The recent El Paso shooting is a confirmation that rhetoric transcends stagnation and carries caustic consequences. If maliciously instrumentalized, it is a weapon of war, the finger on the trigger, a catalyst for pillaging.
What is the American dream? A question with a myriad of interpretations, as nuanced as the humans contemplating it. The gradation of answers in itself comprises the American Dream, a dream of co-existence and second chances. Yet in recent years American ideals remained as distant dreams without tangible results. Ideals living in our deepest chimeras, existing only as veneers for insidious, bigoted and capitalist policies.
The American dream has atrophied in the wake of the Trump Administration. Every anti-immigrant headline is an emphatic affirmation that America is retrogressing. Humanity is an afterthought, if thought of at all, for this administration. From rhetoric to policy, what the public endures is shrapnel piercing into its very core. The last weeks have been a rapid succession of events that continue to make manifest the despondent reality that is modern America.
On August 3rd, in El Paso Texas, the devastating details on yet another shooting in an interminable thread of massacres came to light. Over twenty people had their lives hijacked from them. Many of them parents partaking in back to school shopping at their local Walmart. Another twenty-six left enduring physical wounds and the rest left grappling with psychological traumas. Not to mention, a nation left in a perpetual state of apprehension and dubiety. The perpetrator, a 21-year-old white man from Dallas, composedly drove to El Paso, Texas with the sole incentive to eradicate immigrant lives. It was later revealed that the killer, in an online manifesto and a confession to the authorities after his arrest, admitted to targeting Mexicans.
The manifesto eerily emulates the rhetoric of President Trump. Amongst his acrimonious diatribes are, responding to the Hispanic invasion of Texas, racial animus towards “race-mixing” and homage to the Christchurch shooter, who was responsible for the massacre for 51 worshipping Muslims earlier this year in New Zealand. It is noteworthy to recall that the Christchurch shooter also lauded the current American President. The recent El Paso shooting is a confirmation that rhetoric transcends stagnation and carries caustic consequences. If maliciously instrumentalized, it is a weapon of war, the finger on the trigger, a catalyst for pillaging.
Fast forward 4 days later to August 7th, where the largest worksite ICE raid in US history took place. Over 680 workers, at various poultry plants in Mississippi, were arrested while their children waited in vain for their parents to pick them up from school. The scene played as if from a macabre dystopian novel with hundreds of children pleading for the government to return their parents.
In opposition to the Obama administration, who focused on recent border crossers with existing deportation orders, the Trump administration fixated on all illegal immigration. According to the acting director of ICE, Matthew Albence, some will be prosecuted and others swiftly deported. They were merely arrested, without any charge of guilt.
It is reported that the agents were donned in black body armor and armed with handguns as they zip-tied the workers’ hands behind their backs. Planned for over a year, Mike Morgan, the acting commissioner of US Border and Customs, vehemently contended the assertions that this was a raid, rather calling it a “targeted law enforcement operation.” President Trump glorified the raid, indicating it would deter “undocumented immigrants from taking American jobs.”
The raids along with the insufficient rationales from authorities are rather indecorous given the events that preceded it just 4 days before. Yet it is understood that the El Paso shooting and the Mississippi raids are not idiosyncratic entities, but connecting veins of the same bestial body.
On August 12th, 5 days after the Mississippi raids and 9 days after the El Paso Massacre, the Trump administration announced a new immigration policy favoring wealthier immigrants. The verbose 837-page policy declares that immigrants who use public benefits such as food stamps and Medicare will be denied green cards. The regulation targets immigrants who entered the country legally and applied for permanent residency. If they are deemed a financial burden for the government, they will be denied a green card.
Inevitably, the new policy has instigated considerable strife within the American community, with several states suing the Trump administration and several advocacy groups filing suit to block the new public charge. Advocates are warning of the potential implications that will follow this regulation, affecting an already terror-stricken and vulnerable community. Many will begin to end their public benefits, unsure of whether or not the new law will alter their already established legal status, thus plunging an entire people into an abyss of poverty and disease. The new policy is an impassioned reiteration by the Trump administration’s most ardent anti-immigrant sentiments of favoring the white and the wealthy.
With the Mississippi raids, along with the new stringent immigration policies, we are dismally reminded of the ongoing border crisis with its inundated detention facilities, caged children, and fragmented families. We recognize that for the Trump administration, it is not about the lack thereof or the abundance of jobs and money, rather a malefic show of white power.
