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    In this June 1, 2018, file photo, children hold signs during a demonstration in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices in Miramar, Fla. The Trump administration's move to separate immigrant parents from their children on the U.S.-Mexico border has turned into a full-blown crisis in recent weeks

    Trump Shows ‘Callous Disregard’ By Manipulating Xenophobic Fears for Votes

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    US President Donald Trump caught people’s attention on Thursday when he told a reporter that US soldiers deployed to the border with Mexico would treat rocks thrown at them by migrants as equivalent to guns. He also indicated that the US was preparing vast tent cities to house migrants.

    "Anybody throwing stones, rocks — like they did to Mexico and the Mexican military, Mexican police, where they badly hurt police and soldiers of Mexico — we will consider that a firearm," the president said Thursday.

    "We will consider that the maximum that we can consider that, because they're throwing rocks viciously and violently," Trump continued. "You saw that three days ago. Really hurting the military. We're not going to put up with that. If they want to throw rocks at our military, our military fights back. We're going to consider — and I told them, consider it a rifle. When they throw rocks like they did at the Mexico military and police, I say, consider it a rifle."

    He later clarified on Friday that migrants who threw rocks would be arrested, not shot, Sputnik reported.

    The Pentagon announced earlier this week that 15,000 active-duty US soldiers were being deployed to the four US states that form the border with Mexico: Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

    On Monday, the president told Fox News correspondent Laura Ingraham that his administration was preparing for the arrival of the migrant caravan, estimated to be roughly 4,000 by November 2, by building massive tent cities to house them.

    "We're going to put tents up all over the place," he said. "We're not going to build structures and spend all of this, you know, hundreds of millions of dollars — we're going to have tents."

    Radio Sputnik's Loud and Clear spoke about these developments with Pedro Rios, the director of the American Friends Service Committee's US/Mexico Border Program and chairperson for the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium.

    ​"It certainly is a chilling prospect to have hundreds, if not thousands, of people in what would appear to be internment camps. We've seen this before," he said, noting the history of Japanese internment in the United States during World War II, when approximately 110,000 Japanese-Americans were deprived of their property and liberty and detained in internment camps for the duration of the war.

    "It's unfortunately not the sort of history that I think any rational president of the United States would want to be returning to. And unfortunately when people like Sheriff Joe Arpaio out of Maricopa County [Arizona] — who is no longer a sheriff — but he did have people in very similar inhumane conditions of people in the desert camps, not necessarily having the right temperature to ensure their human rights were being respected."

    "This is a slippery slope that will potentially place many people who are asylum seekers, who have left their home country because of fear and violence, and now will find themselves interned in camps without any real sense of how their humanitarian needs will be met," Rios said.

    "So it's different in a sense that its a drastic proposal for a policy that potentially will be fraught with human rights violations," he added.

    "I'm not sure where Trump is getting the idea that responding with lethal force to rock throwers is an appropriate response. Certainly we don't know if that's going to be the scenario or if it's happened, but what we do know is that that has already played out among border communities. In fact, in 2005, a man by the name of Guillermo Martinez Rodriguez was shot in the back as he attempted to climb the border fence here in San Diego. A Border Patrol agent claimed that he was making a motion, had cocked his arm to throw a rock at him, but the autopsy later revealed that the entry wound was actually through the back. This man was able to climb over the fence and return to Mexico, but he died a few hours later. The agent, in 2008, was found to be innocent of any charges, and so, you know, it was impunity again."

    "And we've seen this time and again. We've seen a case where a 16-year-old was shot about a dozen times by Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz in southern Arizona. Agent Schwartz claimed that this young man, Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, had thrown rocks at him — but again, the entry wounds were through the back. So when it occurs, it's not the best type of media relations that the government would want to have, and obviously the concerns are that if this becomes normal practice, where militaries trained for war are engaging people who might be throwing rocks, but engaging with deadly force. I think we are again entering a space that we have not been before, where it'll be okay to have a policy of ‘shoot to kill' people who are seeking asylum."

    Rios said that, while Trump hasn't deported as many people as his predecessor, Barack Obama, who earned the nickname of ‘Deporter-in-Chief' during his administration, "the rhetoric that we hear coming out of the White House, that there's much more focus on issues of immigration and border, but it's being done with much more callous disregard for how the narrative is being put forward."

    "It's become much more clear that the focus on immigration and border it to try to sway the midterm elections" on Tuesday, November 6. "There's absolutely no doubt that that's a reasoning or a justification for so much focus," he said. "Yesterday's speech by Trump really had no policy changes that were of any significance; it was just another opportunity to sway voters by engaging the audience with these topics that seem to be very drastic and very urgent, yet we know that the larger caravan is more than a thousand miles away. So this idea of focusing on immigration and fabricating a boogeyman for non-voter people really might turn them out and get them to the polls and say: ‘Yes, I want to vote for these candidates because they are going to do something about border security.'"

    However, Rios noted that his home city of San Diego, California, a city that directly abuts the US-Mexico border and the Mexican city of Tijuana on the other side, is the safest city in the US among cities with populations of over 500,000 people. "So this notion of the border being out of control is really a fabrication of people who want to generate fear and use that fear to move people to vote, which is just a terrible way of engaging civil society in the United States."

    Rios noted that the caravan's numbers are steadily dwindling, not only due to members finding jobs in Mexico or accepting some kind of asylum status in the country, but also due simply to the grueling nature of the trek, in which "you are walking a marathon every day."

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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