President Trump’s campaign released an ad on illegal immigration over the weekend just as Republicans and Democrats were trying to reopen the government and find a compromise on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The ad is called “Complicit,” and it begins with a clip of an undocumented immigrant who killed two sheriff’s officers. It concludes: “Democrats who stand in our way will be complicit in every murder committed by illegal immigrants.”
It’s not particularly surprising that Trump signed off on the ad. He began his campaign for president by calling Mexicans “rapists,” and he has willingly let his presidency get hijacked by far-right thinking on immigration inside and outside the White House. Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who’s trying to negotiate a DACA compromise, practically pleaded with Trump via interviews Sunday to stop listening to the policy devil on his shoulder, White House advisor Stephen Miller.
The killer in Trump’s ad, of course, was not a DACA recipient. How far from the mainstream has Trump strayed? You can look at poll upon poll that show a majority of Americans wants a fix that allows DACA immigrants to remain in the country.
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Better yet, you can listen to previous Republican presidents.
Here’s George W. Bush, in 2006: “We cannot build a unified country by inciting people to anger, or playing on anyone’s fears, or exploiting the issue of immigration for political gain. We must always remember that real lives will be affected by our debates and decisions, and that every human being has dignity and value no matter what their citizenship papers say,” he said, while calling for comprehensive immigration reform.
Here’s Ronald Reagan, in 1981: “Illegal immigrants in considerable numbers have become productive members of our society and are a basic part of our work force. Those who have established equities in the United States should be recognized and accorded legal status.”
It’s important to note that both Reagan and Bush, along with George H.W. Bush, also advocated for strong borders and more rigid enforcement of laws regarding employers hiring undocumented immigrants. But unlike Donald Trump, each of them not only managed to recognize the long-term value of these immigrants, but their humanity.