Theo’s take on the nation: anti-immigrant rhetoric is counterproductive and dangerous

Theo Teske, page editor

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Immigration has been a perennial point of conflict in American politics. In many ways, the United States has gone from melting pot to tribalized multiculturalism, wherein each culture exists independently while coexisting with the others. This climate has accentuated divides and made immigration into an even more heated issue than in the past.

President Trump was elected on a platform of extraordinary measures to curb immigration—both legal and illegal—including building a border wall and imposing an immigration ban on Muslim-majority nations.

Since taking office, Trump’s hardline stance hasn’t weakened. He has made headlines lately by calling for an end to birthright citizenship, meaning that children born in the US to immigrant parents wouldn’t become citizens automatically. Trump’s most recent action, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, was to send 5,200 soldiers to the southern border in response to reports that a caravan of migrants is approaching from Central America. The military itself has criticized Trump for essentially using the troops as props.

Throughout his campaign and continuing into his presidency, Trump has consistently engaged in pointedly anti-immigrant rhetoric. There is an important distinction to be made between rhetoric that is anti-immigration and rhetoric that is anti-immigrant: the former discusses the potential negative effects of immigration on the United States, while the latter consists of ad hominem attacks against immigrants themselves. By engaging in the latter rather than the former, Trump is jeopardizing his immigration agenda while endangering a large segment of the populace.

The immigration debate has become more politicized than ever before in recent years. In fact, CNN finds that political campaigns have collectively spent $150 million on ads concerning immigration this year, which is a large increase over recent election cycles. This rise has been largely driven by Trump’s consistent attacks on immigrants from his position as President, and consciously in many instances. CNN also writes that Trump wanted to pull the ending ad his campaign ran, which stressed the economic growth under his leadership, to instead run an anti-immigrant ad that was rejected by both NBC and Fox News for being racist.

Essentially, Trump’s current strategy makes it almost impossible for Democrats to compromise with him, and it alienates many Republicans as well. Trump is no longer discussing a policy issue. Instead, he is asking politicians to completely alienate a sizable portion of the electorate by labeling them as criminals, or at least people we don’t want in our country. Any notable vote to restrict immigration now is a rejection of immigrants as people instead of a largely economic decision made in the best interest of the United States. With 44 million immigrants living in the United States according to the Migration Policy Institute, no politician will make that decision lightly.

The substantial size of the immigrant population compounds the problem that his statements also serve to “otherize” immigrants, and when coming from the President this can have a considerable impact. When immigrants are viewed as less than natural-born American citizens, violence against them becomes justified. The Center for Public Integrity concludes that the election of Donald Trump has encouraged a climate of anti-immigrant sentiment, leading to a significant increase in hate crimes committed against immigrants in 2017. People shouldn’t have to live in fear because of where they were born.

The creation of a negative atmosphere for immigrants trickles down throughout society, and even into Edina High School. It’s important to realize that we can be against immigration while not condemning the immigrants themselves. A hostile environment towards immigrants will only create violence and emotional duress, something that shouldn’t be encouraged for any reason. It also creates unnecessary controversy around an issue that really doesn’t need to be controversial. Moving past placing the blame on immigrants is a key step that needs to be taken; maybe then a real debate about immigration can be had.

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