Immigration Enforcement in America’s Past and in the Age of Trump

Two new books, Threat of Dissent by Julia Rose Kraut and Separated: Inside an American Tragedy by Jacob Soboroff, illuminate the history of immigration and how immigrants are being treated in America today.

In Threat of Dissent Julia Rose Kraut details America’s fear of foreigners and its history of excluding and deporting non-citizens because of their ideas and beliefs.  The Alien Friends Act of 1798 allowed a president to detain and deport any noncitizen deemed “dangerous to the peace and security of the United States.” Kraut traces how different ideologies were considered dangerous according to the fears of different eras. Anarchism gave way to Communism; and Communism in turn gave way to to Islamic radicalism. After being elected, Trump immediately announced a travel ban upon visitors from Muslim countries.  And though it was challenged for more than a year, a revised version was upheld with a 5-4 ruling by the Supreme Court.

But Separated by Jacob Soboroff, a news correspondent for MSNBC and NBC focuses on the tragedy of the here and now.  Soboroff was reporting from the southern border when he discovered that the Trump administration had been separating children from their migrant parents.  This humanitarian disaster was compounded by such poor record-keeping that authorities couldn’t keep track of which children belonged to whom.  Since the summer of 2017 at least 5,556 children have been taken from their parents – the true number is still unknown.  The American Academy of Pediatrics called separation “government-sanctioned child abuse”; the nonprofit Physicians for Human Rights called it “torture.”

Read together Threat of Dissent and Separated: Inside an American Tragedy make it clear that the United States, a country that prides itself on its constitutional protections, also possesses a body of immigration laws that can be abused by its executive branch – as we’re tragically seeing now  with Trump in the White House.