President Trump has signed or is expected to sign a number of executive orders on immigration and national security issues this week, reportedly including one halting the resettlement of most refugees and suspending visas from countries including Syria. In a speech today, Trump announced that he had signed orders starting the process of building his long-promised wall along the Mexican border, cracking down on sanctuary cities that protect undocumented immigrants, adding thousands of new Border Patrol and ICE officers and creating a homeland security office “dedicated to supporting victims of illegal immigrant crime.”
While the details of some of the orders remain unclear, many seem to be direct products of the extreme anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim groups that backed Trump’s campaign and have rejoiced in his victory.
Trump’s proposed office dedicated to the victims of “illegal immigrant crime” appears to come directly from the Remembrance Project, a group that Trump frequently campaigned with and praised by name in his speech today. The Remembrance Project, as we’ve reported, is dedicated to “highlighting cases where American citizens have been killed by undocumented immigrants in an attempt to tie individual crimes to undocumented immigrants as a whole.” (In reality, studies show that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans.)
While the stories that it promotes are tragic and sympathetic, the group’s agenda is wholly in line with the anti-immigrant movement’s attempts to dehumanize immigrants by portraying them as criminals. The Remembrance Project’s leader, Maria Espinoza, has written about “illegal invaders” for the Social Contract, an anti-immigrant journal with a history of white nationalism, and the group’s website has even promoted an article from the notorious white supremacist website Daily Stormer about an “illegal alien let out of jail to kill white people.”
Several of Trump’s other policies seem to have come straight off the wish list of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), an anti-immigration group with white nationalist ties. Back in November, FAIR released a proposed immigration agenda for Trump’s first 100 days in office, including cutting off federal funds to sanctuary cities, adding “additional border infrastructure and manpower,” ending so-called “catch and release” policies and building a “physical barrier on the southern border.”
Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions, who the Washington Post reports was among the Trump allies promoting this week’s executive actions, has long been a top ally of FAIR in Congress. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who used to work for FAIR’s legal arm and maintains an “of counsel” position with the group, told the Wichita Eagle that he was involved in the “early stages” of crafting this week’s executive orders.
The Washington Post notes that the flurry of executive orders “is widely seen inside the White House as a victory for the self-described populist wing of his inner circle — which includes chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions and top policy adviser Stephen Miller.”
Bannon, as head of Breitbart News, was a key mouthpiece for anti-immigrant, and specifically anti-refugee propaganda, something he worked on closely with Sessions and Miller—who used to be Sessions’ communications director—to disseminate. In one 2015 radio interview with Sessions, Bannon called the influx of refugees and other migrants into Europe a “Muslim invasion” and referenced the racist anti-immigrant book “Camp of Saints.” In the same interview, Sessions praised a 1924 law that was, as The Atlantic noted, “designed to keep out Southern and Eastern Europeans, particularly Italians and Jews, Africans, and Middle Easterners, barring Asian immigration entirely.”
Conspicuously absent from Trump’s announced plans is any clarity on what he plans to do about those who have participated in DACA, President Obama’s program granting deportation relief to some immigrants who were brought to the country unlawfully as children. Ending DACA was FAIR’s top legislative priority for Trump, but Trump has been wavering on how to address the program.
This post has been updated to include Kris Kobach’s role in creating Trump’s executive orders.