From separating families at the border to undoing housing anti-segregation laws, these 28 policies are deeply rooted in racism—and there’s evidence to prove it.
On July 23, the Trump administration rolled back policies that curbed housing segregation. Issuing a call to those living the “suburban lifestyle dream,” Trump made it clear that he would no longer enforce rules meant to expand housing equity in the United States to low-income Americans, which disproportionately include people of color.
Since then, the Trump campaign has tweeted pictures of alleged Black criminals, and Trump himself has suggested that Cory Booker, a Black Democratic Senator from New Jersey, would be responsible for overseeing “low income housing” for a Biden administration.
Trump and his supporters defend this and other policies as common sense reforms to combat crime or help homeowners. However, the following 28 executive orders, laws, and rollbacks—while not exhaustive—represent some of the administration’s most racist policies along with the proof that they’re racist. Here they are, in chronological order, from the Muslim travel ban to the current COVID-19 crisis.
2017: Muslim travel bans and mass deportations—Trump’s first year.
1. Trump implements the Muslim travel ban 1.0.
On January 27, Trump followed his inauguration by signing an executive order that became the first version of the Muslim travel ban. This move widely discriminated against Muslims and banned tourists, refugees, and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries—Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and Sudan. To justify this policy, Trump cited the September 11 terrorist attacks while specifically demanding protections for Christian refugees.
That February, Trump tweeted that his travel ban was keeping out “bad people,” conflating Muslim travelers with terrorists and criminals. The move denied the effectiveness of the already intense background checks that visa applicants undergo when trying to enter the country since September 11, 2001.
2. All undocumented immigrants are now subject to arrest and deportation.
Former Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly signed aggressive new guidelines in February that allowed federal authorities to detain and deport all undocumented immigrants. The guidelines did away with Obama-era measures that sought to limit deportations to accused criminals and those with ties to terrorist organizations.
These new procedures allowed authorities to expedite deportation proceedings for anyone who had been in the U.S. for up to two years. It immediately returned Mexican immigrants apprehended at the border back home, pending the outcomes of their deportation hearings, and prosecuted parents in the U.S. found to have paid smugglers to bring their children across the border.
Trump launched his presidential campaign with now-infamous claims about Mexicans: “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” Since taking office, he has continued to suggest that immigrants were criminals and that countries were intentionally undermining the immigration lottery system in the U.S. In 2018, he remarked: “You can imagine what those countries put into the system. They’re not putting their good ones.”
3. The Muslim travel ban 2.0 is rolled out.
Citing threats to national security, Trump signed a revised executive order of his original Muslim travel ban. The second iteration of the Muslim travel ban said that only those with so-called bona-fide family connections could enter on a visa or as an immigrant if they were from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and Sudan. The law excluded grandparents, in-laws, aunts, uncles, and other extended relatives from consideration.
Three days prior to this March 2017 revamp, Trump appointed Senator Jeff Sessions as the chairman of his National Security Advisory Committee. Sessions’ career has been defined by racism. According to Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative, Sessions has received several awards from groups headed by anti-Muslim extremists.
4. Immigrant parents of U.S.-based children are denied a pathway to citizenship.
The Trump administration rescinded President Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program. The initiative offered a pathway to citizenship for immigrant parents with children who are citizens or legal residents of the United States. By repealing this program, Trump effectively launched the beta version of his family separation policy, despite families previously covered by DAPA using legal channels to enter the country.
In a move that now characterizes Trump’s often shocking timing for rolling out new executive orders or undoing past policy, the cancellation of DAPA was announced on the 35th anniversary of the Supreme Court granting the right to public education to undocumented immigrant children in Plyler v Doe.
5. Military weapons once again flowed to local police departments.
On August 28, 2017, Sessions lifted the Obama administration’s ban on transferring military surplus items to local law enforcement agencies. Those previous guidelines were created to protect the public from police misuse of military-grade weapons in the aftermath of the unrest in Ferguson, MO, in 2014 after the death of Michael Brown at the hands of police.
