“The easiest way to gain control of a population is to carry out acts of terror.”
(Josef Stalin)

The FBI has defined “terrorism” as the… “unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives”.

It is a curious thing that the definition describes “…unlawful use of force or violence against persons…”, but never indicates whether or not these persons are the only ones who may become intimidated or coerced by it. In other words, it is very possible that the objects of the force or violence may or may not be the objects of the intended intimidation or coercion.

Let’s look at the rudimentary example of a bully in a school yard. Perhaps the bully tends to pick on a classmate and another student in a grade below his own. If his persecution of these two students is severe enough, then he will succeed in intimidating and coercing, not only the two objects of his aggression, but other peers as well… the onlookers, if you will. While these students may not have been the intended targets of his manipulation and violence, one of the secondary effects is that the lookers-on are certainly impacted by his behavior in a way that will alter theirs.

Moving away from the school yard or neighborhood park where most of us have seen a bully’s far reaching impact, let’s consider Donald Trump’s foreign policy. Let’s consider how it relates to illegal immigrants who live and work in the United States. Is it possible that he has coerced America into fearful thinking and behavior in his portrayal of, and attack upon, Central and South American illegal immigrants?

Yes. It is entirely possible.

What has America been coerced to believe?

Well, our Commander-in-Chief has declared that Mexicans are drug dealers and rapists… this is pretty much untrue, but we buy it so well that we extend that thinking to all Central and South Americans… anyone who is brown or olive complected with an Hispanic accent or Spanish surname, we presume is public enemy number 2 (… in hot pursuit of the number 1 spot held by Muslims in the American purview).

Yes, we drank the Kool-Aid. We certainly did. We turned the cup up, polished it off and asked for more.

In this coercion, the Trump Administration told us all about how illegal immigrants take from and pillage the American system. They happened, however, not to state the value of illegal immigrants within our national economy… that many illegal immigrants hold Tax Payer ID Numbers (TPIN), issued by the US government so that they can pay income taxes… to the tune of $9 billion in withheld payroll taxes and $12 billion in Social Security taxes annually (bipartisanpolicy.org).

Further, the Federal Government has failed to inform the American people that immigrants are also powerful consumers and that their participation in the American marketplace has helped many-a-city to prosper.

So, much like the bystanders at the playground, who watch the bully pummel a peer without helping or standing up for that person lest they suffer the same fate, we too have been coerced and conditioned to believe that illegal immigrants are here to take our jobs, to receive government entitlements, and to rob, rape and kill us. In short, the Trump Administration has controlled our country’s illegal immigrants through fear of deportation; and it has controlled the American public by evoking its fear of the loss of safety and economic security at the hands of immigrants.

Perhaps you are in agreement with Trump’s foreign policy on this issue. Perhaps you are asking yourself, “Who cares about these people?”. Perhaps you are of the mindset that they should all be sent back from whence they came. At best you may be apathetic and at worst, openly antagonistic.

You should know, however, that, in exacting a severe foreign policy against immigrants, which all too often, entails an ICE detainment from a hospital bed or from a family’s dinner table, it seems that no one has stopped to consider some of the ways in which such austerity can come back to haunt AND to bite us.

If you haven’t yet considered it, as we trudge through the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine, now’s the time to give it some thought. Consider that the United States’ current foreign policy may have undermined the safety and economic security that Americans have so desperately been trying to save from dissolving at the immigrants’ feet.

In the response to COVID-19, many cities, counties and municipalities have implemented screening and testing protocols that can be offered to as many people as possible. I was recently on a stakeholders’ call with the City of Houston regarding COVID-19 testing. Harris County and the City of Houston had rolled out what seemed to be an effective way of screening for the virus. In order to control the crowds and to ensure that tests were only being offered to those with a known exposure or those who are symptomatic, it was necessary for would-be testers to complete an online pre-screening questionnaire. While the questionnaire did not inquire about resident status, what we discovered was that many of Houston’s immigrant population were refusing to complete the questionnaire or to go for testing because they were afraid of deportation. Many are more afraid of deportation than they are of the ravages of the novel coronavirus.

Consider what this means for the City of Houston.

