As most of us are aware by now, our president lives in an alternate reality from the rest of us. A minority of Americans who religiously watch Fox “News” (more accurately described as the Fox Propaganda Distribution Network) also reside in that alternate reality.
In that reality the biggest threat to “real” Americans (code for conservative white rural voters) is not climate change, domestic terrorism, hate crimes, wildfires or hurricanes; it’s immigrants and poor people, especially people of color, women and children. In this alternate reality, there is no need to prepare for hurricanes such as the one that almost hit Florida this past week.
The real threats are the women and children risking their lives fleeing poverty and violence to seek shelter in the relative safety of the United States. It’s because of this made-up “threat” that the Trump Administration is shifting $270 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to the Department of Homeland Security so that they can detain more immigrants along the southern border.
Shifting this money means the Department of Homeland Security will lose $116 million previously allocated for the Coast Guard in order to fund nearly 6,800 more beds for immigrant detainees. Now Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can detain 50,000 people at one time. This administration believes it is more important to rip families apart and traumatize children rather than prepare for or recover from natural disasters.
Trump justifies these actions by invoking the language of war. He speaks of refugees and undocumented immigrants as “invaders,” inspiring one white nationalist to murder 22 of these “invaders” at a Wal-Mart in El Paso, Texas, last month. The shooter wrote in a manifesto that he was “defending his country from Hispanic invaders.”
It was by declaring a national emergency earlier this year that Trump officials justified seizing $2.5 billion that had been allocated to the military to build a wall along the southern border instead. This came after they shut the government down for 35 days until Congress agreed finally agreed to give $1.4 billion.
Given that this Administration believes it is engaged in a war against immigrants, throwing more money at ICE and Customs and Border Protection does nothing to mitigate the human rights abuses happening at the border and only further fuels their assault against these desperate people.
Making public health decisions based on imaginary threats is dangerous. The way the Trump administration is doing it — bypassing Congress and threatening to ignore the Supreme Court when it rules against them — is also undemocratic and profoundly anti-American. Homeland Security regularly flouts the funding levels set by Congress in order to expand its detention and deportation activities.
This isn’t the first time this has happened. When Republicans controlled both houses of Congress they allowed ICE to steal $200 million in 2018 in order to expand ICE’s detention capacity. Instead of holding the administration accountable for its abuses and mismanagement, under Republican leadership Congress has consistently awarded even more money.
The crisis at the Southern border is a direct result of deliberate, but unnecessary, decisions being made by this administration. This crisis is not due to a lack of resources; it is due to Congress allowing those resources to be used to maximize cruelty, instead of meet the real humanitarian needs that exist.
While the president re-distributes federal funds to fight imaginary threats, the rest of us face very real threats from climate change in the form of stronger hurricanes, extreme flooding, drought and wildfires. We face increased gun violence, and mass shootings and hate crimes inspired by the president’s rhetoric.
Our lives are stake here. We can’t afford to ignore those dangers and waste money instead locking up people who whose only crime was to believe the words written on the Statue of Liberty. They come here asking for our help and compassion. We treat them like the enemy and as a result we are all less safe.
We must demand that Congress stop with the blank checks to ICE and Customs and Border Protection to the detriment of current and future generations. We must #DefundHate.
This piece was written by Barb Howe with assistance from other volunteers from Indivisible Gainesville.