As of 2020, Americans are still living with the impacts of this political strategy. Just this year, Trump used Twitter to threaten any protesters that showed up at his June Tulsa rally. More worrying, perhaps, is that military surplus items in the hands of domestic law enforcement are more dangerous to people of color. The New York Times recently found that Minneapolis police used force against black people at a rate of 7 times more than white people.
6. Transparency in wage gaps is eliminated.
The Trump administration halted an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) rule that required large companies to disclose what they pay employees by sex, race, and ethnicity. This rule was intended to shed light on—and remedy—the unequal salaries that remain rampant among the American workplace.
The proof that racist pay practices are alive and well under Trump? As of 2020, black workers have made no progress in closing those gaps in earnings and there are no federal mechanisms to track the problem.
7. Trump attempts to undo the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
In September, Sessions announced that the Trump administration was rescinding the DACA program. The move would significantly impact the rights, safety, and livelihood of undocumented U.S. residents brought to the U.S. children. After major public outcry, Trump first took to Twitter to assure Dreamers—as those protected by DACA are known—they had nothing to worry about for at least six months.
When Trump realized that the DACA shutdown could be used as a bargaining tool, the White House released a list of demands that targeted Mexican and Central American immigrants. Those included funding for a border wall, deporting Central American children seeking sanctuary, and curbing grants to sanctuary cities. In June 2020, the Supreme Court ended Trump’s attempts to end DACA.
8. The Trump administration rolls out the Muslim travel ban 3.0.
Trump issued the third version of his Muslim travel ban that, unlike previous versions, had an indefinite duration. In 2018, the Supreme Court upheld this policy and it is still U.S. law.
Trump has characterized people from the Muslim regions of the world as being “terror-prone,” despite there having been zero fatal terrorist attacks on U.S. soil by residents of the seven targeted nations—Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen—since 1975.
9. Programs to expand internet and telephone access in tribal areas were gutted.
In November 2017, The Federal Communications Commission voted to gut Lifeline, the program designed to make communication services, like broadband and telephone, more affordable and accessible for underserved populations.
This has particularly serious consequences for tribal areas, which were and still are some of the least connected regions in the nation. That very same month, President Trump yet again referred to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) as Pocahontas while delivering an address honoring heroic WWII Navajo Code Talkers, three of whom were present. Several Native American groups went on record to decry the president’s derogatory remarks.
While Republicans claimed the restrictions would prevent fraud, Democrats maintained the communications service is justified. Sen. Ed Markey called the program “the Medicaid of the telecommunications universe” and argued in a statement that cuts “could exacerbate the digital divide and deprive disadvantaged communities the opportunity to access key educational, employment, and emergency services.”
10. The administration tries to revoke protected status for Haitian immigrants.
In November, the Trump administration announced it would terminate the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation that had been historically granted to approximately 59,000 Haitians living in the United States. TPS allowed Haitian immigrants to stay in the U.S. due to violence and other security issues they would face back home without having to jump through full residency and immigration hoops. The administration’s move was blocked by U.S. district courts, and TPS status for Haitians has been renewed through 2021.
During a meeting to talk about U.S. visas, Trump said that people from Haiti “all have AIDS.”
11. The Trump administration proposes adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.
In December, the Department of Justice requested that Census Bureau Director Ron Jarmin include a question about citizenship on the 2020 Census. Not only would the move undermine years of careful research and increase costs significantly, but undocumented immigrants were considered less likely to provide census data due to fear of reprisals (like deportation).
In late 2017, documents were leaked that revealed one of the true intents behind the citizenship question: Republicans were looking for ways to further gerrymander districts along racial lines to make larger gains in elections. The Supreme Court ultimately ruled against the Trump administration in 2019 and the question did not appear on the 2020 census.
2018: Children are put in cages and asylum-seekers meet a closed door.
