About four months ago, while whining about the investigation into the Russia scandal, Donald Trump asked rhetorically, “Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?” As it happens, this president seemed eager to answer his own question over the weekend.
President Donald Trump tweeted Sunday morning that the U.S. “Cannot accept all of the people trying to break into our Country” and called for migrants to be “immediately” deported without a trial.
“When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came,” he said. His tweet did not mention people coming to the U.S. to seek asylum, which is legal to do.
“Our system is a mockery to good immigration policy and Law and Order,” he said, adding in another tweet that legal entry to the country should be based on “merit.”
The contradiction at the heart of the message – Trump wants “law and order,” but he doesn’t see any reason for migrants to receive due process – was apparently lost on him.
Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, told NBC News in response to the president’s message, “What President Trump has suggested here is both illegal and unconstitutional. Any official who has sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution and laws should disavow it unequivocally.”
Jadwat’s correct, of course, but explaining to Trump that his recommended course is illegal isn’t likely to matter, because from this president’s perspective, the rule of law should yield to his ideological wishes.
When Trump declares his support for “law and order,” he’s really just expressing support for “order” as he defines it. If that means taking extrajudicial steps, so be it.
We are, after all, talking about a president who, when he’s not attacking the legitimacy of the federal judiciary, has abused his pardon authority in ways that undermine the interests of justice. At times, due process is literally an afterthought for Trump – as was the case when he briefly endorsed federal confiscation of firearms without court approval.
But yesterday’s presidential statement, calling for an end to due process for migrants subject to deportation„ goes quite a bit further. I’m reminded of an op-ed MSNBC’s Chris Hayes wrote for the New York Times, explaining the Republican president’s perspective on “law and order.”
If all that matters when it comes to “law and order” is who is a friend and who is an enemy, and if friends are white and enemies are black or Latino or in the wrong party, then the rhetoric around crime and punishment stops being about justice and is merely about power and corruption.
And this is what “law and order” means: the preservation of a certain social order, not the rule of law. It shouldn’t have taken this long to see what has always been staring us in the face…. The history of the United States is the story of a struggle between the desire to establish certain universal rights and the countervailing desire to preserve a particular social order.
We are now witnessing a president who wholly embraces the latter. America can have that kind of social order, or it can have justice for all. But it can’t have both.
Trump, evidently, has made his choice.