Before Donald Trump denigrated Mexican immigrants in his speech where he announced his candidacy for President, the thought of a businessman like Trump running for president would have been interesting to me. Like a lot of people, I believe we need new blood in Washington with new ideas and free of the cesspool of special interest money that has ruled our governmental policies for far too long. Like most people, I knew Trump from television, and while I wasn’t of fan of his flashy style, I had some admiration for his unique ability to brand himself and keep his company in the spotlight for almost three decades. But Trump didn’t make business the centerpiece issue for his candidacy, rather he made it immigration – and as the 2020 campaign season begins to heat up, Trump is going back to the well by intensifying his rhetoric around immigration coupled with a massive round of ICE raids that are supposed to start this weekend.
The Trump supporters I know say the president is not anti-immigrant or anti-Latino, he is anti-illegal immigration. He just wants our laws followed and respected. Ok, I agree that illegal immigration is not good for the country or for the immigrants themselves. Undocumented immigrants are often exploited by employers and/or others. They aren’t protected by our labor laws and aren’t eligible for most of our social services. There is also the possibility that they can drive wages down for segments of our workforce. But you can be against illegal immigration without directing your hatred to the people themselves – people who are desperate and willing to do almost anything to give their families a better life. I can’t think of anything more disgusting than disparaging the very people who for pennies pick our fruit, mow our lawns, and clean our toilets. I believe Trump’s talking points around immigration have created a more divisive environment between minorities (especially Latinos) and non-minorities in this country. Whether you think Trump is a racist or not, there is no question the actual racists in our country feel more emboldened with Trump in the White House than ever before – and that’s a problem. There is documented evidence that hate crimes have soared in the cities where Trump holds his rallies. I can’t justify this behavior just because we have a low unemployment rate.
Let’s look at how the Jewish community deals with similar issues. Anti-Semitism is defined as “hostility to, prejudice or discrimination against Jews”. In 1913, the Anti-Defamation League was founded in the USA to fight Anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry. As much as any organization, the ADL understands how the media and public officials can shape the image of how the public views the Jewish community. If public perception of Jews is generally negative, it can have a powerful impact on the quality of life for Jewish people in the USA and around the world. With that in mind, the ADL was created to aggressively combat anything or anyone that disparages the Jewish community. If a public official says anything that could be construed as even remotely anti-Semitic, the ADL will respond harshly and without hesitation. If a television show has a character that portrays Jewish people in a negative way, the ADL will respond equally as swiftly. Words and images have power, especially when they are coming from our elected officials. The Jewish community understands that more than anyone, and no elected official from either party is exempt from their high standards. If Latinos expect to be treated with an equal degree of respect, we need to adopt similar principles.
It’s not Trumps domestic or foreign policies that trouble me. It’s not his relationship with the media or the judges he nominates. We have had presidents from all sides of the political spectrum and we always will – but while we can disagree with specific policies, the one thing most of us have always shared is a profound respect for people and our nation’s institutions, and I don’t believe Trump shares that respect.
I’m an advocate for the Latino community plain and simple, and I can’t sit quietly when our community, especially our most vulnerable are attacked. If you interpret my stance on Trump or any of the above as partisan or anti-Republican, you’d be wrong. I don’t think of Trump as a Republican. He is his own party. Besides, I have pointed out several times in this blog that the Obama Administration had the chance to establish a long-term solution to our immigration problem, and passed on it. Obama also deported more Latinos than any other president before him. Both parties have failed the Latino community in a number of ways – but most of that is on us. We need to stand up for ourselves more. We need to support candidates from both parties that support our agenda, and we have to take the lead from the Jewish community and establish a zero-tolerance policy against anything or anyone that disparages the Latino community in any way. If that makes me anti-Trump so be it, but in my mind, I am simply being pro-Latino.