The Truth About Mexican-Americans

The tenor of the national debate over immigration changed from the first minutes of Donald Trump’s speech in New York City on June 16 announcing that he was running for the Republican presidential nomination. “The US has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems,” the real estate magnate said. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you,” he said, gesturing to the crowd. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems to us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

Here he interjected a brief qualifier. “And some, I assume, are good people.” But he returned quickly to his theme. “I speak to border guards and they tell us what we’re getting. And it only makes common sense,” Trump said. “They’re not sending us the right people.” His crowd cheered, delighted.

Mexican-American and other Latino organizations were outraged. Univisión, the national Spanish-language television network, dropped its telecast of Trump’s Miss USA and Miss Universe beauty pageants. The Ricky Martin Foundation withdrew a golf tournament from a Trump property. The Spanish-born chef José Andrés abandoned plans for a restaurant in a new Trump hotel in Washington.

But the rhetoric, far from damaging Trump, lifted him in the polls. He intensified it. In August he issued a six-page immigration plan—called Immigration Reform That Will Make America Great Again—homing in once again on Mexico, saying that its leaders had been “taking advantage of the United States using illegal immigration to export the crime and poverty in their own country.” “The Mexican government has taken the United States to the cleaners,” the plan complained. Trump said he would make Mexico pay for a wall to run the length of the two-thousand-mile border, and if Mexican leaders balked he would impound remittances to Mexico that were “derived from illegal wages.” He also proposed to put an end to the constitutional right to birthright citizenship—a child’s right to citizenship by having been born here—for US-born children of undocumented parents, which he said “remains the biggest magnet for illegal immigration.”

As these proposals proved popular with his ardent and growing following, Trump made immigration a fixture of his stump speech. In September at a rally in Keene, New Hampshire, he softened his statements, saying, “I love the Mexican people. I’ve had thousands and thousands of Mexican people that have worked with me over the years—thousands.” But then he insisted that “we are going to have to do something” about children he called “anchor babies,” by which, he made clear, he mainly meant Mexican infants. “They’re on the other side of the border. They have a baby that walks across the border because nobody stops anybody.”

He elaborated on his proposal to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. “Some people don’t agree, they think it’s harsh,” Trump told the crowd in Keene. “You know, Dwight Eisenhower was a wonderful general and a respected president, and he moved a million people out…

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