12. Federal interference in state marijuana laws is resurrected.
In early January, Attorney General Sessions rescinded guidance that allowed states to legalize marijuana with minimal federal interference. This move put the 1970s-era War on Drugs back at the core of U.S. drug policy—a war that has disproportionately impacted American citizens of color. Black Americans are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuna charges than their white counterparts.
13. The Trump administration attempts to revoke TPS status for Salvadorans.
Much like his administration attempted to do to Haitians, in early January, TPS designations were revoked for nearly 200,000 Salvadorans. As with Haiti, federal court injunctions are still in place preventing these deportations from taking place.
That same month, Trump made his now infamous declaration that El Salvador, along with Haiti and some African nations, were “shithole countries.” The following month, Trump doubled down on his feelings, tweeting, “MS-13 gang members are being removed by our Great ICE and Border Patrol Agents by the thousands, but these killers come back in from El Salvador, and through Mexico, like water. El Salvador just takes our money, and Mexico must help MORE with this problem. We need The Wall!”
14. Trump signs the STOP School Violence Act.
In March, Trump signed a spending bill that included the STOP School Violence Act, leading to concern among civil rights organizations that the act would further criminalize children that already experience violence at the hands of police at disproportionate rates.
Trump bragged about the policy on social media, tweeting, “Today the House took major steps toward securing our schools by passing the STOP School Violence Act. We must put the safety of America’s children FIRST by improving training and by giving schools and law enforcement better tools. A tragedy like Parkland can’t happen ever again!”
The law took the 2018 shootings at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, as its impetus. However, the first sheriff’s deputies to arrive at that scene notably did not intervene. To date, there are no major studies linking armed police in schools to decreases in crime. However, studies have clearly pointed to students of color being more frequently and harshly punished for what would otherwise be considered minor disciplinary infractions.
15. The Trump administration begins putting children in cages.
In April, Attorney General Sessions announced that he had notified all U.S. attorneys offices along the southwest border of a zero-tolerance policy toward people trying to enter the United States. The policy separated thousands of children from their families, and led to shocking living conditions for children at the border. This 2018 policy is directly responsible for the images of children locked inside of small chain-link cages—a practice which persists to this day and which has an outsized effect on Mexicans and Central Americans arriving at the southern border.
Trump went to Twitter to place the onus on Democrats to end the atrocities implemented by his own administration. He tweeted: “Put pressure on the Democrats to end the horrible law that separates children from there [sic] parents once they cross the Border into the U.S. Catch and Release, Lottery and Chain must also go with it and we MUST continue building the WALL! DEMOCRATS ARE PROTECTING MS-13 THUGS.”
16. The TPS status of Honduran immigrants is called into question.
In May, the Trump administration announced it would terminate the Temporary Protected Status designation for approximately 57,000 Honduran immigrants.
Twelve days later, at a White House meeting with reporters, Trump called undocumented immigrants “animals.” “You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are,” he said. “These aren’t people, these are animals.”
17. Asylum for survivors of gang or domestic violence is denied.
In June, Sessions ruled that fears of domestic or gang violence were no longer grounds for asylum in the United States.
Later that year, Trump tweeted, “Isn’t it ironic that large Caravans of people are marching to our border wanting U.S.A. asylum because they are fearful of being in their country – yet they are proudly waving….their country’s flag. Can this be possible? Yes, because it is all a BIG CON, and the American taxpayer is paying for it!”
Five out of the top 10 nations from which asylum seekers come to the U.S. are located in Latin America. Additionally, while criticizing Latin American asylum seekers for feeling pride in their origins, Trump has never gone on record criticizing the waving or Irish, Italian, or other European flags that mark various celebrations of ancestry around the U.S. throughout the year.
18. The administration lays the groundwork for dismantling Obama-era fair-housing rules.
In August, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson proposed changes to an Obama-era rule aimed at combating segregation in housing policy, the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule.
While the rule didn’t go into effect in 2018, it became a major issue in 2020, when Trump’s administration actively dismantled the policy (more on that below).
