Donald Trump has kick started his presidential campaign on the backs of illegal immigrants. To a degree, that has resonated with some voters.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. 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.”
Trump’s assertion that those who cross the border from Mexico looking for work are mainly criminals has been debunked by many. Yet, there’s another assertion that Trump has repeated that has gone largely unnoticed.
“The United States has become a dumping ground for Mexico and, in fact, for many other parts of the world.”
Trump claims that the nations of the world, particularly Mexico, are engaged in a Mariel boatlift of some type. The Mariel boatlift involved an influx of 125,000 Cuban refugees in 1980 that started out as decent people trying to escape the harsh life of Cuba. The Cuban government willingly let them out of the country. As the exodus continued to grow, Castro opened his prisons and mental institutions. The boats became infiltrated with criminals and the mentally ill.
That was a unique situation. It is not being repeated today, despite Trump’s claims. Even in the case of the Mariel boatlift, with a large number of undesirables, the vast majority of the Mariels were not criminals. They eventually fit inside American society as hardworking and respectful immigrants.
That has been the case for centuries. Since the first Northern Europeans set foot in North America, others have joined from the rest of Europe and the world. These people have been political, economic, religious and ethnic refugees. All have come willingly. The forced transportation of Africans being the exception. Mexico and other governments are not rounding up their undesirables, massing them on the border and shooing them into the United States. People are simply doing what they have been doing for centuries: leaving inopportunity for opportunity.
Generally, immigrants are more law abiding than the average American. That is because they are either illegal and do not wish to draw attention to themselves or are legal, but realize that they can be deported for criminal behavior. If immigration was the cause of the horrendous crimes that Trump claims, then why has crime fallen in the last decades as immigration rates have risen?
That is because the people who come into the United States, either legally or illegally, are really some of the best from their native country. They might not be the most educated or skilled. Nevertheless, the fact that they are ready to leave their homeland behind, risk death during a perilous journey and arrive in a country where they must immediately find work are the traits that have built prosperity in the United States. These people are industrious risk-takers, hardworking individuals who take jobs that most Americans do not want. They often perform work at lower wages and more efficiently than Americans. This has lead to enormous resentment from some Americans. This is the resentment Trump has tapped into.
Many of those who harbor anti-immigrant feelings fail to realize that there is nothing unique about today’s immigration situation. The Know-Nothing Party of the 1840s and 50s rose because of immigrants from Ireland and other Catholic countries. Later, there was the same animosity towards the Chinese and Japanese, then towards Southern and Eastern Europeans. This is the same old, tired show of distortions, conspiracies and outright lies. It isn’t a scenario unique to the United States either. Nativist candidates like Trump have popped up throughout Europe and command 10-20% of the vote. Wherever there are immigrants, there are Trumps. In their narrow-mindedness, these carnival barkers of doom conveniently ignore that immigrants of all kinds bring prosperity to their new homeland.