When was America ever great? This is the question that I and many other underprivileged people had in response to Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” during his presidential run. I’m sure America has always been a great place to live for the average white male, but the rest of the spectrum of race, gender, and other social identities has, historically, not enjoyed this country quite as much. That being said, becoming a U.S. citizen has traditionally allowed people who don’t necessarily fit the status quo of an “American” to still become one, for better or for worse. Now Trump and his administration are threatening to monopolize who can even become an American by beginning a process to rescind the citizenship granted to former immigrants.
Lee Cissna, the Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, said this about the new initiative: “We finally have a process in place to get to the bottom of all these bad cases and start denaturalizing people who should not have been naturalized in the first place.” However, Cissna also stated that “all these bad cases” might amount to only a few thousand. Pragmatically, it doesn’t make much sense to expend the resources, funding, and people to investigate and denaturalize people who have already become U.S. citizens when there are hundreds of thousands of pending cases in backlogged immigration courts for people desperately seeking some form of legal status. Politically, it’s a win for Trump and his anti-immigrant fanbase.
This is only one of several initiatives that the Trump administration has rolled out in recent weeks to essentially re-write the law in favor of institutional power. Just a few days ago, the administration rescinded affirmative action policies created during Obama’s presidency to achieve higher racial diversity in schools because it went against the “rule of law,” according to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Not only does this decision take a lot of pressure off of schools to be proactive in counteracting systemic racism in their institutions, but it might also foreshadow a more permanent precedent against affirmative action if Trump is able to successfully nominate a conservative justice into the Supreme Court.
Denaturalization and “race-neutral” admissions policies are only the start of very detrimental legislation reform, and their effect can last long past the end of Trump’s presidency if the Supreme Court swings right. The highest court in the nation is meant to represent the standard by which the U.S. Constitution should be obeyed and protected, but it is quickly becoming a tool to institutionalize a conservative agenda for decades to come. I would insert a “voting is important, do it” lesson here, but the truth is I can’t help but feel like voting doesn’t always have the power to overcome problems like these. The Supreme Court is supposed to be apolitical, but justices are nominated by a very political president and approved by an outrageously political Congress that is currently a Republican majority. The American people essentially have no control over who is chosen to set precedents over laws that are supposed to be protecting them. Is the method of selecting justices as outdated a system as the electoral college? Does it do more to serve the interests of the political powers rather than the disenfranchised? If so, how can voters move to reform a system that doesn’t even include them in the first place?
As is becoming more common lately, I feel like I have way more questions than answers.