Meet the kinder, gentler Donald Trump.
“The Latinos love Trump,” the real estate tycoon told reporters last week. “And I love them.”
That’s funny. As a Latino, I don’t feel loved. I feel used. We have once again been cast as cultural bogeymen to help a Republican scare up votes.
This seems to be what Trump was doing a week earlier when, in announcing his presidential bid, he launched into an anti-Mexico tirade that caused an international incident.
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“The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems,” Trump said to supporters. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. … They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Little wonder that Trump – while coming in second in a recent poll of GOP presidential hopefuls in New Hampshire, after Jeb Bush – is persona non grata south of the border. Univision, the Spanish-language television network, has canceled its telecast of the Miss USA pageant, which is partially owned by Trump, and said that it’s severing all other business ties to the billionaire. Mexican merchants are peddling toupee-wearing pinatas made in The Donald’s likeness. These works of art, made of papier-mache and cardboard, are filled with candy – unlike the original, which is full of hot air.
At parties and protests, as crowds cheer, these pinatas will be battered, broken and burned. What can I say? Love hurts.
Trump’s screed boiled down to this: You had better vote Republican, or the big bad Latinos will come and get you.
I’m sure I speak for many of my fellow Latinos when I say: If you’re so terrified of us, and we’re so dangerous, could you please stop handing us your kids so we can feed them, bathe them and wipe their noses?
Could you also stop giving us the private security code to access your gated community so we can cut your lawn and trim the bushes? And could you stop leaving us alone in your home, as housekeepers, so we can clean your house? In other words, if you’re going to insist on fearing us, could you please stop needing us so much – especially in ways that threaten your safety? Try doing your own chores.
By accusing Mexico of unloading the dregs of society on the United States, Trump is continuing an ugly American tradition.
This fear of foreigners began in the mid-18th century when Benjamin Franklin, an Englishman, railed against what he perceived to be the inferiority of German immigrants who he declared confidently “will never adopt our language or customs, any more than they can acquire our complexion.”
It popped up again at the start of 20th century when Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts warned that immigrants (read: the Irish) were “diminishing the quality of our citizenship.”
It prompted Rep. Albert Johnson of Washington – who co-authored the 1924 Immigration Act, which basically closed America’s borders to anyone who wasn’t from England, Germany or Ireland – to gin up hostility toward Italian immigrants as uneducated, dirty and prone to criminal activity.
Yet Trump isn’t all wrong. We can assume most of the Mexicans who come to the United States have struck out in Mexico. Why else would they come? Those folks for whom Mexico is working fine – politicians, businessmen, doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc. – are the least likely to leave their family and friends and venture north.
The good news is that the people who do come, while down on their luck, are high on talent, ambition, optimism and hard work. They come to the United States – this land of second chances – to roll the dice just one last time.
That is also an American tradition. Just like those who found their way to these shores in the last few centuries from Germany, Ireland, Italy, Russia and elsewhere, the Mexican migrants who come today are often the best of the best. They’re the daring ones, risk takers, strivers, dreamers. America always got the better end of the deal. And she still does.
It’s funny. Trump built a successful career, and amassed a fortune, by convincing people that he knows all about deals. Now it turns out he can’t even recognize a good one.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.