19. New rules mean asylum can only be sought at legal ports of entry.
In November, the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice announced a rule to block people from claiming asylum if they enter the U.S. outside of legal ports of entry.
The rule was especially troubling since asylum-seekers might not learn of or understand the new rule. Additionally, asylum advocacy groups and immigrants rights groups documented numerous instances of border agents at legal border crossing turning away asylum seekers both in Mexico and the U.S. The policy also created dangerous overcrowding at official land border crossings with Mexico.
Prior to implementing this policy, Trump portrayed migrant caravans as violent threats to the United States. “Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in,” he tweeted. He also approved a 30-second political spot that juxtaposed images of a Latino man who murdered two police officers with footage of a migrant caravan. The ad was deemed so racist, it was pulled from Facebook, NBC, and Fox News.
20. Consent decrees that monitor abusive police departments are curtailed.
Before losing his job as Attorney General, Sessions issued a December memo limiting the use of consent decrees. These had been put in place to allow the Department of Justice to monitor local police departments that repeatedly violated citizens’ civil rights. The measures were put into place after the 1992 police attack of Rodney King in Los Angeles.
In working up to the memo, Sessions had specifically targeted Baltimore—a majority Black city—as one locale where consent decree arrangements would be minimized. He also spent time in Chicago, where he vocally supported the police department, which had notably spent nearly $700 million to settle police brutality lawsuits since 2010 and where The Intercept showed that 90% of police brutality victims were people of color in the decade leading up to 2018.
Referring to Baltimore the following year, Trump called it “a disgusting, rat, and rodent infested mess.” Sessions’ history of racist comments are too extensive to publish here, though at his 1986 confirmation hearings for a federal judge, Sessions’ past remarks were examined in depth and ultimately led to him being denied the position.
2019: Immigrant raids expand and the federal death penalty comes back.
21. Mass roundups by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) begin.
In June, it was reported that Trump had directed ICE agents to conduct a mass roundup of migrant families. He tweeted, “Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States. They will be removed as fast as they come in.”
According to The New York Times, ICE’s policy extended to so-called collateral deportations, meaning “authorities might detain immigrants who happened to be on the scene, even though they were not targets of the raids.” It’s worth noting that ICE has a documented history of detaining U.S. citizens in their raids. In Florida alone, ICE sent over 400 requests to detain U.S. citizens from 2017 to 2019, according to the ACLU.
A few weeks later, Trump echoed his own racist rhetoric about immigrants when he took aim at four congresswomen of color: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI). “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” Trump tweeted. “Then come back and show us how it is done.” Notably, only Rep. Ilhan Omar was born abroad.
22. The Trump administration tries to bar nearly all Central Americans from applying for asylum.
In mid-July, the Trump administration moved to end asylum protections for most Central American immigrants. The rule declared that anyone who passed through another country on their way to the U.S. would be ineligible for asylum at the southern border. Attorney General William Barr insisted that the move was legal, as Congress had already granted approval to the president “to restrict eligibility for asylum.”
In support, Trump tweeted, “Democrats must change the Loophole & Asylum Laws – but they probably won’t! They want Open Borders, which means massive crime and drugs!” The tweet yet again conflated asylum seekers with criminals and drug dealers.
23. The moratorium on the federal death penalty is lifted.
At the end of July, Attorney General William Barr announced that the federal government would reverse a nearly two-decade moratorium on applying the death penalty in federal cases. Analysis of executions and new death sentences in 2019 found that even as death penalty usage declined across the United States, racial disparities in its application persisted.
President Trump declared his support of the policy, tweeting, “Today, I am also directing the Department of Justice to propose legislation ensuring that those who commit hate crimes and mass murders face the DEATH PENALTY – and that this capital punishment be delivered quickly, decisively, and without years of needless delay.” Nearly 60% of current federal death row prisoners are people of color, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
2020: Trump’s racist COVID-19 response and the reemergence of segregation in housing.
