While racially charged rhetoric is nothing new for this president, last week marked a new low with President Trump’s push to end birthright citizenship and the outright racist political ad currently promoted on the president’s Twitter feed.
Trump began by claiming the U.S. is the only country with birthright citizenship. Wrong. More than 30 countries grant it, many of which are in the Americas. And there’s a history here that escapes Trump and his supporters: As the Americas were colonized by Europeans, birthright citizenship is how those first generations claimed their stake in the New World.
Trump and his supporters now want to cast birthright citizenship as a loophole of sorts whereby immigrants cheat their way to gaining citizenship for their children. This is truly and historically un-American.
Regardless of Trump’s claim that he can repeal the 14th Amendment with an executive order, the simple fact is he cannot. We’ve seen the brain trust behind Trump’s legal team and I’m not worried about the legal fight should Trump attempt such an executive order. I am concerned that this man took an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and is apparently willing to throw out its most basic protections.
Most concerning is that I don’t believe Trump will ever issue such an executive order.
This is a ruse to win an election. The timing here is too obvious. A week to go in the midterm elections, the GOP down and in terrible field position, and now this Hail Mary pass. The hope is that this red meat will motivate certain people to the polls. Now, let’s be honest here: Nobody’s talking about white or European immigrants in this conversation. The birthright citizenship debate is not about immigration policy, it’s about race.
More evidence can be found by watching the political ad currently pinned to the top of Trump’s twitter feed. The ad is largely composed of courtroom footage of Luis Bracamontes, a previously deported Mexican drug dealer who re-entered the U.S. and killed two California deputies, alongside selective clips of the migrant caravan forcing its way through the Mexican border. The narrative and the effect of the ad build on each other to say Democrats let this Mexican killer into the country and now want to let in lawless hordes of brown people who must all be murderers, rapists, drug dealers, and gang members.
This ad, like the hollow campaign promise to end birthright citizenship, appeals only to those who have xenophobic and racist fears about immigrants and brown people. That’s Trump’s target audience and the brand he’s selling is one of fear, hatred and racism. This is no longer a debate about immigration policy where reasonable people can disagree on the number of visas issued, the nature of our border security, the efficacy of a wall, how to address economic push and pull factors, and what to do with the 11 million undocumented living here. When the talking points are about invaders and anchor babies, the path has been set to dehumanize immigrants. That’s a racist agenda.
Rather than seeking to raise the level of civility in our political discourse, Trump is stirring up the muck that lurks at the bottom of our society. So what does it say when Trump plays to his racist supporters in the final days of a campaign? Hopefully, that the rest of the country is moving forward and that these racists are the only ones left that are actually buying what Trump is selling.
Richard Jaramillo serves as president of UCLR | Utah Coalition of La Raza, a Utah nonprofit focused on advancing the rights and opportunities for Utah’s Latino community.