The US Ambassador to Bangladesh praised the Bangladesh Government as a "beacon of hope and inspiration" for sheltering 700,000 Rohingya refugees on the occasion of the World Refugee Day. Ironically her praise came when President Trump made it clear that he would not allow the United States to "become a refugee holding facility" and his zero toleration policy on illegal immigrants caused a humanitarian disaster by separating children, including kids and toddlers, from their parents. In fact, going by what has happened in Washington before and after Ambassador's praise for Bangladesh, it is evident that she had praised Bangladesh hastily.
President Trump has now raised a new storm in the legal and constitutional circles of the United States with a number of tweets on illegal immigration and refugees after he was forced to abandon the inhuman policy of separating children from parents. In one tweet, he stated: "We cannot allow all of these people to invade our Country. When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came." The tweet violated US Constitution's due process provision which applied both to citizens and non-citizens alike. The anti-immigration tweets came after Trump was frustrated with the nationwide uproar against separating children from parents forcibly that had forced him to rescind the policy that came out of his attempt to implement a zero tolerance on illegal immigration in May.
That the US Ambassador's decision to praise Bangladesh was ill-timed was further underlined by the fact that President Donald Trump has now decided to use illegal immigration as the main strategy for the Republican Party to win the midterm elections. He has concluded that going all-out against illegal immigration with no holes barred would energise his base in favour of the Republican Party the way, he thinks, the issue had helped him during the presidential election. He thus asked the Republican Party to go to the mid-term election with zero-toleration stand on illegal immigration as their main strategy without caring or considering the illegality of the strategy or its unconstitutionality.
In fact, the President was not concerned or worried even the national-wide uproar broke when thousands of children, some kids and toddlers, were separated from their parents who were attempting to cross the border illegally with them and were apprehended by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the US-Mexico border. He was unperturbed even when at the height of the uproar, his close supporters in the Senate and the House broke from him. Laura Bush articulated the national feeling of shock and horror when in an op-ed for the Washington Post, she wrote: "Our government should not be in the business of warehousing children in converted box stores or making plans to place them in tent cities in the desert outside of El Paso. These images are eerily reminiscent of the internment camps for US citizens and noncitizens of Japanese descent during World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in US history."
Laura Bush's efforts to shame the President also fell on deaf ears. The President relented eventually and abandoned the policy of separating children from parents when the leaders of conservative Christian groups like the Southern Baptist Convention and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops went against it. Franklin Graham, the son of the famous Evangelist late Billy Graham, sent the message that the President could not ignore. Billy Graham called the separation policy "disgraceful" and said "it is terrible to see families ripped apart. And I don't support that one bit." A great many of the President's racist supporters are Evangelic.
The President, nevertheless, was far from giving up on his racist and heartless attitude over anyone attempting to enter the United States illegally. His tweet stating unequivocally that his law enforcing agencies guarding the borders would throw the law and the constitution aside and forcibly send back those trying to cross the border illegally leaves no doubt about his intentions. And if the Republicans were to come back with a greater majority in Congress through the midterm election, the worst of the heartlessness of President Trump over issues of illegal immigration could still be in the pipeline and may perhaps be even worse than the policy of separating children arbitrarily from parents.
It is not with just the issue of immigration that President Trump is showing a face that contrasts sharply with what Bangladesh has shown over the Rohingyas by opening its doors to nearly a million Rohingya refugees. There are other things he is doing in both domestic and international politics that should shame those representing the United States abroad. He with his newly appointed lawyer former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is arguing that the Department of Justice (DOJ) that guarantees that no one in the United States is above the law should henceforth protect the interests of the President. And, as a further extension to this contention that stabs the rule of law in the United States right at its heart, the President and his lawyer are arguing that the President's power of pardon has no limits.
These developments are symptomatic of the desires of a president who wants to govern the United States the way the kings ruled in the medieval period of history when there were no earthly powers that could question a monarch's power to rule because he derived it from divine sources. Closer to the current times, the President wants to govern his country as the leaders of the totalitarian regimes, for instance, President Putin that explains his admiration for the Russian leader. In fact, he said recently he wanted "his people to listen to him like North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's people listen to him …He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same."
President Trump has brought the United States to a dangerous crossroads. Its rule of law and constitution that have helped establish it as the leader of the world is now under challenge not from any outside power or force; it is being threatened by a president that they have elected. His very attitude is racist, anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, anti-Muslim, etcetera, etcetera. The racist base and their leader, President Donald Trump, have taken leave of their own history where they are themselves are the decedents of immigrants and refugees they are despising now. And to make the US stand inhuman, many who cross to the United States are fleeing from their homes and countries live for the same reasons as the Rohingyas who cross to Bangladesh.
Serajul Islam is a former Ambassador.
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