Donald Trump probably won't win the GOP nomination. Yet his candidacy has accomplished one thing: He has ratcheted up the rhetoric on immigration.
Trump has called immigrants "rapists" and "criminals" and, no doubt, some supporters are seduced by the racist rhetoric. Shouting "white power" at a public rally is only the most distributing illustration of Trump's racist supporters. In addition, almost half of Trump supporters in Iowa believe Obama is foreign-born and not a legitimate president. There is no other explanation but racial rigidity.
But many Trump supporters believe he's speaking truth about America's immigration problem. There's a deluge of people coming to America illegally and the federal government is doing nothing. Trump supporters also believe immigrants as a group are unpatriotic and present a danger.
But there's a problem with this thinking, a failure to recognize the symbiotic relationship between immigrants and America. The truth is, immigrants are good for American and vice versa. Nearly 40 percent of America’s largest corporations including Proctor & Gamble, Pfizer, U.S. Steel, Ebay and Google were founded by immigrants or by their children.
Many first-generation immigrants serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. Some sustained life-altering injuries in the latest wars of Afghanistan and Iraq. Others gave the ultimate sacrifice, paying with their lives while fighting for America. Data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services show that posthumous citizenship was awarded to 138 noncitizens between 2001 and 2012.
Immigrants come to America to better themselves, often times escaping brutal economic or political condition. No doubt America provides better alternatives.
Yes, some immigrants remain strongly attached to their original homeland, despite risking everything to escape. Many dedicate their lives to fixing the countries that denied them basic human dignity. It's not difficult to see why some Trump supporters suspect them of being unpatriotic.
Take for example Minnesota’s Somali community. The community's politics and economy continue to be shaped by events in Somalia. No weekend goes by without a meeting to discuss Somali politics. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these meetings involve how to fix Somalia -- not how to move America forward.
The Spanish-speaking community is similar. Univision is a successful because it provides Spanish-speaking viewers with a sense of home, community and country from Mexico and beyond into Latin America.
Trump supporters misinterpret this as disloyalty and yearn for harsher rhetoric. The result is gridlock and a persistent failure to solve America's immigration problem.
Ideological red lines have been established and dramatic events staged to re-enforce. When Jorge Ramos confronted Trump about building a wall on the border with Mexico, many viewers applauded. But Trump supporters saw a betrayal of America.
The field of Republican candidates will be smaller after the Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire primary. Trump will be most likely a relic of a silly summer.
But the immigration problem, ratcheted up by Trump's crude rhetoric, will remain with us. It's insufficient to argue for securing our borders and creating a path to citizenship. An attitude shift by immigration reformers and Trump's current supporters is required in order to solve the immigration problem facing America.