24. Pregnant people without access to the Visa Waiver Program are denied visas.
In late January, the Department of State announced a new regulation to deny pregnant people visas, preventing them from traveling to the United States. The regulation is an attack against pregnant people living in countries that aren’t included in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. That program almost exclusively applies to white-majority European nations.
Speaking with Vox, Shannon Kowalski of the International Women’s Health Coalition, asserted that the move reflected the administration’s racist stance, as it would predominantly affect women of color. Furthermore, she adds: “These guidelines will make it harder for women, particularly young women, to travel to the United States for any purpose.
The administration is using the new rule to block pregnant people (or suspected pregnant people) from visiting the United States in an effort to stop so-called birth tourism, or trips designed to obtain citizenship for their children.
The derogatory terms “anchor babies” and “chain migration” have been used by the GOP to speak about immigrants for years. That includes Trump himself. In 2017 he tweeted, “CHAIN MIGRATION must end now! Some people come in, and they bring their whole family with them, who can be truly evil. NOT ACCEPTABLE!”
25. The Muslim ban expands—yet again.
At the end of January, the Trump administration announced an expansion of its Muslim ban, which extends restrictions to countries including Myanmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania.
Two years earlier, during a meeting to discuss U.S. visas, Trump reportedly singled out Nigerians in particular, claiming that Nigerian immigrants would never “go back to their huts” after experiencing life in the United States.
26. The Trump administration’s racist response to the global COVID-19 threat.
In March, the United States led the world in coronavirus cases in the world, and that position has not since changed. In response, the Trump administration undertook a series of border closures that often came too late to prevent community spread inside of the United States. On January 31, the administration closed the U.S. border to any nonessential travel from China (though large loopholes existed). At the same time, European travelers were more broadly seeding the virus across the United States, and would not be subject to a travel ban until March 11.
While he never blamed Europeans for spreading the virus inside of the U.S., Trump took to Twitter to say, “I always treated the Chinese Virus very seriously, and have done a very good job from the beginning, including my very early decision to close the ‘borders’ from China – against the wishes of almost all.” He continued to frame COVID-19 in racist terms—like “Wuhan flu” and “kung flu”—throughout the summer.
But the effects of his rhetoric didn’t take long to set in. By early March, racist acts and harassment against Asians had surged and continued to spike through at least June.
27. Green cards are no longer being issued during COVID-19.
Later in March, Trump signed an executive order to temporarily ban the issuance of green cards to people seeking permanent residency in the United States.
On Twitter, Trump drummed up more vitriol by referring to COVID-19 as an “invisible enemy,” instead of a virus that could be controlled with social distancing, enforced mask use, and rapid testing. He also continued making the false and racist assertion that immigrants are taking the jobs of U.S. citizens. Trump tweeted:“In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!”
28. Trump targeted low-income communities of color by rolling back Obama-era anti-segregation housing rules.
On July 23, the Trump administration made good on Ben Carson’s 2018 proposal to roll back the AFFH. These federal housing regulations were implemented by the Obama administration to help diminish segregation in housing. Trump’s move disproportionately impacts housing options for low-income citizens, and disproportionately affects people of color.
While administration officials insist that this move improves suburban property values and diminishes crime, it’s also a policy that undercuts housing equity, food equity, and education equity for communities of color that have long been victims of racist housing policies.
On Twitter, Trump wrote: “I am happy to inform all of the people living their Suburban Lifestyle Dream that you will no longer be bothered or financially hurt by having low income housing built in your neighborhood.” In case there was any confusion about who the Trump administration was talking about, Trump War Room, a Twitter account managed by his campaign, tweeted a series of mugshots on August 11 of Black Americans who had been accused of crimes.
On August 12, Trump doubled down on his appeal to suburban housewives, assuring them that his policies would keep their property safe from low-income housing. He also suggested that Cory Booker (D-NJ), a Black senator, would be in charge of low-income housing policy under a Joe Biden administration.