In a speech announcing the Trump administration’s change of policy on Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions called roughly 800,000 young immigrants who have benefited from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program “illegal aliens” whose arrival in the country cost Americans jobs and created “terrible humanitarian consequences.”
Neither claim is true — rescinding DACA will actually hurt the economy and cost the country tens of thousands of jobs — but Sessions, Trump’s designated spokesperson for the occasion, did not care. Restricting immigration is a major prong in Trump’s plan to make America white again, and Sessions and others in the administration have a singular focus on turning back the clock to a time before civil rights laws when the United States looked far more white than it does today.
Part of the pre-civil rights era policy that Trump would like to see reinstated is a time when the United States blocked immigration from non-white countries. Until the passage of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, the United States set quotas on immigration from certain countries, largely limiting the arrival of people from places outside of northern and western Europe. But the law, signed by President Lyndon Johnson, fundamentally changed the United States’ policy and immigration skyrocketed. In 1960, seven out of eight immigrants were from Europe. As of 2010, nine out of ten immigrants come from places other than Europe.
“No law passed in the 20th century altered the country’s demographic character quite so thoroughly,” Tom Gjelten, the author of A Nation of Nations: A Great American Immigration Story, noted in the Atlantic.
The Immigration and Naturalization Act wasn’t the only major piece of legislation that year that made the United States a more inclusive, diverse country. And it’s not the only major piece of legislation from 1965 that the Trump administration is looking to dismantle to carry out the plan to make America white again.
Another landmark bill, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, was signed into law by President Johnson after years of protest and unrest. The end goal of the legislation was to prohibit racial discrimination in voting, and it included provisions that regulated the way the country administers elections. One specific section put special parameters on certain jurisdictions with a history of discrimination.
In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted that provision, known as Section 5, opening the door for states to move forward with laws making it harder for certain non-white constituencies to participate in elections.
After restricting immigration, the Trump administration’s next goal is to purge non-white voters. And the work is already underway.
Kris Kobach, a Trump ally and vocal proponent of rescinding DACA, provides a preview of the Trump administration’s two-pronged goal. On Monday, just before Sessions announced the new policy, Kobach said in an interview that recipients are not children and “there is nothing wrong” with asking people who have lived in the United States since they were very young to “go home.”
Kobach isn’t just an immigration hardliner. As Kansas’ Republican Secretary of State and co-chair of Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, Kobach understands that another crucial step toward making America more white is to restrict who can cast a ballot. If fewer non-white people are participating in elections, our elected officials will quickly reflect that and look more white.
In his home state, Kobach enacted a law requiring people to show a birth certificate or passport when they register to vote. He also runs a multi-state crosscheck system that he has used to purge eligible citizens from voter rolls in Kansas and other states. If the voting commission has its way, the Kansas example will provide a blueprint for a national voter purge that could end up disenfranchising a large number of non-white voters.
The presidential commission has already requested a massive amount of voter data from all 50 states, providing an indication of the methods the panel may use to block people from the polls. If the commission were to instate a national crosscheck program which would look for people registered to vote in multiple states, the process would likely be error-riddled. According to a report in Rolling Stone magazine, people of color are over-represented in 85 out of the most common 100 last names, and are therefore more likely to be purged from voter rolls for having the same name as a different eligible citizen. African Americans living in states relying on the Interstate Crosscheck System have a one in nine chance of being flagged as potentially ineligible.
The commission will hold its second official meeting next week, but the goals — using the false guise of voter fraud in order to suppress voters — were made clear during the group’s first meeting in July.