It means that countless illegal immigrants will go untested, despite the possibility that they may be at risk. They will continue to work in homes as landscapers, pool servicemen, childcare providers and housekeepers if they are allowed. This means that if they are infected with COVID-19, they can easily infect entire households at one time. Furthermore, contact tracing will be virtually impossible, because they would not have sought medical care to document their viral positivity.

This is a scenario that can quickly escalate, as well as accelerate, without any way to mitigate it. This jeopardizes the very safety that Americans seek to gain through Trump’s tough stance on immigration.

If you are uncertain that escalation might occur, consider the numbers. Statistics regarding immigrants in the United States are as follows:

“As of 2019, FAIR estimates that there are approximately 14.3 million illegal aliens residing within the United States. This number is notably higher than FAIR’s previous estimate of 12.5 million in 2017.” (FAIR, Federation for American Immigration Reform)

If 1 in 2 people becomes infected, as coronavirus research has indicated happens, then it is possible that 7.15 million illegal aliens have been, or will become, infected. What happens when they don’t get tested? What happens when they continue to work as essential workers who may be maintaining and/or repairing homes and businesses and watching children?

It means that tens of thousands more are likely to become infected with COVID-19 and thousands more will die as a result.

The sequelae of this can easily be a new mandate for communities to shelter in place for longer periods of time, or for a subsequent quarantine. And guess what? This presents a greater economic threat than any job that an American may have lost to an immigrant. As we have already seen, pandemics and quarantines often lead to the collapse of small and large businesses, the loss of employment and financial devastation, not only for the family unit, but the community, the nation and the world. In other words, America’s fear that illegal immigrants will upend our economy, may come to fruition, but it would have been due to our own xenophobia. We would have been responsible for nurturing such a hostile environment for immigrants that they will be unwilling to get tested and unable to participate in a process that could flatten the COVID-19 curve.

The irony is that the fear of loss of health and safety, as well as of economic security, is further exacerbated by the intimidation of immigrants who may not get tested and can perpetuate disease. The threat of economic instability at the hands of illegal immigrants becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because of America’s disenfranchisement of illegal immigrants and the constant message that they should neither participate in, nor partake of, what US citizens do. Fear has guaranteed that many will not avail themselves of the health care system for fear of exposure and detainment.

They understand that a positive test means that the authorities become involved. They know that, on the heels of that, ICE is likely to show up. They know that detention is just around the corner, as is deportation.

Should they have to be hospitalized and ICE does not make an appearance, the hospital in which they have been admitted is quite likely to activate a deportation. This is what Dr, Mark Purtle, Vice President of Medical Affairs for the Iowa Health System says about it:

“It really is a Catch-22 for us. This is the area that the federal government, the state, everybody says we’re not paying for the undocumented.”

“Hospitals are legally mandated to care for all patients who need emergency treatment, regardless of citizenship status or ability to pay. But once a patient is stabilized, that funding ceases, along with the requirement to provide care. Many immigrant workers without citizenship are ineligible for Medicaid, the government’s insurance program for the poor and elderly.”

That’s why hospitals often try to send those patients to rehabilitation centers and nursing homes back in their home countries.

In interviews with immigrants, their families, attorneys and advocates, The Associated Press reviewed the obscure process known formally as “medical repatriation,” which allows hospitals to put patients on chartered international flights, often while they are still unconscious. Hospitals typically pay for the flights.

Health care executives say they are caught between a requirement to accept all patients and a political battle over immigration….

“Some patients who were sent home subsequently died in hospitals that weren’t equipped to meet their needs. Others suffered lingering medical problems because they never received adequate rehabilitation, the report said.” (CBS News, April 13, 2013)

It is important that Americans understand that draconian policies, directed against any group of people, can inadvertently undermine our nation’s own well-being and prosperity. While the ways in which this can happen may be unknown to us, the COVID-19 pandemic has proven that this phenomenon can occur. And some of the outcome would have been our very own doing. The things that we most fear, we will have called into existence.

While we definitely should secure our borders, exacting terror in order to control the masses, may work entirely against our goals for safety, well-being and economic stability.

“The enemy is anybody who’s going to get you killed, no matter which side he’s on.”
(Joseph Heller)

Consider that Donald Trump just might get you killed.