Expect Further Division

by Erik Love, assistant professor of sociologyErik Love

There is no reason to expect that presidential candidate Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant bigotry will change now that he is the president of the United States. In the first 100 days, expect Trump to take every opportunity to show his supporters that he meant what he said during the campaign. He will attempt to build the wall, first by using existing authorities to order a token amount of construction, and then he will ask his Republican colleagues in the Congress to appropriate funds for the rest. Trump will claim that he kept his promise of banning Muslim immigration by reviving some version of the failed National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, which singled out immigrants from many Muslim-majority countries for additional surveillance and scrutiny. This will do virtually nothing to reduce the exaggerated threat of terrorist attacks, because Muslim American immigrants are not the only source of terrorism, and refugees are not really a source of terrorism. A discriminatory immigration program that singles out immigrants from various Muslim-majority countries would also not be the same thing as a “total shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” but Trump will claim he’s following through on his pledge, anyway.

Presidents of the United States have generally recognized the need to unify the nation after the end of their successful campaigns. After the Civil Rights Movement, most at least paid lip service to the ideals of inclusion and multiculturalism. Most of Trump’s contemporary predecessors refrained from using the Oval Office to scapegoat refugees from war and political persecution, who are perhaps the most vulnerable of all immigrants. Even though he has already won the election, Trump apparently sees greater advantage in casting aspersions on immigrants, refugees and Muslims, to continue whipping up his most loyal supporters, rather than seeking to build bridges to the majority of American voters who rejected his bigotry by casting ballots for another candidate. Issuing executive orders that make a big show of building the wall, discriminating against Muslims and turning away refugees will do nothing to improve the economy or keep America safer. While appearing to make good on his bigoted campaign promises, Trump will further divide America in his first 100 days.