"We have our military on the border. And I noticed all that beautiful barbed wire going up today, barbed wire used properly can be a beautiful sight,” said US President Donald Trump at a campaign rally in early November, in a statement the Nazis would surely have approved of. Trump has deployed thousands of troops to the US-Mexico border to prevent men, women and children fleeing gang violence in Central America, from entering the US. While the first caravan of migrants is still hundreds of miles from the border, Trump says the total number of troops lying in wait for them could go up to 15,000. That’s more than the number of US troops in Afghanistan.
US military planners estimate that only 20 per cent of the approximately 7,000 people in these caravans will eventually reach the US. If the president does increase the number of troops at the border to 15,000, this would work out to 10 soldiers for each asylum seeker.
While it’s hard to justify a war against underprivileged women and children escaping violence, Trump has chosen to portray the caravan as one filled largely with “thugs” and “dangerous” young men. “It’s a lot of young people, lot of young men—they are pushing the women up to the front—not good—and the kids right up to the front,” he said in an interview with ABC.
The exhausted, hungry migrants on the caravan, seeking freedom and a better life in the US, like 21-year-old Stephany Lopez, have told the press they are not killers and criminals.Many Americans are furious with their tax dollars being used to deploy troops against poor immigrants. According to the Centre for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, an independent, non-profit think-tank, the cost of deploying active duty troops at the border could range from $42 million to $110 million. When clubbed with the $182 million announced earlier this year for National Guard troops, the total cost of Trump’s border deployment could cross $200 million.
Trump’s propaganda against Central American asylum seekers is seen as a bid to help the Republican Party win the midterm elections by mobilising his electoral base.“An enormous fraud is being perpetrated on the American people,” an American woman told NBC, adding that the money could be put to better use, and that this was not an invasion. Some Republicans who voted for Trump now say they regret doing so.
Others, however, have bought into Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric. Some have even told the press they believe the migrant caravans are “a ploy to destroy America, and to bring us to our knees.” Others have said that, if they were in Trump’s shoes, they’d bring every troop they could find to guard the border.
Both Trump and his supporters have gone into overdrive with alarmist conspiracy theories over the Central American immigrants. The president told the military that if migrants threw rocks at them, they must react as if the rocks were rifles.
According to a conservative commentator, migrant caravans spelt the end of American borders, language and culture, and “the end of America as we know it.” He called Democrats evil supporters of the “invasion”, and painted a picture of the US flooded with immigrants urinating and defecating on the sidewalk and destroying “civilised society.”The demonisation of Central American migrants is not
very different from Nazi propaganda against the Jews inthe 1930s.
The US Holocaust Memorial Museum website talks of how the Nazi regime “employed propaganda to impress upon German civilians and soldiers that the Jews were not only subhuman, but also dangerous enemies of the German Reich. The regime aimed to elicit support, or at least acquiescence, for policies aimed at removing Jews permanently from areas of German settlement.” The site looked at how propaganda campaigns created an atmosphere tolerant of violence against Jews.
While the impact of Trump’s campaign on the migrant caravans is yet to be determined, the hatred towards immigrants that marks his presidency has real-world consequences.The Washington Post cited FBI data to show a jump in hate crimes from 10 to 27, the day after Trump was elected in 2016. More racially and ethnically biased hate crimes were reported on November 9, than on any other day in 2016.
Civil rights organisations and academic researchers have found an increase in hate crimes over the last couple of years, some of which have been attributed to Trump’s presidency, one that is marked by efforts to build a wall with Mexico, impose a travel ban on some Muslim countries and revoke citizenship at birth for immigrants.
Many Indian immigrants are far more concerned with Trump’s H-1B visa reforms that may cut short their stay in the US, than with an increase in racist attacks on immigrants.Conservative Hindu organisations have publicly backed Trump’s presidency. Many Indians feel they are immune to racist attacks as they believe they are not the intended targets. Some believe Muslims, and not Hindus, are under attack.
That’s an illusion that has now been shattered. Hate crimes over the last couple of years include the murder of Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla in Kansas last year, by a man who yelled “Get out of my country,” before shooting him.America’s Indian population needs to understand the fact that white supremacists cannot tell the difference between brown Hindus and brown Muslims. It’s time desis joined other immigrants in their battle against white supremacy.