Originally Published in The Washington Post
Opinion by León Krauze - October 30, 2020
This is, of course, not the case. Journalistic objectivity is not equivalent to human indifference. And, of course, I am not a Democratic operative or a progressive pundit. As a Hispanic journalist and a Mexican immigrant, my misgivings about Trump are not political or ideological. They are moral. To illustrate why, I often turn to a personal anecdote.
Four years ago, early in the morning after the presidential election, I had a conversation with my son Mateo. Trump had won the presidency and Mateo, just 8, had followed the results in anguish. It didn’t surprise me. For months, he had heard Trump sneer at immigrants, boasting of the erection of a border wall to separate Mateo’s native Mexico and the United States, my son’s adoptive country. Mateo was quiet as he sat across the table. I asked him how he felt. “I don’t understand how so many people could vote for such a bad man,” he said. “That’s democracy,” I answered. He then stood up and walked around the kitchen. He came back after a couple of minutes and stood next to me. “Well, daddy,” he said. “At least I don’t look Mexican.”
I have never forgotten those words. A young child who describes himself as a bicultural, binational and bilingual immigrant, the proud product of two inextricably linked nations, forced to instinctively retreat into survival mode. It broke my heart.
Still, Mateo, like his parents, is indeed very lucky and privileged. He is a permanent resident in the United States, protected (at least in theory) from the Trump administration’s worst nativist impulses. Millions of other immigrants, with just as much pride and with even a stronger claim to this land than my own family, haven’t be as fortunate.
Over the past four years I have interviewed hundreds of undocumented immigrants who have seen their lives upended in unforeseen ways, their pursuit of happiness stolen either by Trump’s draconian immigration policies or the president’s incendiary nativist rhetoric. Both share one aim: to make those immigrants —Americans in every way but the absence of a single piece of paper — feel unwanted. Those summarily rejected by the White House’s xenophobia include millions of essential workers, the backbone of the American economy and, as the pandemic has shown, American society itself. These are the people whom Trump has persecuted and shunned.
The consequences of Trump’s prejudice have not been abstract. The Trump administration has actively pursued family separation policies that have left behind hundreds of immigrant orphans. Trump’s rejection of America’s tradition as a safe haven for refugees has produced a humanitarian crisis along Mexico’s northern border, where thousands live in squalor. Trump has badgered hundreds of thousands of “dreamers,” young undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, who, over the decades, have built productive lives and become parents of thousands of U.S. citizens.
The president repeatedly has twisted and reduced the real contributions of the immigrant community, which is demonstrably valuable and honest, into a number of individual cases of criminality. The Trump administration has neglected to provide any significant financial support to millions of undocumented workers while simultaneously labeling them as essential workers, an act of heartless cynicism. In El Paso, Trump’s xenophobic rhetoric allegedly inspired Patrick Crusius, the man charged with unleashing the worst massacre against Hispanic Americans in the country’s modern history.
Nativism in America is not unprecedented, but the extent of Trump’s relentless attack on immigrants certainly is. It is also a betrayal of the better angels of the Republican Party and the conservative movement. But most of all, it is profoundly immoral. No immigrant child in the United States should fear for their parent’s safe return after a hard day’s work. No immigrant should question their right to belong in a country in which they have found life, love, honest work and progeny.
No child should look in the mirror to figure out if, in the times of prejudice, he or she “looks” Mexican or not. This is unworthy of the virtuous project of the Unites States of America and the reason, with just a few days to go before the election, I hope the country I grew up admiring — where my eldest child will soon become a citizen and my two other boys were born one sunny day in January — votes to put and end to the wicked, indecent times of Donald Trump.