Many pundits have opined that if Ronald Reagan was alive and running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2020, that he would be trounced by Donald Trump, a man whose approval rating among Republicans stands at 90 percent according to the latest New York Times polling data.
While many in the GOP still love to invoke Ronald Reagan’s name in speeches and editorials, with respect to the polarizing issue of immigration from Central and South America, Reagan and Trump are polar opposites. The same holds true for George H.W. Bush, Reagan’s primary opponent in 1980 who later became his vice president and successor as the 41st President of the United States.
(Reagan and Bush debate circa March 1980)
Check out the answers to the question about illegal immigrants from Mexico as posed to Reagan and Bush during a spring 1980 debate:
Mr. Reagan: “Rather than making them, of talking about putting up a fence, why don’t we work out some recognition of our mutual problems, make it possible for them to come here legally with a work permit, and then, while they’re working and earning here, they pay taxes here. And when they want to go back they can go back, and cross. And open the border both ways, by understanding their problems. This is the only safety valve they have right now, with that unemployment, that probably keeps the lid from blowing off…And I think we could have a fine relationship.”
George H.W. Bush: “I’d like to see something done about the illegal alien problem that would be so sensitive, and so understanding about labor needs, and human needs, that that problem wouldn’t come up. But today, if those people are here, I would reluctantly say they would get whatever it is, what society is giving their neighbors. But the problem has to be solved … We’re creating a whole society of really honorable, decent, family-loving people that are in violation of the law, and secondly we’re exacerbating relations with Mexico. The answer to your question is much more fundamental than whether they attend Houston schools, it seems to me. I don’t want to see … six- and eight-year-old kids, being made, you know, one, totally uneducated, and being made to feel that they’re living outside the law. Let’s address ourselves to the fundamentals. These are good people, strong people. Part of my family is a Mexican.”
Open borders? Work permits? Free flow of hard workers? Don’t criminalize small kids? Indeed, the modern-day Republican Party is far less open-minded–and far quicker to smear illegal immigrants with racist propaganda–than the Party of Reagan and Bush.
Now, let us juxtapose the viewpoints of Reagan and Bush with Donald Trump, the man who led “Build that Wall!” chants at every political rally he held in 2016:
Trump circa 2015: “When do we beat Mexico at the border? They’re laughing at us, at our stupidity. And now they are beating us economically. They are not our friend, believe me. But they’re killing us economically. The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems. When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. 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 a criminal defense lawyer who practices in both state and federal courts, I can assure you that America’s crime problems are not even remotely made worse by illegal immigration. In my experience, the majority of the worst violent and drug related crimes in America are committed by, you guessed it, Americans!
Such has not stopped Trump from making pernicious comments as follow:
But don’t just take my word about Trump’s mendacious ways, the Cato Institute, a think-tank bankrolled by the ultra conservative Koch Brothers, issued a report this year that backs up my anecdotal evidence. The report provides in pertinent part that according to 2015 crime stats in Texas, that “illegal immigrants were 25 percent less likely to be convicted of homicide than native-born Americans (Legal immigrants were 87 percent less likely.)”
The Cato Institute study also found that illegal immigrants were 11.5 percent less likely than native-born Americans to be convicted of sexual assault and 79 percent less likely to be convicted of larceny (theft).
So why does President Trump propagate such falsities about immigrants and crime? The simple answer is because it works and inspires those among his base who will not read or, if they do read, are sorely lacking in comprehension or logical reasoning skills. To those Twitter following dim-wits, if Trump says it, it must be right–which is wrong as two left feet and February 30th.
Now, to be fair, both major political parties have politicians, mostly white, who play fast and loose with race based crime stats. Lest we forget William “Crime Bill” Clinton and his wife, Hillary “(black male) Super Predator” Clinton and how they used race to stoke white fears and the proliferation of mass incarceration as a for-profit industry in the 1990s. As such, it is critical to call out Trump, Clinton and any other politico who either overtly or latently promulgate white supremacist thoughts that turn into white supremacist policies that are not only detrimental to people of color, but that are antithetical to the premises of a Constitution that is supposed to be color-blind and protective of the rights of all–even illegal immigrants!
In summary, those illegal immigrants who have broken the law should be provided humane treatment and due process, but from time immemorial, the way that some whites in America have inspired others to jump on board with race based, racist political ideology is to demonize “all” with the bad acts of “some.” Such is why Trump autographed pictures of Americans killed by illegal immigrants, to make the masses of know-nothings believe that immigrant crime is a menace–which it clearly is not! Further, I look sideways at any Republican who claims to be a Reagan follower, but refuses to push back against the policies that have separated families and locked kids up at the border.