As the reality of a Donald Trump presidency begins to set in Wednesday, the implications of which haven’t fully come to light, what seems indisputably clear is that on U.S. soil, the rights of Black and brown people, immigrants and women will suffer serious setbacks.
Not surprisingly, after Trump’s incoherent campaign, there are a lot of unanswered questions about how his policy will actually take shape. Who take up his staff and Cabinet positions will be decisive in offering some clarity.
But with promises of mass deportation, a monstrosity of a border wall and ambiguous approach to international relations with wild-card foreign policy, Latinos will be one of the groups caught in the crossfire of immigration changes, economic policies and the climate of relations with countries like Venezuela and Cuba.
Immigration Gets Worse After 'Deporter in Chief'
Villainizing immigrants and promising to seal off U.S. borders was a cornerstone of Trump’s campaign. He vowed to dramatically escalate immigration raids and deported more undocumented immigrants than Obama — whose presidency already saw record levels of deportation with some 2.5 million people getting kicked out of the country. The Republican firebrand went as far to propose deporting all undocumented immigrants — a whopping 11 million people who pay US$11.6 billion or more per year in taxes, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.
With the risk of his reactionary rhetoric set to become a reality, fears of impending deportation are rising among vulnerable communities in the immediate wake of Trump’s win.
“I don’t know what I am going to do. What’s coming will be difficult,” Bertha Sanles, an undocumented worker from Nicaragua who has lived in the United States for 22 years told AP. “I’m undocumented. I am scared. I expressed myself so much, I trusted that I could have a chance, and now I’m at the hands of my executioner.”
Aside from his most egregiously racist comments labeling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals and outlandish plans to build a massive border wall, Trump has also expressed plans to end birthright citizenship, meaning the children of undocumented immigrants would also be considered undocumented, even if they live their entire lives in the United States.
While the details of Trump’s proposed immigration policy are foggy, Latinos and other immigrants are already afraid — for good reason — of the regressive changes to come after undocumented people, especially thousands from Central America, have been hard-hit under Obama.
What's more, Trump has already emboldened the far-right and white supremacists, including disturbing vigilante militias that patrol the U.S.-Mexico border "hunting" for migrants.
Uncertain Future of Trade Changes Promised by 1%
Trump’s politically incoherent campaign has paired reactionary neoliberal promises together with populist proposals responding to economic frustrations and angst. Trump came out from the beginning against the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, a position that Hillary Clinton only begrudgingly adopted under Bernie Sanders’ pressure.
But Trump’s criticism of the TPP is out of step with popular resistance against the deal which highlights, among other major issues, the way the deal dooms the world to climate crisis. That’s not the line taken by Trump, who’s suggested climate change is a hoax.
So when it comes to Trump’s calls for a major overhaul if not total cancellation of the North American Free Trade Agreement — a deal that has benefited his own business operations — it’s difficult to predict what Trump has in mind, if he’s really committed to the proposal or if it’s even politically feasible to upset the 20-year-old pact.
It’s unclear what would happen to U.S.-Mexico trade relations if Trump opted to call off NAFTA, which has had overwhelmingly negative consequences for Mexico. Some say it could launch a trade war, a back-and-forth of the two countries imposing tariffs on each others’ goods. That would mean that the Mexican market could escape from being flooded with cheap U.S. imports, which could boost the local agricultural sector, for example. On the other hand, it likely wouldn’t do much to bring jobs back to the United States.
In the immediate term, though, high inflation and a plummeting peso are already taking a toll on Mexican workers.
Fledgling US-Cuba Relations in Jeopardy?
Cuba announced Wednesday morning five days of pre-scheduled military exercises to prepare for "a range of enemy action” after Trump’s win. Anticipation of hostilities is a somber sign for the still-fledgling rekindling of long-frozen relations between the United States and Cuba, finally thawed beginning at the end of 2014 in a historic rapprochement between the Cold War rivals.
While Trump’s stance on renewed U.S.-Cuba relations has not been entirely clear, like much of his policy, he has accused Cuban President Raul Castro of lacking respect for U.S. authorities and argued that a better deal for the U.S. should have been struck. The stance could threaten a rollback in the progress made in normalizing ties between the two countries. As Trump awaits a “better deal,” would he attack the loosened restrictions on travel between the two countries or consider closing the newly-reopened U.S. embassy in Havana?
A Trump presidency paired with a Republican-controlled Congress would undoubtedly mean the further progress on U.S.-Cuba relations will stall. Lifting the more than 50-year-old blockade will become impossible, reversing progress under Obama, who has called the restrictions outdated. At the U.N. General Assembly vote this year on the issue, the United States abstained for the first time ever in a unanimous vote against the blockade. But U.S. Congress ultimately makes the decision.
Aside from the issue of the blockade, Cuba has insisted that full normalization of relations also requires the return of the U.S. naval-occupied territory of Guantanamo to the island. Trump, who notoriously has spoken in favor of illegal torture and trying of U.S. citizens at Guantanamo, has vowed to keep the infamous military prison open.
The only issue on which Trump begins to align with Cuba is rejection of the U.S. Cuban Adjustment Act, the Cold War-era immigration policy that grants residency to Cubans one year after they arrive in the U.S. But of course the ideology behind the opposition to the law, also known as the “wet foot, dry foot” policy, are starkly divergent. While Cuba argues it is an outdated Cold War relic, Trump’s reasons are built on racism and all about making immigration exponentially harder for all people coming to the United States, no matter where they’re from.
What’s Next for Venezuela?
Relations between the United States and Venezuela have been on edge under Obama, with President Nicolas Maduro repeatedly accusing Washington of intervention and the White House declaring Venezuela a threat to U.S. national security. Washington certainly has not shied away from hurling criticism at Venezuela amid political and economic turmoil in recent months.
Trump is likely to keep up the hostile attitude toward Maduro. During the campaign, he advocated supporting the most vulnerable and oppressed in the hemisphere, arguing that “many people are oppressed” under Venezuela’s socialist government, saying the country has “a bad system.”
Some U.S. media have likened Trump to late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez — a misinformed comparison, though not surprising given the mainstream media’s longstanding tradition of villainizing the socialist leader. Venezuela’s opposition, fixated in recent months on removing Maduro from office, has also implied the same comparison.
But Trump’s bigoted, racist, sexist, militaristic fascism is nothing like Chavez’s socialism aimed at tackling inequality and promoting peace and inclusion. The ideological differences in the government will continue to put the two countries at odds.