Back in the seemingly olden days, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions was still a U.S. senator from Alabama, his seasonal ritual was to stride onto the Senate floor and propose a bill to raise taxes on the American-born children of immigrants.
Long before it was official Trump administration policy to cut legal immigration in half, Sessions was the Senate’s top proponent of altering the Constitution to deny U.S. citizenship to the American-born children of immigrants.
And before his Senate career, he made a name for himself prosecuting an aide to Martin Luther King, Jr. on voter fraud charges, which a judge later quashed.
Sessions was the original alt-right senator. Then, he was seen as an outlier within his party, but nobody dared criticize him, either. Now, as attorney general, he is no longer just the annoying uncle, and he is using all of his law-enforcement power to reengineer the nation’s demographics as much as he can, much as the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who descended on Charlottesville, Virginia, want.
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According to press reports, he is planning to end diversity programs in colleges and universities in order to protect whites. While they scream with torches, “You will not replace us!” Sessions is diligently turning that rallying cry into policy.
This month, he came to Miami to celebrate one of his top social reengineering policies, one that punishes governments that protect undocumented immigrants. In January, Hispanic-led Miami-Dade County became the first and only local government to cave to the Trump administration’s demands to stop protecting undocumented immigrants. And because Miami-Dade’s political leaders seem to live in a universe of alternative facts, Mayor Carlos Gimenez joined Sessions to celebrate Miami-Dade’s infamous “first.”
This spectacle took place in the weeks that the nation, and our diverse community, searched for moral leadership after the Charlottesville tragedy. Heather Heyer died when a white supremacist — encouraged by the example of a president who doesn’t want to hurt Klan members’ feelings — rammed his car into a crowd. As if this wasn’t enough, President Trump preemptively pardoned Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was held in contempt of court for violating a judge’s order to stop racially profiling Hispanics. And now, at Session’s urging, Trump is considering taking away DREAMers’ protection from deportation.
All of this should strike at the heart of a community where 60 percent of residents are immigrants.
Both Sessions and Gimenez will try to hide behind their official statements. But in the end, it is their policies that matter. Jailing and then deporting parents who are stopped and booked for a traffic violation is exactly what Trump’s mass deportation machine aims to do in order to terrorize Latino residents into leaving the United States.
What is even more disappointing is the complicity of so many in support of this administration. Too many people in this community know from their own personal pain that for every vocal proponent of a heinous idea, there were silent enablers behind the scenes. Those were the senators who never stood up to Sessions when he was their peer. Those are Gimenez and the nine county commissioners who voted to please Trump. That is Helen Aguirre-Ferré, who was respected as a defender of DREAMers in Miami Dade College.
At this point we should not expect any leadership or healing from Trump; he has shown where his heart is and his compassion lies. But there is still time for those individuals who have been enablers, to find their moral north. There is still time for them to unequivocally break with the policies of pain in a meaningful way. They need to go beyond rhetorical flourishes and do it with action — lest history catch them on the wrong side.
José Dante Parra is a Democratic strategist and former advisor to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.