Saturday, January 16, 2021

GUEST POST: President focuses on a straw man, Antifa, while racist extremist Trump Supporters Storm the Capitol by Carrie Rosenbaum


Carrie Rosenbaum, Visiting Scholar at the Berkeley Center for the Study of Law and Society

President focuses on a straw man, Antifa, while racist extremist Trump Supporters Storm the Capitol by Carrie Rosenbaum

"The worldview of White domestic terrorists: If you are White, then you are always an innocent patriot even when you are trying to destroy democracy. If you are Black, then you are always a guilty anarchist even when you are trying to save democracy.”

Ibram X. Kendi, January 10, 2021.

On January 5, 2021, one day before a white supremacist action or coup attempt to stop the Electoral College’s certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, the President used immigration policy to manufacture a foreign threat to our nation’s safety. Trump issued a new immigration memo, the “Presidential Memoranda on Inadmissibility of Persons Affiliated with Antifa Based on Organized Criminal Activity,”proclaiming “Antifa” as a threat to our nation’s safety. The day after the Memo, on January 6, 2021, white nationalists, and specifically, people displaying tattoos, flags and symbols of the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, Gestapo, and those violently advocating the return to slavery, attempted a violent Confederate coup. These two events illustrate Trump’s white nationalist immigration policy, and his anti-democratic and authoritarian tactics.

The Immigration Law Terrorism Bar and Antifa

The latest target in the Trump regime’s effort to restrict immigration (along racist and ideological lines) is a completely manufactured one, alleged antifascists who his regime labels “criminal” and “terrorists” pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act. After 9/11 Congress created “terrorism grounds of inadmissibility. Section 212(a)(3) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(3), deems people “inadmissible aliens” if they have engaged in or are likely to engage in “terrorist activity.“ Trump now seeks to label “Antifa” as terrorists.

Who is a terrorist? “Terrorist activity” can be interpreted broadly to include things like disseminating flyers (certainly activity more benign than what the country witnessed at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.) Similarly, “material support” to terrorist organizations could be something as small as giving a nominal amount of money, like a toll to pass through a certain territory while fleeing, or providing medical treatment, even against one’s will.

The DOJ, DOS and DHS can designate a group as a terrorist organization. The process is opaque generally not subject to review. Even if a group is not already designated, immigration officials can bar someone as a terrorist if they are part of a group of two or more individuals “organized or not” alleged to have engaged in terrorist activities. It also applies to conduct that is illegal in the country where it took place, or if it would be illegal here.

A “terrorist” under US immigration law cannot come to the United States, even if they are otherwise eligible to do so. This includes people qualified for a tourist visa, H-1B, fiancée of a US citizen, spouse or child of a US citizen, or other visa category.

Some designated terrorist organizations like “al-Shabaab” are appropriately on that list because they use violence against civilians and innocent people in attempting to achieve their political aims. As a former Asylum Officer, I have heard stories of terror inflicted on people by al-Shabaab. At the same time, I have also seen U.S. immigration authorities claim my clients were terrorists because they were part of a mandatory state-based socialist organization and merely paid dues. In part because of the way in which it has been applied, the terrorism bar has at times operated like an earlier iteration of a Muslim ban. (This raises another issue in immigration law to explore another day – ideological and political biases.)

“Antifa” Barred as Terrorists

 The Trump regime’s latest effort to keep people out is another manufactured threat that exposes the internal contradictions of the Trump propaganda machine. Which group is more like Al Qaeda or al-Shabaab? American white nationalists, or those who oppose fascism in the United States?

Even in the face of the events of January 6, Trump supporters at all levels have demonized Trump’s Antifa, instead of those who pose a threat to democracy. The immigration Memo, misstates facts, a hallmark of this regime, claiming,

“… the movement known as Antifa is directly or indirectly responsible for some of the recent lawlessness in our communities, and has exploited tragedies to advance a radical, leftist, anarchist, and often violent agenda… Antifa has long used otherwise permissible demonstrations to engage in lawless, criminal behavior to further its radical agenda.”

The description of “Antifa” in the White House Memo better matches the white nationalists including groups like the Proud Boys, who have engaged in violent anti-democratic acts like what we witnessed on January 6. Others within this umbrella of contemporary white supremacist groups have incited and used violence against peaceful Black Lives Matter supporters, and even attempted to kidnap Michigan’s state governor. Even the Department of Homeland Security has identified white supremacy as the greatest terrorism threat to the United States’ democracy. Donald Trump made false claims of a stolen presidential election and encouraged white nationalists to use violence against people and institutions of the U.S. government. It’s no surprise that he is still trying to manufacture an enemy of the state that isn’t himself.

The designation of Antifa as a terrorist organization is propaganda. “Antifa” is not an organization, but is a philosophy uniting those who oppose fascism and racism. Antifa does not advocate or use violence, and in fact supports democracy. Antifa is, by definition, anti-fascist. The United States fought to oppose fascism and mass racist, ableist, and homophobic murder in the name of white supremacy in World War II. (There were uglier truths about the role of the United States in turning away Jews fleeing Nazi Germany and African American soldiers returning to discrimination and Jim Crow laws here.) The Trump regime’s contradictory characterizing Antifa (and immigrants) as a threat, while lauding white supremacists as heroes underscores the regime’s white nationalist immigration policy and ideological motives.

The white nationalists and Nazi supporters who attempted a violent coup, by force and with violence, on the Capitol on January 6, would fall within the definition of terrorists and criminals if the same rules applied to them that apply to immigrants. In violently attempting to stop the certification of the Electoral College vote, they engaged in conduct that judged through the lens of the terrorism bar, would apply to them. In other words, if they were immigrants applying for membership in a democratic society with immigration laws like ours, they would be barred.

Through this January 5 Memo, the Trump regime reinforces his white supremacist, quasi-authoritarian governance-style, and anti-democratic immigration policy. Trump’s rhetoric and policy have evinced a preference for a “white” state. Stephen Miller, whose support for white supremacy is known to the public, has been behind much of the regime’s immigration policy. The Trump administration has ordered caging and separating families fleeing violence at the US-Mexico border, closing the border to people from Muslim majority countries, attempting to end Temporary Protected Status to people from countries like Haiti, El Salvador and Sudan, and changing requirements to limit immigration from countries like China and Mexico, and so much more. The justifications for such policies, when there are any, are allegedly national security. Particularly from the vantage point at which we all sit today in the aftermath of a white supremacist coup attempt, it’s as mind-boggling as it sounds. Immigrants and Antifa are scapegoats and strawmen.

By proclaiming Antifa as criminals and terrorists, the Trump regime’s anti-democratic, racist, anti-immigrant agenda converges and rewards white nationalists. The people who were allowed to storm the Capitol included government officials, law enforcement, and former military, but they could theoretically be prosecuted for felony-murder. They are a threat, not Antifa, or the Mexican and Central American immigrants seeking humanitarian relief at our southern border. Our next administration should steer the country towards immigration policies that stop demonizing immigrants and fostering racism, and allocate resources towards protecting the homeland from the threat within.

Carrie Rosenbaum is a Visiting Scholar at the Berkeley Center for the Study of Law and Society


Current Affairs | Permalink


Post a comment