Veritably, the Department of Homeland Security has declared that the ICE detention facilities have suppressed maximum capacity, forcing a backlog of detained migrants. ICE has 54,000 beds occupied despite being funded for 42,000 beds. In June, Congress approved a $4.6 billion emergency border aid package, and nearly $209 million was designated towards ICE. In addition to this, the Trump administration continues to turn away asylum seekers, sending them to Guatemala in violation of an international agreement.
The calamities plaguing the migrant community of America are not astounding since from the start of his campaign President Trump has only spewed virulent words.
“The Mexican government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States,” Trump said while running for office. “They are in many cases criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc.”
In November 2015, on “Morning Joe,” Trump said that America needs to “watch and study the mosques”, Shortly after also falsely claiming that thousands upon thousands of Muslims were cheering in New Jersey when the Twin Towers collapsed on September 11th 2001. The following month he called on ban of all Muslims from entering the United States.
Still, as a nation, we are left ruminating the tactile and psychological aftermath of President Trump’s policies and tweets. How does one reconcile with a government that indefatigably takes steps to erase your very existence, going so far as to rewrite an iconic poem to justify their bigotry? After the announcement of the new immigration policy, Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of US immigration and citizenship services, revised the infamous poem engraved on the Statue of Liberty by Emma Lazarus. Namely the lines, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
In an interview with CNN, Cuccinelli stated that the poem refers to those people “coming from Europe, where they had class-based societies.” Cuccinelli essentially stated, “Of course America welcomes the Caucasian poor who are much more civilized as opposed to their African and Arab counterparts”, reaffirming the profound Euro-centric and sectarian convictions imbued in the current American government.
Despite this dystopian like reality, if we look close enough, we can uncover the sincere Americans laboring to restore to the true American ethos of community and unity. Earlier this month, a Muslim initiative, led by two of America’s most prominent imams, Imam Zaid Shakir and Imam Omar Sulieman, raised $90,000 to release detained migrant parents. The Muslims for Migrants campaign, managed by Celebrate Mercy, was launched on August 5th in response to the current border crisis. According to the group, they were acting as their faith has instructed them to do so, which is to impart compassion and empathy to all creations of Allah. They acted as Muslims and as Americans. Tarek El Messidi, Celebrate Mercys founding director said of the detainees:
We’re sorry they had to endure this, sorry that we as a country have not treated them with mercy. We failed them. Many of these migrants are coming here, wanting stability and safety and escaping very harsh circumstances.”
Imam Omar Sulieman and Imam Zaid Shakir have implored American Muslims to look deeply within their conscious and their faith that is saturated with divine injunctions of establishing justice. In a joint letter by both Imams, they stated:
When we view the sickening conditions those migrating to our southern borders are exposed to, we should be touched and moved to action knowing that our religion grants those fleeing persecution, oppression or ecological devastation the right to migrate and to be duly considered for asylum.”
While the Trump administration continues on its attempts to dismember and rewrite the American dream, there are those dissenters who refuse to abandon their human family. With every shooting and raid that seeks to silence and exterminate, little initiatives such as Muslims For Migrants will lay the groundwork for profound reform and forge stalwart ties of human brotherhood.
We are already witnessing the first semblances of human compassion. Ryan Smith, a case manager with Chicago’s interfaith Community of Detained immigrants commended the project, reflected on the shared Muslim and Christian history when the Absyyian Christian King granted asylum to a group of Muslims sent by the Prophet PBUH to escape persecution in Mecca:
“Even with such narratives, it seems futile to urge you to look at the vestiges of physical and emotional carnage and unearth hope. But I am not asking you to look for hope, rather I am asking us to look to one another. If in this ephemeral life we can not offer each other shelter and mercy, we will be writing a bleak hereafter for ourselves. The Trump Administration ultimately seeks to paint a black and white picture that will force a divide between us. If we allow ourselves to believe that this transient land belongs to us and not the Almighty, that a mere creation of Allah can refuse shelter to the suffering on the mere basis of arrogance, then we have allowed Trump and all his cronies alike to win this war of saving humanity. As divergent as our human anatomies and minds may appear, we must never allow ourselves to be ambivalent towards offering compassion and empathy.”