In 1936, the Nazi lawyer Hans Frank published a manifesto which read:
[The judge’s] role is to safeguard the concrete order of the racial community, to eliminate dangerous elements, to prosecute all acts harmful to the community, and to arbitrate in disagreements between members of the community. The National Socialist ideology, especially as expressed in the Party programme and in the speeches of our Leader, is the basis for interpreting legal sources.
This is the logic that was used to dismiss all existing legal norms, and that would then be used to justify the extermination of six million Jews. And it parallels the way that Trump and his supporters are now rationalizing massive assaults on democracy and human rights.
The Trump White House’s recent actions towards immigrants have been blatantly contradictory to constitutional and human rights laws. The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that “All persons born or naturalized in the United States…are citizens of the United States,” and that no state can “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Trump’s recent attempt to end birthright citizenship, which would put millions in danger of deportation and create an underclass of people who’ve been stripped of their rights, has been nonetheless supported by millions of Americans and praised by Trump’s right-wing media sycophants.
Trump’s sending troops to the southern border is also illegal. The 1878 Posse Comitatus Act states that “any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws” is forbidden. Yet Trump’s base has accepted this criminal action from the president as essential to “enforce our laws.” Trump’s suggestion that the troops should shoot at migrants for throwing rocks-a kind of retribution that’s currently recognized as a war crime by the American armed forces-has also been seen as perfectly legal by Trump’s supporters.
Additionally, this April the Trump administration changed the classification of illegal border-crossings from a misdemeanor to a felony, a perversion of our immigration laws which has been used to detain thousands of migrant children. These and the White House’s other child detention policies have caused the United Nations to tell the U.S. that taking migrant children from their parents is illegal. Basing her statement off of the Geneva Conventions, U.N. humans rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said in June that the Trump administration’s practice “amounts to arbitrary and unlawful interference in family life, and is a serious violation of the rights of the child.”
Before Trump, there was a litany of ways that poor people and people of color had been systematically targeted-police violence, mass incarceration, and rampant voter suppression being a few examples. Our democratic institutions had been turned into tools of the corporate oligarchy, policies like warrantless mass surveillance and indefinite detention had made our constitutional rights up for negotiation, and many of the American people had lost faith in democracy. Under these conditions, it was easy for a reactionary president like Trump to take away more of Americans’ rights.
And this is just what’s happening. Except for Trump’s attempt to start shooting at rock-throwing migrants, and his attempts to revoke the 14th Amendment. The Trump White House has been able to carry out all of the illegal actions that I listed above. Aside from limited objections by Democrats and the mainstream media, these crimes have been met with almost no resistance. And the courts seem to have little power to stop this. The most important parts of our laws-due process, the right to asylum, the right to citizenship and constitutional protections-are being destroyed at an alarmingly fast rate.
When I read Hans Frank’s rationale for destroying Germany’s laws, it becomes clear to me how the perpetrators of our current democratic collapse are able to sit with their own actions. Like Frank, Trump does not respect established laws. Trump thinks that the law should center around his own agenda. For this reason, human rights rules and the constitution are irrelevant to Trump and his supporters-these laws can be endlessly redefined to fit with what their ideology… Click To Tweet
Unless we organize on a mass scale to reverse these attacks on democratic rights, the existing laws are going to matter less and less as time goes on. They’ll become whatever the president and his followers say they are.