July 13, 2015
“When Mexico, meaning the Mexican government, sends its people…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. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Rather than apologize for these comments, he refused to back down, even after major corporations canceled their relationships with him or his products.
When a woman was gunned down by an illegal immigrant on a San Francisco pier on July 1, Donald Trump latched onto this event as evidence of the soundness of his previous comments. As CNN reported, he claimed that
“This senseless and totally preventable act of violence committed by an illegal immigrant is yet another example of why we must secure our border immediately…This is an absolutely disgraceful situation and I am the only one that can fix it. Nobody else has the guts to even talk about it. That won’t happen if I become President.”
This weekend, Donald Trump took his presidential road show to Phoenix, Arizona. In a speech to a crowd of 4,000 cheering supporters, he repeated what he said before, albeit with more appropriate language. According to Politico, Trump said,
“I love the Mexican people … I respect Mexico … but the problem we have is that their leaders are much sharper, smarter and more cunning than our leaders, and they’re killing us at the border…They’re taking our jobs. They’re taking our manufacturing jobs. They’re taking our money. They’re killing us.”
At one point, Trump even brought a man up to the podium to speak about how his son was “violently” killed by an illegal immigrant.
The common theme for Donald Trump is that illegal immigrants are criminals. Despite some anecdotal cases of criminality within the illegal immigrant community, the facts are decidedly against what Donald Trump claims.
On October 2013, the Pew Research Center published its work on immigrants and crime. As the chart below shows, first generation immigrants have a lower crime rate than native-born Americans.
However, as they assimilated, second generation immigrants had a similar crime rate to native-born Americans. On July 10, 2015, The Economist weighed in on the link between immigrants and crime. What it found was similar to what the Pew Center previously discovered. The Economist reported that
“Mr. Trump has claimed that ‘[w]hen Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best.’ Yet the evidence suggests that the people America has been taking in are truly and remarkably civil. If not the best, they’re awfully good. Undocumented killers such as Mr Sanchez [the man who killed the woman on San Francisco’s pier] may inflame the xenophobic imagination, but America’s violent criminals are much more likely to be home-grown than imported.”
Trumps claims about “illegal immigrants” hurting the U.S. economy are false as well. According to in-depth research done by the Manhattan Institute, immigrants, undocumented or otherwise, act as a boost to the nation’s economy.
“The most important way immigrants benefit the U.S. economy, according to academic literature, is their possession of different skills and job preferences from those displayed by native-born Americans, thereby making the latter more productive. As a result, immigrants complement rather than substitute for native-born workers, with capital moving accordingly to maximize available labor. Although immigrants will no doubt be substitutes for some primarily low-skill workers (many themselves immigrants), the negative effects experienced by such workers are far smaller than the positive effects enjoyed by everyone else. In short, the economy as a whole gains, with considerably more winners than losers.”
The most important point to take from all of this is that Donald Trump is a fear-mongering demagogue. He uses fear to whip up an anti-immigrant frenzy to gain ground in the polls, a strategy that seems to be working. One poll suggests that he is leading the crowded Republican field of presidential nominees while another poll shows Trump in a tie for first place with Jeb Bush.
This is nothing new for opportunistic megalomaniacs who seek to win elections at any cost. In 1994, California’s Republican governor Pete Wilson successfully used an anti-illegal immigration proposition (Prop. 187) to propagate support for his re-election campaign, which kept him in office. The proposition passed with 59% support but was later found unconstitutional—as most laws like these are. More recently, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used fear of Israeli-Arab voters to convince the Jewish voters in Israel to turnout and vote for his Likud party in the March, 2015 parliamentary elections. His party won the most seats in parliament and he once again became prime minister of a right wing coalition government.
This is not to suggest that Donald Trump will win the Republican nomination for president. Given his lack of political experience, it is highly likely that Trump is just the flavor of the month in the crowded Republican field. As more Republican voters begin to pay attention to the nomination process, he will likely fall to other more experienced, less hate-mongering candidates in the polls.
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