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Luis Carrasco: Disdain for migrants doesn't begin or end at Trump's wall

Luis Carrasco: Disdain for migrants doesn't begin or end at Trump's wall

Protesters hold up signs during a rally supporting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, outside the White House on September 5, 2017. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

I don’t care about Donald Trump’s wall.

If it gets built and stands there for decades, as tourists flock to see our folly and enterprising immigrants sell them souvenirs, eventually it will become just another part of the scenery. Another imposition by faraway lawmakers that border residents must contend with.

Even its monstrous novelty will last only so long. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time that we as a nation have spent billions on a useless endeavor — or that we have gone astray and betrayed our fundamental values.

No. What I care about, what will remain long after President Trump and his coterie of anti-immigrant advisors leave the White House, are the walls far from the border.

Unlike any physical counterpart, these barriers have so far proven impenetrable. Their foundation is the very human, natural fear of the other — weak in some, bedrock hard in others. The rest has been built up over the years, bit by bit, by those seeking to exploit that fear for political gain or by racists who paper over their hatred with spurious arguments.

No fact can cross over, no truth can tunnel under. It is buttressed daily by claims that immigrants are here to take our jobs, live off our taxes and kill us with their violent gangs. I’ve always held some measure of sympathy for people who hold these anti-immigrant views, but I think I’m done with that. These people are continually lied to, sure, but they are not dumb. If they want the truth, they can find it. Maybe I should drop the wall metaphor and go for a garden analogy, since they seem to gratefully swallow the manure fed to them.

My disgust bubbled over Thursday as efforts to protect “dreamers,” immigrants who were brought to this country illegally by their parents, fell apart in the Senate. Many of the dreamers had come out of the shadows and were finally able to have a job or go to college thanks to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program instituted by former President Obama.

These immigrants, many of whom grew up here and can call no other country home, continue to be held hostage to Trump’s disproportionate demands. No longer content with wanting to stop illegal border crossers, there can now be no deal unless there are limits to legal immigration.

The DACA crisis was created by Trump, and the responsibility for any legislative failure lies at his feet. But the larger culpability is with his supporters. The president is out to please his base, and many in his base hate immigrants.

While there were different issues that made someone more likely to support Trump in 2016, immigration was the strongest determinant of whether someone voted for him . This holds true for the Republican primary — where exit polls showed his stance on immigration help defeat his rivals — and the general election. National exit polls show he beat Hillary Clinton by 31 points among those who said immigration was their main concern.

I am against illegal immigration. And I’ve never met anyone who is for illegal immigration. We all agree a country has a right to defend its borders, to know who is coming in and keep out those who would do harm. But we’re not talking about illegal immigration anymore. We’re not even talking about cogent arguments in favor of limiting legal immigration.

What the president has made clear through his continued remarks and actions is that what we are talking about is racism. Those who continue to support Trump on this issue are not moderates, they have not been misled or lack the key fact that will make them see the light.

They are people who will never understand that the United States is strong because of immigrants. That while other countries stagnate, we are renewed. That we remain vital — in science, industry, entertainment — because of the new blood that flows through our veins. They are people who claim they are protecting American culture, without understanding that our culture is immigrant culture, just from a different set of immigrants.

They claim these new arrivals fail to integrate, but the American ethos is strong, and ironically no one buys into it harder than immigrants. They still think that coming here is worth the sacrifice, whether it is leaving all they’ve known behind or risking their lives to get to the United States.

If you believe our immigration system is broken, there are plenty of Democrats and Republicans you can support. Lawmakers who are willing to compromise and understand we are still far from any objective solution to the problem, but that we can alleviate people’s suffering and make humane choices.

If you back the president on this … just, please, don’t write saying you’re not racist. Don’t send cherry-picked examples of criminal immigrants or how “illegals” benefit from your tax dollars. Do us all a favor — tend to your garden and stay behind your wall.

Luis F. Carrasco is an editorial writer at the Star. Email him at lcarrasco@tucson.com

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