As has been the pattern since his campaign trail, President Trump has behaved towards the immigrant community as a narcissistic perpetrator of abuse, utilizing harmful and predictable tactics to maintain power and control.
This cycle of abuse has become all the more obvious in the Coronavirus crisis. In one moment, immigrants are asked to come be our doctors and are deemed “essential workers” by the federal government (the honeymoon phase of the abuse cycle). The next moment, they are denied the provision of stimulus checks and told in a tweet that the entire system for processing their ability to be here — the U.S. immigration system — will be shut down (the attack phase of the abuse cycle).
These actions and threats are intended to stir up fear, chaos, and a feeling of helplessness in an effort to maintain power and control. From the tactics of denying and blaming (“We do not have a policy of separating families at the border”) to emotional abuse (“shithole countries,” “violent animals,” “they’re not sending their best”), the Trump administration has used predictable tactics — verbally, politically, and systemically — to maintain power and control of immigrants and their families, while benefiting from the economic gains of their labor.
Because Donald Trump is an evil and narcissistic perpetrator of abuse (I’m not here to argue whether or not this is true, but to operate from the basis that it is), the response must be one that stuns him, disrupts the abuse pattern, and takes back power — rather than one that resigns to groveling and begging for reprieve, which is the perpetrator’s preferred posture and response from the victim.
“Evil is fairly predictable in its efforts to intimidate through manipulation and shame,” state Drs. Dan Allender and Tremper Longman, in their book Bold Love. “Therefore, involvement with an evil person ought to involve surprise and unpredictability… Whenever a violation of the clear parameters occurs, consequences must follow… We need to catch evil in the act, calmly and confidently stating what we are willing and unwilling to endure” (p. 246).
President Trump must not be allowed to have his cake and eat it, too.
Disrupting evil and cycles of abuse require clearly stated boundaries and consequences. Therefore, it will not work to simply fill President Trump’s inbox and our letter-to-the-editor columns with protest. Narcissists cannot be reasoned with nor evoked to empathize. He must be made to feel the pain of consequences put in place nationwide by the immigrant community and their allies.
- Consequence 1: A Day (or More) Without Immigrants. Our country needs the hard work that immigrants provide, now more than ever. As we endure an unprecedented pandemic, it has been made clear how desperately the United States needs immigrant “essential workers.” The administration (and its active or passive supporters, and the additional millions that are silent and indifferent) need to be made to feel the social and economic pain of immigrants’ absence. As has been done in the past, “a day without immigrants” (or week… or more…) is in order. However, because this is financially unfeasible for many immigrant families, a second consequence is required.
- Consequence 2: Give your stimulus check to immigrants. Facing skyrocketing unemployment rates during this pandemic, the federal government has issued stimulus checks to all U.S. taxpaying households — that is, except, for undocumented immigrants. Additionally, these checks have been issued with Donald Trump’s name on them — none other than the narcissistic perpetrator himself. Given these realities, the best thing we can do at this time — to both support our immigrant neighbors and provide an ego-compromising consequence to the administration — is to get our stimulus checks into the hands of essential immigrant families — particularly the undocumented. (Learn how you can donate your check to undocumented families here).
By no means am I an expert on any of these topics, nor will I pretend that I — as a white, non-immigrant U.S. citizen — have any sort of authority on offering solutions to problems that I don’t directly experience. But as a social worker (and trauma-survivor and long-time therapy recipient) and a nearly lifelong immigration advocate, I cannot stay quiet on what I see as the overlap of these issues, and thus what could be a strategic and effective step forward.