“Why have you changed your views on immigration?” a guy asked me recently.
“On your radio show, you were more hardline than you are now.”
I’ve been asked that a lot the past few years. My response has been reflexive and certain: My views haven’t much changed.
I’m all for secure borders. Always have been. I stated this again a few months ago in this very space in a manner I thought was fairly clear. I wrote, “I’m all for secure borders.”
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I still support knowing who has entered the country and knowing the precise identity of anyone booked into a jail. I recently ripped the ACLU for targeting Mecklenburg Sheriff Irwin Carmichael over his support of the 287g program.
I still believe we’re not going to deport 12 million people, and need a way for them to come out of the shadows — but not straight-up amnesty.
Those views have not changed since Charlotte’s Mi Gente newspaper labeled me a “brainless wet parrot” nearly 15 years ago. But a few things in the immigration debate are different.
I stopped citing tragedies like heinous crimes committed by “illegals,” which inflame disproportionately. I learned they are rarer than heinous crimes committed by legal citizens.
I stopped using select statistics that make it look like the undocumented are costing taxpayers mega-billions. I found more studies suggest they are not.
Most of all, I stopped blaming immigrants for grabbing the chance — even illegally — at the better lives dangled before them by American businesses and consumers who want crops picked, roofs shingled, and hotel rooms cleaned for less than it costs to get legal citizens to do the job.
Over time, I’ve seen the fallacy in advancing exceptions that distorted the rule, so I quit doing it. This is a favorite tactic of politicians, however, and I also saw Donald Trump had mastered it only a month into his presidential campaign.
He had grabbed 16 percent in the polls in July, 2015, four points more than his closest competitors. He had, as I said on the radio and wrote in this space at the time, “achieved his surging status slinging about immigrants, specifically Mexicans, here illegally.”
Trump — who paid a $1.4 million settlement for using illegal workers in the building of Trump Tower and whose companies still undercut American citizens to hire “seasonal workers” through the H-2B visa program — rode his “Mexican rapists” rant and wailed about The Wall the entire campaign. The response from many voters was visceral and helped him win, as he knew it would.
What went on, what’s going on, is ugly but simple: Donald Trump has taken a xenophobia advanced academically for years by pundits like Pat Buchanan and given it velocity by deftly wrapping it in a “Make America Great Again” mantra that allows adherents a rallying cry more acceptable than “We’re scared of these brown people taking over.”
This corruption of the American spirit emboldened many to express their fears under cover of the America First facade. Yet their true hearts have been clearly seen, which has motivated others to express themselves with equal clarity.
So it is with me.
If that constitutes a change, I have my faith — and Donald and his Merry Trumpsters — to thank.