Jorge Ramos, the nightly news co-anchor on Spanish-language TV station Univisión who was thrown out of Donald Trump’s press conference in Dubuque, Iowa on Aug. 25, 2015, and was then allowed back in, asked Trump how he would deport 11 million undocumented. Trump responded: “Humanely. I have a bigger heart than you.”
As an activist with an immigrant-rights organization who has personally known a number of immigrants in deportation proceedings, I can safely say that deportations may be many things, but “humane” is not one of them.
However, Ramos’s question goes to the heart of something even deeper. What type of country will we become if we expend the money and resources for such a massive undertaking? Conservative columnist and TV personality George Will estimates that this would be about 94 times as large an undertaking as the rounding up of the 117,000 Japanese Americans at Manzanares during WWII. Will we sacrifice all of the other things that demand the nation’s attention, such as crumbling schools and infrastructure? Will we officially become a dictatorship? And, while I do not like this type of hyperbole, will we become like Nazi Germany when it was rounding up Jews, Gypsies [Roma people] and other groups in disfavor with the régime?
In addition to the fact that it will not be done “humanely,” as Trump maintains, with such a large undertaking it is all but guaranteed that people who are not intended targets will get caught up in the web. If history offers any lessons it will also be done not only with intimidation and threats of violence, but with actual violence.
Another lesson of history is that Trump’s type of nativist, anti-immigrant rhetoric leads to violent attacks on “the other” or the perceived “other,” promotes the so-called “security State” and destroys all remnants of “democracy.” One need not look too far to see this.
After being told of a homeless immigrant being beaten up in Boston in August by a couple of men who invoked his name, Trump initially replied that he hadn’t heard about it but that if it were true, it would “be a shame.” He then hastened to add: “I will say, the people that are following me are very passionate. They love this country. They want this country to be great again.”
Coupled with his demand in 2011 to see President Obama’s birth certificate and his not-so-subtle insult of Jorge Ramos for being Latino, telling him to go back to Univisión, Trump may be the most racist candidate for President of the USA since Strom Thurmond ran as a Dixiecrat in 1948.
Even Ronald Reagan — of whom Trump was an early supporter, and who was the first major-party candidate to be openly endorsed by both the KKK and the Nazis — was a little more subtle. As bad as Reagan’s appeals to racism were, and they were pretty terrible, did he ever say how much people who engaged in racist violence “love this country” or “want it to be great again?”
Trump’s appeals to racism, not to mention his sexism, and his willingness to waste precious financial and human resources on deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants while ignoring the country’s actual needs, indicate that he is sending all of the wrong messages. Ramos said in an interview on CNN that reporters are only thrown out of press conferences in dictatorships. Not very “humane.” That is something worth pondering.
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The writer is a longtime labor, peace and immigrant rights activist in New Jersey.