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A nation of immigrants

Plug the words “Trump” and “immigration” into the Google News search engine these days, and you can find hundreds of news stories about President Donald Trump’s latest rant about immigrants and immigration.

He recently tied immigrants to rape again, and said of a caravan of would-be immigrants moving though Mexico, “it came out where, this journey coming up, women are raped at levels that nobody has ever seen before”—this despite a reporter for Buzzfeed, who was travelling with the caravan, saying that an organizer told him there were no reports of rape connected to the caravan.

But this is the narrative the President has been pushing since announcing his run for office in 2015, when he first charged that immigrants from Mexico were rapists and criminals. As the top officeholder in the land, he has the power to have a serious impact on immigration and immigrants. He has shut down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA), creating a nightmare of uncertainly for some 800,000 young people, some of them here in Sullivan County.

His loathing for immigrants is so deep—even though his parents were immigrants and so is his wife—that under his leadership, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services last month unveiled a new mission statement that leaves out the idea that the U.S. is a “nation of immigrants.”

Trump has been using the immigration issue to rile up his base. He has appeared on nearly every television news show talking about it once again. Yet on the same day, a very different version of immigration was playing out in Trial Room Number One in the Sullivan County Courthouse.

That’s when 25 immigrants hailing from the four corners of the globe assembled to be sworn in as new U.S. citizens. They included a young boy from Vietnam, a senior man from Australia, a middle-aged woman from Poland and a young woman from Brazil. Just about every race on the planet was represented.

These immigrants all seemed proud and happy that this day had arrived. And people in the audience who had come to support them cheered when the swearing-in was finished. Judge Frank LaBuda and Congressman John Faso each told the immigrants this would be a day they would remember for the rest of their lives. LaBuda also spoke about the responsibility that comes with citizenship. They took an oath to fight for their fellow citizens if necessary, and they also acquired the right to vote.

This ceremony had nobility and dignity attached to it, a nobility and dignity that our President never associates with immigration. The only feelings inspired with Trump’s view of immigration are fear and division, and Trump himself would sharply reduce the number of immigrants allowed into the country.

Trump plans to expel hundreds of thousands of immigrants by ending special protections established for them. These include 200,000 from El Salvador who fled an earthquake in 2001, 60,000 from Haiti, also here because of an earthquake; and 4,000 Liberians who fled a 1999 civil war. Further, our president consistently injects racism into the discussion about immigration, as when he referenced a number of African countries and Haiti using a vulgar word in January.

But ironically, Trump’s blatant use of race and his attacks on immigrants may be having a boomerang effect on the attitudes of U.S. citizens about immigration. An article in The Nation (tinyurl.com/ybjmp5gy) says, “For over 20 years, Pew has been asking Americans whether they believe that immigrants ‘strengthen the country with their hard work or talents’ or ‘burden the country by taking jobs, housing [and] health care.’ When Trump began his campaign in 2015, 51% of respondents said immigrants strengthen the country and 41% thought that they represented a burden. A little over two years later, Pew found that there had been a whopping 29-point jump in that public opinion gap, with positive views of immigration now outnumbering negative ones by a 65-26 margin. (This increase is consistent with an increase in favorable opinions about Islam, according to research by YouGov.com and The Huffington Post.)

A recent survey by the Associated Press showed young voters, those between the ages of 15 and 34, are especially opposed to Trump’s immigration policies. Some 63% of that age group believes “Trump is a racist,” and 69% of them support a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers.

So, while the president might have no respect for our history as a nation of immigrants, a big slice of the public certainly does, including those 25 new citizens who were sworn in last week in Monticello. (See news story on page 1.)

 

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