Princeton editor compares Trump policies to Holocaust

A pair of recent op-eds in the Princeton University student newspaper label the Trump administration “authoritarian” and “neo-fascist.”

Samuel Aftel, an assistant opinion editor for The Daily Princetonian, penned both of the op-eds regarding the policy of separating illegal alien families at the US-Mexico border upon arrest. They are respectively titled “Wake up to the barbarism of our country’s immigrant family separation policy” and “The unhealable neo-fascist scars of Trump’s family separation terror.”

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”Wake up, Princetonians,” Aftel begins his first piece, written several days before Trump signed his 20 June executive order ending family separation. “Wake up, America. Wake up to the state terror that is happening every single day in the United States” [emphasis in original].

”Since October 2017,” he continues, “the Trump administration has forcibly separated at least 2,000 undocumented immigrant children from their parents” at the border, adding that “this is consistent with the Trump administration’s ongoing debasement of our most vital American ideals, furthering its xenophobic, racist, misogynistic, and Islamophobic agenda.”

Similar family separations also occurred under the Obama administration, though they were fewer in number, according to the University of Pennsylvania Annenberg Public Policy Center’s The same outlet reported that the Department of Homeland Security could not provide any data on family separations under Obama, and that the Migration Policy Institute qualitatively estimated that the “mass separation” of families seen under Trump did not occur under Obama.

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”Other media have depicted children crying while being separated from their parents,” Aftel writes, citing The Boston Globe’s Liz Goodwin, who tweeted that “some migrants are told their kids are going to be taken away briefly to bathe, and then it dawns on them hours later they aren’t coming back.” 

This, Aftel asserts, “exemplifies fascist totalitarianism at its most ruthless, unhinged level: that is, deceptively upending reality to terrorize children.”

He then begins to compare the Trump administration to Nazi Germany, writing, “Although family separation is not murderous genocide, the ‘we are just taking them to bathe’ tactic is chillingly reminiscent of the way Nazis during the Holocaust told people in concentration camps that they were going to have a shower before they were gassed to death.”

In the conclusion to his first piece, Aftel laments that “it is no wonder that now our country’s federal government—under the Trump administration—is participating in state terror, without any end in sight,” chiding “us”—that is, Americans and Princetonians, himself included—for “our ignorance, disengagement, and moral indifference; there is blood on all of our hands.”

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In his second piece, Aftel acknowledges Trump’s June 20 executive order as “good news,” but adds that “it is way too little, too late” [emphasis his], lamenting that “migrant parents and children will continue to be detained without genuine due process—they just won’t be detained separately.”

Under previous administrations, however, families detained after crossing the border illegally were similarly held in “family detention facilities,” according to the Bipartisan Policy Center.

”Family separation institutionally legitimized authoritarian, state-sanctioned cruelty against undocumented migrants,” Aftel nonetheless contends, adding that it also “set a dangerous precedent that future administrations could possibly employ to justify their inhumane treatment of migrants—or other marginalized populations, for that matter.”

”In fact,” he writes, reviving his comparison between Trump and the Nazis from his first article, “family separation mirrored the introductory stages of the Nazi Holocaust against European Jews and others deemed undesirable.”

”There is, of course,” Aftel clarifies, “an important distinction between the Holocaust and Trump’s family separation policy,” in that the former “was a systematic genocide,” whereas the latter “was a non-murderous form of state terror.”

This difference in scale and degree notwithstanding, Aftel claims that to suggest that such a comparison “goes too far” is “intellectually suppressive, a cowardly conversation-stopper, and simply wrong.”

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Continuing, he writes that Trump’s immigration rhetoric is “eerily comparable to how Nazis characterized Jews,” citing a June 19 tweet in which the president said that Democrats want illegal aliens to “pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13,” viewing them as “potential voters.” 

Likening the statement to Hitler’s comparison of Jews in Germany to “vermin,” “parasites,” and “rats,” Aftel asserts that “the notion of infestation that Trump and Hitler employed is a central, systematized vehicle of dehumanization.”

Licensed by Trump’s use of “the language of Nazi fascism” to dehumanize illegal aliens, he contends, “non-undocumented Americans” and “ultra-conservatives” can “claim a disingenuous victimhood: (White) America is being ‘invaded’ by a parasitic, subhuman population.”

The comparison of Trump to Nazis continues throughout the remainder of the piece, which Aftel concludes by declaring that any nation that “rips crying babies from the arms of their mothers and fathers and incarcerates such children for no reason other than their undocumented status is not a country whose righteousness is enduring and inevitable.”

Returning to the Trump-Nazi comparison one final time, he writes that “while family separation is not equivalent to the Holocaust, and Trumpism is not Nazism, the fact that such comparisons are now, to some extent, historically reasonable should shake Americans to their very core.”

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”I would not take back a single word I wrote,” Aftel told Campus Reform when reached for comment. “President Trump’s family separation policy is a form of state terror; the forcible separation of migrant children from their parents as a form of ‘deterrence’ is a mechanism of authoritarian cruelty.”

”For far too long, Americans have desperately tried to normalize Donald Trump’s presidency and ideology,” he continued. “But Trump’s family separation policy—along with his Muslim travel ban—has reinforced the white-supremacist agenda of his administration, and white supremacy, as well as corresponding state terror, must never be normalized or accepted.”

Aftel had not explicitly associated Trump or the Trump administration with white supremacy in either of his articles for The Daily Princetonian.

”Finally,” Aftel told Campus Reform, “all human beings—undocumented or documented—deserve to be treated with respect and empathy. Family separation is a gruesome example of how President Trump does not care about these basic values of human decency.”