There are words that hurt, that stain, that do a lot of damage. Donald Trump, for example, has been repeating recently that immigrants “are poisoning the blood of our country.”
In an interview with The National Pulse, he said, “Nobody has any idea where these people are coming from, and we know they come from prisons. We know they come from mental institutions and insane asylums. We know they’re terrorists. Nobody has ever seen anything like we’re witnessing right now. It is a very sad thing for our country.”
A couple of days ago, during a campaign event in Iowa, he insisted: “It’s true. They are destroying the blood of our country … They don’t like it when I said that.”
The problem with the two paragraphs above is that they are lies. Immigrants contribute enormously to the life, economy and culture of the United States. Far from contaminating the blood of the country, they revitalize it. Immigrants pay taxes, create jobs and bring new ideas. The United States is not a superpower without immigrants.
Those Trump words are the 2023 version of his slurs in 2015, when he branded Mexican immigrants as “rapists” ans “criminals.” But Trump is not the only one attacking immigrants, unjustly and without any basis.
Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott in September declared “an invasion” on the US border with Mexico. Problem is, no country is invading – Mexico has not declared war on the United States. And any invasion could only be declared by the federal government, not a state governor.
Despite that, Abbott went on to sign several laws that allow the construction of more border walls to block the entry of migrants, and the arrest of undocumented migrants by law enforcement officials in the state. It’s true that a lot of people are entering without documents. But to say that there’s an “invasion” along the border with Mexico is absurd and totally false.
That’s what politicians do to win votes. They invent an enemy, talk about an invasion and don’t don’t bother to tell the truth.
“There will be many elections in 2024. Some politicians are already using the slogan of ‘invasion’ by migrants and refugees to gain votes,” Filippo Grandi, the UN high Commissioners for Refugees, wrote recently on X, formerly known as Twitter. “That argument is both wrong and useless in responding to the challenges of human mobility. Solutions exist and can be just and effective.”
Nevertheless, they continue to arrive.
We cannot hide that.
The images from the border are impressive. I was there several times this year and I don’t remember seeing anything like it. Entire families are arriving from Venezuela and the most dangerous places on the continent in search of a second chance. On Monday, Dec. 18, 12,600 undocumented migrants were detained along the border, a 24-hour record. And during Fiscal Year 2023, which ended Sept. 30, 2.4 million people who crossed the border illegally were detained, more than the 2.1 million detained in FY 2022 and the 1.7 million stopped in FY 2021. All were records.
Facing this crisis along the border, we need solutions, not new attacks on immigrants. To flee from violence, poverty and dictatorship is not a crime. The problem is that many of the anti-immigrant phrases and attitudes in the United States are popping up in other parts of the world. Bad ideas are crossing the oceans.
For example, Mexico and the United States negotiated an agreement to force many Central and South American migrants to wait in Mexico for word on their US immigration procedures. This agreement, signed by Trump and President López Obrador and known as “Remain in Mexico,” could be in violation of the rights of those fleeing violence or political persecution. But something similar is happening in Great Britain.
The British parliament is considering a proposal to send asylum seekers to Rwanda while they wait for UK courts to rule on their applications, which could take years. The proposal is designed to stop the flow of the thousands of migrants who arrive each year illegally aboard boats from France. It has been widely criticized, could violate international agreements and is not certain to win approval. Why send them to Rwanda? That’s another long and complicated story. But it reflects an effort to reduce and control migrant arrivals. In any way possible.
These kinds of proposals are dangerous, and can spread easily.
Migration is a global phenomenon that will not be stopped with walls, speeches, extremism or airplane tickets to Rwanda. But bad ideas travel fast. And, in a time of elections, attacking immigrants – the world’s most vulnerable people – is the new piñata for politicians without heart, imagination or solutions. The barbaric words of Trump and Abbott will soon be repeated in the darkest corners of the planet.