With less than a month under his belt as president, Donald Trump has already thrown the political world—to say nothing of, y'know, the world-world—into a tizzy. As a result, some pundits and prognosticators have taken to a sort of mental jujitsu, in which they strain to make sense of what's happening before their very eyes by examining Trump's presidency as if it's some kind of multi-dimensional chess strategy. "Whatever could he be doing?" they ask. "Guess it's time for some game theory!"
They're wasting their time.
To understand what the Trump administration's goals are—especially when it comes to its immigration policies—all you need to do is listen to the exact words the president and his team have said, over and over again. There's no obfuscation here. They've been upfront from the start about what they're doing and why. We just have to listen.
Early last year, Senior Presidential Advisor Steve Bannon, arguably the most powerful man in Trump's White House (including possibly Trump himself), went on a radio show he frequently hosted for Breitbart and compared the onset of Nazism with Islam, as USA Today recalled.
"This is when Europe’s looking down the barrel of fascism, the rise of Mussolini in Italy, Stalin and the Russians and the communist Bolsheviks in the Soviet Union. And obviously Hitler and the Nazis,” Bannon explained. “You’re looking at fascism, you’re looking at communism. And to say that, what so blows me away is the timing of it. You could look in 1938 and say, ‘Look, it’s pretty dark here in Europe right now,' but there’s something actually much darker. And that is Islam."
Couple that with statements Bannon reportedly made a few months later, during another interview. According to the Washington Post, he repeatedly asked "Don’t we have a problem with legal immigration?" in regards to some American companies hiring international employees. "Twenty percent of this country is immigrants. Is that not the beating heart of this problem?" he added at one point.
Islam is worse than European fascism. Immigration is the "beating heart" of American tech job scarcity. It's not hard to suss out where Bannon, and by extension, Trump, is coming from—or where he wants to go.
It's an opinion that seems prevalent in the Trump administration.
Just this past Sunday, an unnamed "senior administration official" was quoted by Breitbart News—where Bannon served as executive chair of the outlet's parent-company—saying that the reasoning behind Trump's immigration policy was simple:
"The reality, though, is that the situation [of large Islamic populations] that exists today in parts of France, in parts of Germany, in Belgium, etcetera, is not a situation we want replicated inside the United States,” the official told the far-right news agency.
He then went on to couch the explanation in terms of security concerns over "permanent domestic terror threat," before concluding that:
The United States is sovereign country. It is under no obligation to admit any particular person and we have a right to develop a system in which we’re selecting immigrants that we think will be able to make positive contributions to U.S. society.
There it is in black and white. Limiting access to the United States, because the prospect of large Muslim communities "is not a situation we want replicated."
But beyond advisors with a long history of ultra-nationalism, or unnamed officials quoted in far-right publications, there are the words of the president himself—words which, over time, have have been tempered or tweaked for public consumption, but that remain on Trump's website today:
Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on.
And in a speech on terrorism given late last spring, Trump essentially conceded that despite the rhetorical shift from his "complete shutdown of Muslims" to a geographically focused ban, the two were largely one and the same:
I called for a ban after San Bernardino, and was met with great scorn and anger but now, many are saying I was right to do so — and although the pause is temporary, we must find out what is going on. The ban will be lifted when we as a nation are in a position to properly and perfectly screen those people coming into our country.
The immigration laws of the United States give the President the power to suspend entry into the country of any class of persons that the President deems detrimental to the interests or security of the United States, as he deems appropriate.
I will use this power to protect the American people. When I am elected, I will suspend immigration from areas of the world when there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe or our allies, until we understand how to end these threats.
Taken together, statements like these make the administration's intent clear. There's no need to read tea leaves, or gaze into crystal balls. To do so only succumbs to Trump's manic efforts to overwhelm and overcome any opposition on his own terms.
We know what they're doing. They've told us so themselves. The only question left is: What are we going to do about it?