s energy plan are largely within American Indian reservations. These lands would need to be sold or leased to private sector corporations by the federal government in order for development to proceed. But first, tribal jurisdiction over those lands would need to be terminated by Congress and vested in states.

As the NYT has noted, Trump’s team has also decided to hang a portrait of Andrew Jackson, a slaveowner responsible for the Indian Removal Act, in the Oval Office, as “inspiration.”

Targeting Chicago

Trump also used his first days in office to threaten the city of Chicago — a city that during his campaign Trump made clear he associates exclusively with Black people and crime, which are linked inextricably in his mind and rhetoric — with federal law enforcement presence in a tweet. The Chicago Tribune notes that “reference to the city was made on the section of the White House website titled ‘Standing up for our law enforcement community.’ ‘The dangerous anti-police atmosphere in America is wrong,’ it states. ‘The Trump Administration will end it.'”

Just a week ago the Department of Justice issued a scathing report on the Chicago Police Department’s excessive force and violence. That report, combined with the fact that Chicago was one of the cities that protested Trump most effectively during his campaign, successfully causing him to cancel a rally, may suggest that he’s planning to make an example of Chicago and set a tone for his pro-police, “tough on crime” administration. By conflating protest against his administration with violent crime and imagined violence against police, Trump is setting up a premise for violent government intervention in Chicago.

Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

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29 Comments

  1. I wonder how those Trump supports are going to feel when that Keystone XL pipeline breaks. I am sure Trump supporters in the mid-west do know the pipeline will be under or near the Ogallala Aquifer, which is where they get their drinking water from.

  2. This is so frustrating. There are so many injustices to fight. I want to support every marginalized group. I’ve started working locally but there are so many people who are instantly effected. It’s like we’re getting a stream of f**k yous every day. It’s really overwhelming

  3. Thank you, Rachel, for wading through this shit show to give us highlights.
    @Denise: i feel the same way. I’m trying to focus on a couple of things so I don’t burnout or get overwhelmed. Still feel guilty that I don’t have time for every cause affected by this Compulsive Liar.

    On a lighter dystopian note, the national park service is popping off on twitter over the official twitter account being censored by the Trump cabinet re: the inauguration & climate change. @AltNatParkServ . it’s giving me life right now

    • If Cheeto is determined to sell these 🙁 I really hope someone like the Gates buys them and makes them free to enter, funded in part with subsidies from those who can afford it and appreciate their existence.
      National parks shouldn’t be private property anyway but if they have to be then that would be better than them being bought up by most industries such as the oil industry.

  4. DAPL does not endanger any water or infringe on land rights. DAPL is up stream from two other major cities and no one protested that. DAPL is going to be 90 feet beneath the riverbed and 60 miles upstream of the tribal water intake (which only services 700 people vs bismarck/mandan 80,000 people). it would take years for oil from the pipeline to transfer up to the riverbed. calling them water protectors is stupid and nonsensical. they are not protecting anything. they are violent and inventing prejudice that isn’t there.

    also, pipelines are the safest method to transport oil. there’s no chance of changing to 100% renewable in the near future. everything we use is made from or transported because of oil.

    • It is laughable to refer to a bunch of people praying and using non-violent civil disobedience ON THEIR OWN LAND as violent. If you think they are violent you don’t know what violence is.
      If you don’t ‘believe’ in anti-indigenous prejudice, you are buying into a distorted version of history. Acknowledgment of the violence of colonialism is not a marginal conspiracy theory. Here is a good basic intro from a mainstream source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6EsQa7GdeI4

      In theory, I can see how and why people promote the use of pipelines as the transition to renewables will not happen immediately. The problem is that we have pitiful regulations that are barely enforced and as a result there are hundreds of preventable, deeply damaging spills in North America every year. These companies are repeat offenders who have no incentive to protect the areas through which their pipelines are built. They have a proven track record of negligence. According to Reuters, Sunoco Logistics, the future operator of the DAPL, has seen more than 200 leaks since 2010. I trust this company to protect the environment as much as I trust Mike Pence to protect same-sex marriage rights.

      The bottom line is that you can’t put pipelines on/through the Standing Rock Sioux’s land without consent. Indigenous peoples have long, long histories of seeing environmental disasters inflicted on their lands by resource extraction. They have zero reason to trust this pipeline and the companies promoting it. They are protecting the water there and they will be remembered as being on the right side of history. What side do you want to be on?

      • Donna Martin shouldn’t have been allowed to graduation. She made a conscious decision to break a rule knowing the consequences.

        There’s a podcast with some of the folks from Television Without Pity that discuss this stuff. It’s hilarious. I think it’s called Again With That or something. Great username.

    • the DAPL wasn’t built north of bismarck, as originally proposed, in part bc “one reason that route was rejected was its potential threat to Bismarck’s water supply,”

      here’s a list of pipeline failures, accidents and ruptures just since 2000. feel free to call and request that a pipeline be built under your city

      i found that with less than five minutes of googling

      “The best evidence indicates that between three and four thousand out of the fifteen to sixteen thousand Cherokees died en route from the brutal conditions of the Trail of Tears” as a result of the Indian Removal Act. they had to walk until they collapsed, and women’s infants were murdered.

      if, in the year of our lord 2017, you really want “Native Americans don’t have rights to land, that’s made up” to be the hill you die on, go right ahead, i’m happy to be over here being “stupid and nonsensical” on behalf of the people whose land i occupy

  5. Donald is shooting himself in the foot. I say this because he is timing his decisions too early. This is giving all of his enemies time to recover and form a defense against him. He will win the battle but lose the war. How, when Obama got Obamacare passed it was well over a year after he took office. What happened, the nation was in an uproar and decided to elect republicans. So what did that mean for Obama, it meant he lost some power in Congress but because he started so late his enemies could not get out and defeat him in every race. After two years when Obamacare started working people realized it was a good program. So when it came time for Obama to get elected he won. Had he pushed thru Obamacare earlier he may have lost the congress completely. Don’t believe me, Clinton got a full democratic house and senate and lost it two years later. Why cause they got drunk with power and didn’t stop to think about what they were doing. In fact it was Clinton’s first shot at universal healthcare that died first and cost him the house and senate.

  6. I just love when irony slaps you in the face.

    Now you’re gonna have a “real investigation” about voter fraud, particularly: “You have people registered in two states. They’re registered in New York and New Jersey. They vote twice. There are millions of votes, in my opinion. Now, I’m gonna do an investigation.” And that quote belongs to Mr. Cheeto.

    And then you have this: “More complicated is the residency status of Steve Bannon, the president’s chief strategist and senior counselor, campaign manager, and former head of Breitbart News. Bannon owns a home in Laguna Beach, California, and he recently lived out of a Washington, DC, townhouse. But from 2014-2016, he registered to vote in Florida at a vacant home that his ex-wife had once rented, the Guardian reported in August. After that story published, Bannon changed his Florida voter registration to an address in Sarasota County. The address is the home of another Breitbart writer, and it doesn’t appear Bannon ever lived there, the Herald-Tribune reported.”

    https://www.buzzfeed.com/claudiakoerner/donald-trumps-top-adviser-and-daughter-were-registered-to-vo?utm_term=.hhdJG6Ldl#.ooe2mLlDQ

  7. Make no bones I don’t like Trump but his comment on Chicago is right on the money. Chicago is the only city in the US where gun violence doesn’t go down. I honestly believe in my heart that the police dept doesn’t want the violence to stop. Why cause the unions don’t want it to stop. The police unions want the violence to keep going so they can have an excuse to be violent. The gangs got the southside and the cops have everywhere else.

    Chicago is the only city in America where the most corrupt, violent criminals are the ones who serve the public.

    • Here’s the thing: Chicago homicides were steadily declining for 20 years until the city’s handgun ban was overturned by a federal appeals court, and murders started increasing again in 2012. When Illinois was forced (by a SCOTUS decision) to allow concealed carry, it increased again. Rahm Emanuel has spent his time in office destroying what little social services South and Westside residents have: closing half the city’s mental health centers, closing public schools and privatizing into charter schools, and slashing the budgets of violence prevention programs like CeaseFire. The Chicago Police Department has had an unchecked policy of abuse and torture against poc for generations. There is still no trauma center on the Southside to save the lives of gunshot victims there (though one is being built after years of activism). It’s no mystery, just systemic oppression and marginalization dating back to the restrictive covenants and redlining that created these neighborhoods in the first place.
      It’s playing out exactly as it

  8. This new policy as an alternative to the Muslim ban actually serves to piss me off even more than the Muslim ban would have. That’s nothing to do with beliefs. It’s to do with xenophobic racism, plain and simple and those fleeing stuff like ISIL will end up as the victims of it, even more so than if they’d banned Muslims. You can’t choose where you were born.

  9. As someone looking at these developments from a very long way away I’m still truly devastated by all that I’m seeing and reading.

    I’m so sorry that so many of you are in for such a dreadful time. The prospects for the rest of the world don’t look much better.

    Something that really is bothering me is a nagging worry that this creature’s actions could possibly cause another Civil war in the US. Is this just me being an alarmist or is it something that could happen?

    • I think about a Civil war too and believe it could be a real possibility. I think about bigger worldly wars too, countries with nuclear weapons, and how that could affect us as well, with a man like Trump in office. Terrifying times.

  10. “Even attitudes toward Islam itself (generally more unfavorable than attitudes toward Muslims) showed significant improvement: favorable attitudes went from 37 percent in November 2015 to 49 percent in October 2016, reaching the highest favorable level since 9/11.”

    And that’s supposed to be a good thing…? Religions like Islam or Christianity doesn’t think very highly of LGBTQ-people, so honestly, I’d prefer -less- tolerance of these types of religions, not more.

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