From the moment Donald Trump descended the infamous escalator in 2015, he made clear his intention to terrorize immigrants. Four years later, the enduring images of his presidency were outdoor cages packed with migrant families and kids being ripped from their parents’ arms. Then came impeachment, and COVID, and an economic crash, and election season. Judging by cable news and front-page headlines, immigration had been largely forgotten. 

But not by the Mauritanian electrician who was deported after 20 years in the United States to a country that still has slavery. Or the Indian coder afraid to unpack the boxes in his New York apartment for fear that he could be forced out at any moment. Or the Iraqi woman who stopped getting food stamps for her baby in order to preserve her husband’s shot at a green card.

The immigration system, already flawed and arbitrary before Trump, has become something much crueler, with repercussions far beyond the Mexican border. 

Congress’ decades-long failure to pass immigration legislation has ceded virtually all decision-making to the president, and so immigrants find themselves at the mercy of whoever is in the White House. This administration has shown them none. 

Here, we share the stories—in their own words—of eight would-be Americans who ran into Trump’s crackdown on legal and unauthorized immigration. In some cases, their futures hinge on what happens next Tuesday. For others, the results of the election are moot. It’s already too late.

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FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

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