Trump’s hyperbole is Obama’s policy

Dawud Walid

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump continues to make provocative comments relating to Mexicans, immigrants, and Muslims.

Immigrant rights activists have cried foul over Trump’s comments regarding building a wall on the Mexican—American border and mass deportation of undocumented immigrants. Civil rights activists and civil libertarians have also raised concerns about his calls for surveilling all mosques in America and having Muslims carry special identification cards.

Trump has been successful at drawing attention and raising the ire of various segments of our population with these and other statements. What has been lost to many is that some of his promises have already taken place or are currently ongoing under the Obama administration.

President Barack Obama has deported more persons than any president in American history, deporting over 2.5 million people since 2009, which is about a 25 percent increase from George W. Bush. Despite Obama stating that his administration’s focus is on deporting the most violent offenders who threaten our society, his administration continues to perform raids which break apart families. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus earlier this year called the targeted home invasions of communities where Central American immigrants reside which resulted in the deportation of women and children deserving of political asylum from corrupt regimes as being “inhumane.”

Under the Obama administration, the Edward Snowden leaks exposed the National Security Agency’s (NSA) indiscriminate collection of data and warrantless wiretapping of law-abiding Americans. ACLU litigation during the Obama era also exposed FBI racial and religious mapping of communities of color including of American Muslims and Arab Americans in Dearborn. American citizens in effect have been monitored and surveilled under Obama due to their names, ethnic backgrounds, and religious affiliations. Such arbitrary monitoring and adding people to watch lists has not been without consequences for the hundreds of thousands of American Muslims who have been impeded from flying, subjected to invasive religious questioning while traveling or had bank accounts closed without any reason given.

Thus Americans continue to be denied due process and suffer the consequences of being summarily added to watch lists, by having limited recourse in addressing why they get added much less having any means of effectively getting their names cleared. These citizens who continue to have their 5th Amendment and privacy rights violated are veterans, teachers and even minors.

This is all going on under Obama now, not a potential Trump presidency.

But words and tone matter. Our current president has spoken out against the hateful rhetoric which casts American Muslims as second class citizens. He even visited a mosque in America this year and met Muslim children, although this was his first visit to a mosque and it didn’t happen until his last year in office. Last month, he even established a new position in his administration specifically for outreach into the American Muslim community. Many Muslims highly appreciate these overtures.

The sad reality is, however, that there has been and continues to be civil liberties abuses under President Obama. The former constitutional law professor has not totally failed regarding immigration rights and civil rights, but is far away from an A grade.

Words matter, but so do policies. If there is a Trump presidency, some of what he has touted such as raiding and surveilling particular communities will not be difficult. All that he will have to do is continue where Obama left off.

Dawud Walid is executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Michigan.