A few months ago, hunkered down in the middle of the pandemic, I spent several days paging through old newspaper stories about a new group of immigrants from Central America who were showing up at the US border and asking for political asylum. They were fleeing civil wars and right-wing death squads, but when they got to the United States they were almost always turned away. “Economic migrants,” the Reagan administration called them, equal parts derisive and dismissive.
There’s long been cruelty, xenophobia, and racism built into the US immigration system. What’s different about the Trump administration is its total embrace of these horrible legacies—and the damage it’s willing to do to people from all walks of life, simply because they aren’t US citizens.
This week, Mother Jones is producing a series of stories detailing the ways in which Donald Trump and his obsessed senior adviser Stephen Miller have gone about weaponizing our already-broken immigration system. My colleagues Fernanda Echavarri and Noah Lanard have busted their asses over the past several years detailing the daily and cumulative damage wrought by the administration, and the past few days have been no different. Today, we published their collection of enraging, heartbreaking first-person interviews with immigrants whose lives have been upended by Trump’s crackdown, including a Salvadoran asylum seeker picking garbage in Mexico, an Indian coder afraid to unpack his boxes, and an Iraqi woman choosing between food for her baby and her husband’s green card. It’s truly can’t-miss reading.
But that’s not all. Noah also wrote about a stunning government report decrying family separation, the invasion of personal rights, untold illegal searches and seizures, and the “despotic powers of the administrative agency.” Sound familiar? Thing is, the report is from 1931. Meanwhile, I took some of that research from months ago and combined it with the personal narratives of two indigenous human rights activists from Guatemala to tell the story of how asylum is dead in the United States—and how the myth of American decency died with it. And tomorrow, we’ll look to the (dystopian) future, when a second Trump term promises to be even more repressive, vindictive, and Millerian in its scope and tenor.
It’s such an honor to work alongside dedicated, thorough reporters like Fernanda and Noah, as well as empathetic, whip-smart editors like Aaron Wiener and Tommy Craggs, who helped shape and conceptualize this package. If you’d like to see more of this kind of deeply reported, well-crafted journalism, please consider donating to nonprofit Mother Jones today.
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