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Trump Scapegoats Arabs in Migrant Crisis

posted on: Oct 31, 2018

Photo: BBC

By Amy Hensler/Arab America Contributing Writer 

On October 22nd, President Donald Trump tweeted about the Central American migrant caravans, stating that “sadly, it looks like Mexico’s Police and Military are unable to stop the Caravan heading to the Southern Border of the United States. Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in. I have alerted Border Patrol and Military that this is a National Emergency. Must change laws!”

This tweet lumped immigrants from the Middle East with the immigrants from Latin America, to try and create more hysteria around the caravan that is heading for the southern US border. This caravan contains migrants from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, and started so people could flee from violence, poverty, and the political instability of their home countries. The caravan now contains around 4,000 people all fleeing together hoping that there is safety in numbers.

Since the beginning of The President’s campaign, Trump has been using immigrants as a scapegoat for the troubles of America. He has taken a strict immigration stance in order to shift to an “America first” policy. However, his recent tweet shows that not only is he creating a false stigma around Latin American immigrants, but also one equally as a dangerous for Arab and Middle Eastern immigrants. In an interview, Trump prompted the reporter to “go into the middle [of the caravan] and search. You’re gonna find MS-13, your gonna find Middle Eastern, you’re going to find everything.”

The “America first” rhetoric is a philosophy based on exclusion. In its attempts to define who is and is not an American, it creates an atmosphere of hate that negatively impacts immigrants of all nationalities. The hate speech that Trump promotes creates a harmful environment for Arab Americans by lumping all Arabs as “Muslim terrorists”. This is a tactic used to create Arabs as a scapegoat to generate fear around immigrants who will inevitably “invade” our country.

President Trump conceded that there is no evidence supporting his claim that Middle Eastern terrorists are traveling from Honduras in the migrant caravan. He followed this statement with a claim that there “could very well be” terrorists traveling in the group, thus perpetuating the stereotype that migrants are dangerous and threats to American society.

This politicization of the migrant crisis comes at a deliberate time for American politics because of the Midterm elections to be held on November 6th. Trump conveniently blames Democrats for illegal immigration and states that they are responsible for letting “dangerous” criminals into the country. He tweeted on October 22nd, “Every time you see a Caravan or people illegally coming, or attempting to come, into our Country illegally, think of and blame the Democrats for not giving us the votes to change our pathetic Immigration Laws! Remember the Midterms! So unfair to those who come in legally.”

By using Middle Easterners as scapegoats to rally political support for the Republicans, Trump does something more dangerous than getting Republicans to the polls. He creates an environment of hostility directly aimed at Arab Americans. Trump dangerously asserts facts that have no merit, and in doing so paints all Arabs as enemies. This accounts for the rise in hate crimes after Trump was elected. His hateful rhetoric mobilizes those most dangerous to society against those who are racial, religiously, or ethnically marginalized.

The fact of the matter is that in 2018, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents apprehended 17,256 criminals, 1,019 gang members, and 3,028 “special interest aliens,” in total at the US borders. Special interest aliens are defined by the Government Accountability Office as “aliens from countries of special interest to the United States such as Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan,” or the Middle Easterners Trump is claiming are traveling to the US via these migrant caravans.

However, according to the Department of Homeland Security data, 396,579 people were apprehended along the southwest border with Mexico in 2018. Of those, only 4.4 percent were deemed criminals by DHS; and only 0.8 percent were “special interest aliens.” With less than one percent of Middle Eastern immigrants entering through the southwest border, it seems highly unlikely that the caravan contains any Middle Eastern migrants. Trump simply stated this as a way to generate more fear and support for the militarization of the border.

Trump’s fear-mongering tactics have no basis in real evidence. Time and time again after boasting disastrous claims they have been debunked by multiple experts, media sources, and officials. However, anything disagreeing with The President’s opinion based statements is met with attacks labeling it as the liberal “fake news” thus sowing doubt of what truly are the facts.

Arabs and Muslims have been convenient scapegoats for US politics even before Trump. However, carelessly made blanket statements that are made just to support a political goal are dangerous and impulsive to American society.