Trump’s Vague, Failed Rhetoric Has Potential to Unleash New Harm

trump executive ordersRecent executive orders are yet another example of President Trump’s fear mongering; using falsehoods, misinformation and coded rhetoric to push through his extreme and intolerant agenda.

The Drug Policy Alliance’s work to end the war on drugs connects the dots on these kinds of attacks on civil and human liberties. Trump’s vague “reduce crime” policy and creation of a new taskforce to strategize explicitly on illegal immigration, drug trafficking and violent crime, are nothing but throwback dog whistle politics that led society to accept often unconstitutional and racist law enforcement measures in the past, such as “racial profiling,” “stop & frisk,” “broken windows,” “three strikes sentencing” and “Rockefeller Drug Laws,” to name a few. In essence, these executive orders provide the foundation to reignite the failed drug war on people and communities, particularly, on Black and brown people.

We’ve seen this before, and these baseless, harmful policies are not the answer. They never were.

It didn’t work in the 80’s and 90’s, when billions of dollars were used to criminalize, incarcerate, surveille and marginalize Black, immigrant and poor communities. And it doesn’t work today. 

It didn’t work in the 80’s and 90’s, when billions of dollars were used to criminalize, incarcerate, surveille and marginalize Black, immigrant and poor communities. And it doesn’t work today – namely, as the nation grapples with an overdose rate that has exceeded car accident deaths, doubling down on criminalization and not compassion, jails and not healthcare, hysteria and not science will only continue to exacerbate the heroin and prescription drug emergency, until every community from inner city to rural town is impacted.

“The state of New York is no stranger to how bad drug policies can devastate entire communities for generations,” said Kassandra Frederique, New York state director with the Drug Policy Alliance. “President Trump’s dangerous and deceptive Executive Orders coupled with an Attorney General that has no regard for civil rights, harken back to past injustices and policies that we are trying to reform, repair and reconcile.”

DPA won’t wait for President Trump’s appointees to turn rhetoric into action, and reformers vow to continue to end the war on drugs and to continue to push back against legislation intended to harm people, families and communities, especially when based on fear and inaccuracies.

Human Rights Watch’s Maria McFarland Sanchez-Moreno notes, “Immigrants—both documented and undocumented—are actually less likely to commit crimes than native-born U.S. citizens. Meanwhile, the tenor of these orders seems to portend a disastrous return to failed “tough on crime” policies of the past, such as increased mandatory minimum sentences, and a ramping up of the global “war on drugs,” which has in fact increased the profits of organized crime, and carried enormous human and financial costs.”

DPA’s executive director Ethan Nadelmann further explains:

“The best way to interpret the executive order is as one international manifestation of President Trump (and clearly Steve Bannon’s) desire to stir public fears about crime and drugs, criminal organizations and their foreign connections.

“It helps set the stage for additional executive orders and actions in the future that will expand and empower the military industrial complex in the U.S., increase funding for military and law enforcement, curtail civil liberties, and pursue more aggressive relations with foreign governments, especially in the Americas.”

The intentions are clear here. And we will fight back.

Michelle Wright
Drug Policy Alliance

Michelle Wright is a policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs.