Speakers at U of MN analyze Trump’s anti-immigrant politics
Minneapolis, MN – On Nov. 3, a panel of three speakers at the University of Minnesota analyzed the phenomenon of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and how his anti-immigrant rhetoric affects the struggle for immigrant rights.
The event started off by watching video clips of several of the anti-Mexican and anti-immigrant statements that Trump has made during the campaign.
Javier Morillo, Jess Sundin and Susana De Leon were the speakers at the event.
Morillo is president of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 26, a union of Twin Cities area janitors and security guards with a large number of immigrant members. He is also a frequent media commentator on local and national politics and has been following the Trump phenomenon closely. Morillo argued for taking Trump’s campaign very seriously, as it is a break with the more institutional Republicans, and the anti-immigrant rhetoric has very real consequences. But he also said it’s important to fight against it using the tools of humor and satire. As an example of that, Morillo created parody Facebook and Twitter accounts for a Donald Trump piñata named “El Donaldo” who gives satirical, obnoxious commentary on the presidential race and other things. He brought the Trump piñata with him to the event as a visual aid.
Sundin is a founder of the Anti-War Committee and a member of Freedom Road Socialist Organization. She spoke about one of Trump’s anti-immigrant proposals which hasn’t received a lot of attention. Trump has called for revoking the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. He wants to do this to revoke citizenship rights for children born in the U.S. whose parents are undocumented immigrants. Sundin explained the roots of the 14th Amendment in the post-Civil War era. It was passed to make African Americans U.S. citizens after slavery. Before that, African Americans were non-citizens who were considered non-persons. She emphasized how dangerous it is not just for Latino immigrants but for all oppressed nationalities that Trump is calling into question the 14th Amendment. If his proposal were implemented, it would strip millions of U.S.-born children of their citizenship, creating millions of people without a legal homeland.
Sundin also spoke to the need to organize to defeat Trump’s anti-immigrant politics in the streets where we can influence the terms of debate, in the way that the immigrant rights movement and Black Lives Matter movement have done in recent years. She noted that we won’t be able to successfully challenge him simply by voting for other candidates, because so many of the other candidates agree with his positions – for example most Republican candidates agree with him about the 14th Amendment, while all the Republicans and even most Democrats haven’t opposed the massive increase in militarization of the U.S.-México border. The electoral process is so tightly controlled that by and large our messages can’t get in to influence things there.
Finishing the panel discussion was Susana De Leon, a Xicana activist and immigrant rights attorney. She laid out the broad context of more than 500 years of colonization of this continent and the imposition of illegitimate borders by European settlers, and called into question why indigenous peoples of the Americas traveling between what is now México and what is now the U.S. should be considered ‘immigrants’ at all, when those borders were forcefully imposed by others and the indigenous people have roots all over the continent. In this context, Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric is not something particularly new, but rather a manifestation of the ongoing colonization and oppression of the indigenous people of this continent in the pursuit of stealing land and labor.
The event was organized by the campus chapter of the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee and endorsed by Students for a Democratic Society, Students for Justice in Palestine, the Feminist Student Activist Collective, La Raza Student Cultural Center, National Lawyers Guild UMN chapter and the Anti-War Committee.
MIRAC’s next activity is a protest Saturday, Nov. 7 at noon at the corner of Lake Street and Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis, against the detention of immigrant children in for-profit prisons. This protest is part of a national week of action initiated by the Legalization for All Network.