Heartless Trump, Heartless America
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Heartless Trump, Heartless America

‘When Will He Decide I’m Not Welcome Here Either?’

I’d like to hope that the decision to deport 260,000 Salvadorans who had been granted temporary immigration status to escape natural and man-made disasters in their country 16 years ago gave the Trump administration even a moment’s pause.

As it did recently with 45,000 Haitians granted a similar status, this White House seems to revel in breaking up families and showing the world that Americans have no heart. No tienes corazón.

That huge undercurrent of the jobs, jobs, jobs agenda becomes clearer by the day: Maybe it’s really deport, deport, deport immigrant workers to create workplace vacancies for natural-born Americans to fill. After all, these 260,000 would join 800,000 Dreamers and up to 11 million more immigrants lacking full documentation that Trump believes endanger the United States.

Specifically, the White House gave Salvadorans a year to become citizens or face deportation—even as it works to make that process much more burdensome and complicated. The announcement was consistent with the administration’s broader goal of reducing legal immigration and stopping illegal immigration. Homeland Security officials say the conditions in El Salvador have improved enough since the earthquakes in 2001 to no longer support the temporary stay designation.

I readily acknowledge that these anti-immigrant policies anger me. I work with immigrants in a don’t-ask-don’t-tell program to help hard-working new arrivals learn enough English to apply for jobs, fill out forms and communicate in American society.

What I always seem to be missing in this discussion is the White House reasoning for ruining people’s lives, to say nothing of turning our country’s back on hunger, misery and suffering across the world, from Syria to the Rohingya refugees in Southeast Asia. Or in Appalachia, inner cities and rural provinces of the United States itself, where folks increasingly are being told that they cannot afford to stay alive.

The boom that the president cites for the stock market does not reach these folks. The corporate bonuses he champions are not reaching these folks. That these Salvadorans in California and Texas and other states are working and paying taxes does not seem to matter.

There is a definite racial odor to this particular set of anti-immigrant campaigns.

Just as with broad-brush travel bans, these campaigns are not meant to protect anyone. At best, they are the logical outcome of some campaign slogans created to spur fears about The Other. My family has been The Other, even barred from coming to the United States when it was a matter of survival.

Apparently, as a society, we learn little or nothing from history. How else do you explain heartfelt feelings, for example, about Confederate statutes or glee in pushing back against civil-rights and affirmative-action programs?

Sure, Mr. President, go ahead and erect walls, spend billions on technology to stop border crossings, deport hundreds of thousands or millions. Use children as bait to lure their adult parents for deportation. Attack sanctuary cities for refusing to turn municipal police forces into agents for ICE. Just do not look in the mirror expecting to see someone worthy of respect.

How are we to see these campaigns as anything but punishing efforts to racially “purify” America from its history and mission to become more diverse, more accepting of new faces who actually look to this “city on the hill”?

How about for just a moment we consider the opposite approach. For a minuscule amount of the multi-billion-dollar cost you propose, let’s try supporting ESL classes, establishing job training programs aimed at exactly the kind of jobs that are hard to fill at the moment and designing a program aimed at education and acculturation. Sure, come up with a price for legalization and individual documentation, but show an approach that allows for some empathy. And find a way that is both enforceable and that leaves the country in a better position to do its work.

What? You find this somehow immoral or bad for America? Yet you annually seek H-1 visas for Mar-a-Lago and for your family’s vineyard properties in Virginia because you cannot find Americans to take jobs for which you pay too little and eliminate after the season.

How soon will it be that you decide that I am no longer welcome in your America because I am too old, or too Jewish, or too sarcastic, or too willing to tell you that as emperor, you are naked?

You are not Making America Great. You are Making America Whiter, more selfish and more insular.


January 9, 2018