Fear is a friend to dictators, demagogues, and autocrats, and its dark power can quickly undermine even thriving democracies. This is why President Trump’s consistent inclination to pour gasoline on the smoldering fears and worst instincts of people is so troubling. With every nasty, narcissistic tweet and every reckless policy decision he’s made under the guise of “law and order,” our current president pushes us toward fear, insecurity, and selfishness. Abraham Lincoln, at a time of national crisis, called citizens to summon the better angels of their nature. Trump is an almost perfect opposite to the first Republican president.
It's this posture that Pope Francis condemned earlier in the week, lamenting those who only speak about immigrants, migrants, and refugees for “the sake of stirring up primal fears.” In an annual address to more than one hundred ambassadors to the Holy See, the pope encouraged leaders to “abandon the familiar rhetoric” and described migration as a “fundamental human right.” Francis rooted his argument in ancient soil. “In the Judeo-Christian tradition,” he said, “the history of salvation is essentially a history of migration.” It’s a stark reminder that President Trump and the 81 percent of evangelicals and more than half of white Catholics who voted for him need to hear repeatedly. And it’s a message failing to get through.
The Trump administration ended temporary protected status (TPS) for nearly two hundred thousand people from El Salvador this week, a decision as cruel as it was unnecessary. The humanitarian program has allowed Salvadorans to live and work legally in the United States since a pair of devastating earthquakes struck the country in 2001. The change of policy came just weeks after more than forty-five thousand Haitians lost protections that were offered to them after a 2010 earthquake struck their country. People who know the United States as home, contribute to the economy, and aspire to the American dream now face the grim reality of returning to a place with the highest murder rate in the world, rampant gang violence, and few prospects for good work. Exile is not too strong a word to use for what they face.