President Donald Trump has received justifiable criticism and outrage over his zero-tolerance immigration policy, with the most recent outcry being the Families Belong Together rally this Saturday. At the event, I found this little poster in D.C. — Trump-Nazi comparisons were inevitable.
Even though Trump signed the executive order that was supposed to ban border patrol agents and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from separating immigrant children from their parents and placing them in detention centers, thousands of families have not been reunited.
In the wake of this scandal, several pundits have compared Trump’s policy to Nazi fascism: Joe Scarborough, Naomi LaChance and Kevin Dutton, just to name a few. Now, are the circumstances exactly the same? No. Unlike at Auschwitz, no reports show that children are being killed or forced to work at these facilities. But the way in which these families were separated warrants historical analysis. Lawyer Azalea Aleman-Bendiks revealed that border patrol agents misled immigrant parents when taking away their kids.
“Aleman-Bendiks, the public defender, said several of her clients have told her their children were taken from them by Border Patrol agents who said they were going to give them a bath,” according to the Boston Globe. “As the hours passed, it dawned on the mothers the kids were not coming back.”
Attorney Jeff Sessions tried to discredit the similarity, as Nazis “were keeping the Jews from leaving the country.” There are two problems with this argument: 1) Nazi Germany deported thousands of Jews in the late 1930s, resulting in family separation as well. 2) Due to Trump’s zero-tolerance policy, immigrant children are still in the camps or the Department of Health and Human Services’ custody—i.e. kept in America — even after their parents have been deported. On top of that, they originally had no plans for reuniting immigrant families.
The conditions of America’s detention facilities are also horrific. Many have reported that children, as young as 6 months old, are locked in cages.
“They’re all on concrete floors, in cages,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) stated in a TIME interview, after visiting Texan detention centers last week. “There’s just no other way to describe it. They’re big chain-linked cages on cold concrete floors and metal blankets.”
Progressives in favor of abolishing ICE have likened the agency to Gestapo, the secret police Hitler used to separate Jewish families and remove political opponents.
“We are standing in front of a building that has become the headquarters for the Gestapo of the United States of America”: Brooklyn Democrat @RepYvetteClarke, outside @ICEgov’s Manhattan hq. pic.twitter.com/5iNoTZ0mVf
— Matthew Chayes (@chayesmatthew) January 27, 2018
Though imperfect, the comparison is valid due to ICE’s diminishing credibility. ICE spokesman James Schwab resigned in March due to Sessions and ICE chief Thomas Homan giving misinformation regarding ICE raids in California.
“I quit because I didn’t want to perpetuate misleading facts,” Schwab told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I told them that the information was wrong, they asked me to deflect and I didn’t agree with that.”
This speaks to the overall propaganda that the Trump administration has pushed on the issue of immigration. Along with the typical cry of “fake news,” the President falsely blamed Democrats for family separation prior to conceding to public pressure.
Besides this scandal, Trump has displayed fascist tendencies numerous times. This includes his affinity towards authoritarians such as Presidents Rodrigo Duterte and Vladimir Putin, desire to undermine press freedom and the way he encouraged violence at his campaign rallies.
The immigration debacle is the most extreme example of his authoritarianism, as it transformed from rhetoric to policy. However, the major difference between Nazi Germany and 2018 America is public reaction. Prior to WWII, most of Germany and the Western world enabled the rise of Hitler and his nativist ideology.
Now, most Americans support immigration and the United Nations has condemned the recent catastrophe as a human rights violation. The continued outrage will be the only thing keeping the Trump’s right-wing extremism in check.
Photo: Crystal Foretia