Exactly how did Donald Trump – in just five months – go from being, for Latinos, a symbol of success to the embodiment of hate? Much of the blame goes to an ongoing marketing effort by a master salesman to fuel his presidential campaign with fear and prejudice.
The latest episode of the Trump telenovela is surreal, as he has chosen to resurrect the historical black eye known as “Operation Wetback.” In 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower removed more than 1 million Mexicans – along with Mexican-American U.S. citizens who got caught in the net. People were beaten and tossed in railroad cars. Some died as they walked through the desert trying to get back. Thousands of families were divided. Yet the GOP front-runner wants to create a “deportation force” and be like Ike.
During last week’s Republican debate on Fox Business Network, Trump said this: “Dwight Eisenhower … moved 1.5 million illegal immigrants out of this country, moved them just beyond the border. They came back. Moved them again beyond the border, they came back. Didn’t like it. Moved them way south. They never came back.”
Oh, I get it. Like how, for Republicans, thanks to rhetoric like this, the White House will never come back.
Relaunch Operation Wetback? You might as well suggest bringing back Jim Crow and interning Japanese-Americans. America gets it wrong sometimes. But its greatness comes from being able to purge the venom from its bloodstream. Now Trump wants to inject more.
Although I have to shake my head at networks like CNN where reporters and anchors are shocked that Trump is proposing mass deportations when, for the last seven years, our sitting president has carried them out – 2.5 million and counting – and they couldn’t have cared less.
Many non-Latinos think that the only thing Latinos are upset about is the fact that Trump opposes illegal immigration.
Well, there are 15 Republican candidates vying for the party’s presidential nomination. All oppose illegal immigration. But only one is hated by Latinos: Trump.
To explain it, we need a baseline. There are other things that Latinos hate – when white folks butcher Spanish, when restaurants ruin Mexican food, when people assume that we all got here last week in the trunk of a car, when Sunday morning talk shows discuss Latinos without letting Latinos in on the discussion, and when the political parties alternate between ignoring us, picking on us and setting our agenda.
These are a few of our least favorite things. Now, add to the list: The Donald.
▪ On June 16, a day that will live in idiocy, Trump announced his candidacy. The political novice said this: “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. “
▪ As criticism mounted, Trump added insult to injury by insisting not only that his comments were harmless but that he is “loved” in that community. In mid-July, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Telemundo poll found that 75 percent of Latinos disapproved of Trump. In a Univision poll, taken at the same time, 79 percent of Latino voters said they considered Trump’s comments offensive, and 71 percent had an unfavorable view of him. So what’s love got to do with it?
▪ At one point, Trump also dragged Bush’s Mexican-born wife, Columba, into the arena by tweeting: “#JebBush has to like the Mexican illegals because of his wife.” Columba came to the United States legally. I thought Trump was the one making a fuss about such distinctions. Now he lumps all Mexicans together? Trump also took a nativist cheap shot at Jeb Bush for speaking Spanish, declaring the 2016 election an “English-only” zone.
▪ Finally, for Latinos, the most important institution is the family, and Trump raised hackles when Mr. Tough Guy set his sights on a bunch of kids whom he called “anchor babies.” In his call to trash the 14th Amendment by eliminating birthright citizenship for the U.S.-born children of the undocumented, Trump reached a new low and sealed his fate with Latinos.
All of which raises a question: How could we ever elect an American president who pushes ideas that are so profoundly un-American?
Contact Ruben Navarrette at firstname.lastname@example.org.