by Coda Rayo- Garza
The nominee to head an agency on refugees and migration is clearly unfit.
President Donald Trump has nominated Ronald Mortensen, a former career foreign service officer, to serve as the assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration.
Mortensen is a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, which has a long history of repeated circulation of white nationalist content, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which lists the center as a hate group.
Mortensen, a longtime Trump supporter, does not support DACA and pushes rhetoric that criminalizes undocumented people. He is similar to Trump in that both use xenophobic speech as a political strategy.
(In an op-ed for The Hill, he wrote, “The myth of the law-abiding illegal alien is just that: a myth.” He referred to their use of false Social Security identities.)
Such people should not be allowed to have leadership roles in our democracy. Trump’s actions — including decreasing the admissions cap for refugees entering the United States to the lowest it’s been since refugee resettlement legislation was enacted — and continued speech against immigrants are a bad sign for our country. Unity is necessary for a strong democracy, especially in the face of all the international challenges and foreign policy issues we face.
Recently, Trump placed blame on separating children of undocumented immigrants from their parents on Democratic-supported law, when, in fact, there is no law requiring separation.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has implemented some of the harshest immigration policies of any recent president. This reflects Trump’s political priorities. Session’s zero-tolerance policy has led to family separations. Most recently, Sessions has made it nearly impossible for individuals fleeing from domestic abuse or gang violence to seek asylum.
Rhetoric matters. According to a recent Pew Research poll, the partisan gap on whether the U.S. has a responsibility to accept refugees has grown wider, even as State Department numbers show a decline in the number of refugees entering the United States because of that cap.
In light of Trump’s continued attacks on undocumented immigrants — most recently calling them animals — Mortensen’s nomination is a message to the American people about the Trump administration’s persistence in making decisions based on ideology, and not our democratic values of equality and justice.
The American people must exercise their democratic power to prevent the nation from sliding into an autocracy.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has yet to approve Mortensen’s nomination. We must advocate for someone who will not lead the department based on dogmatic ideology. There are implications for how the rest of the world perceives the United States if we continue to provide evidence of isolationism.
Coda Rayo-Garza is a political partner with Truman National Security Project. @CodaRGarza