“Nearly all Americans have ancestors who braved the oceans — liberty-loving risk takers in search of an ideal.... Across the Pacific, across the Atlantic, they came from every point on the compass — many passing beneath the Statue of Liberty — with fear and vision, with sorrow and adventure, fleeing tyranny or terror, seeking haven, and all seeking hope…Immigration is not just a link to America’s past; it’s also a bridge to America’s future.” President George H.W. Bush, 1990
Pop quiz. Which U.S. president fits the following facts? His father was an anchor baby. His mother immigrated to America for better economic opportunities. Two of his wives were immigrants, so four of his children are first-generation Americans. His in-laws became citizens thanks to chain migration. If you guessed President Donald Trump, you pass.
Trump’s paternal grandparents arrived in New York from Germany on July 1, 1905. Trump’s father, Fred, was born a few months later, on Oct. 11, 1905, making him an anchor baby. Trump’s mother was the youngest of 10 children from a poor family in Scotland. She immigrated to America in 1930, hoping for better employment prospects.
Trump’s first wife, Ivana, came from Czechoslovakia. She wrote that she married an Austrian man in a fake marriage so she could get an Austrian passport and migrate to Canada. From there, she entered the U.S. and eventually became a U.S. citizen.
Melania, Trump’s third wife, came to America from Slovenia on a tourist visa. She then allegedly worked as a model, which is illegal on a tourist visa. She ultimately became an American citizen, but there still are serious questions about her initial status, questions which Trump refuses to clarify. In the meantime, Mrs. Trump’s parents came to America using chain migration, something Trump has vowed to eliminate.
Donald Trump is the epitome of the American dream, the idea that people can come here, work hard, and create a better life. His wives, mother and grandparents joined tens of millions of immigrants who fled political or economic problems. Instead of embracing this heritage, he is trying to destroy almost every process which made it possible for his family to come here and prosper.
Before anyone says, “But they came here legally,” remember that today’s asylum seekers are coming here legally. Applicants for refugee status must apply from outside the U.S. Applicants for asylum are required to apply by presenting themselves at a Port of Entry, while physically inside the U.S. There’s no pre-approval process or “list.”
This is exactly what the migrants in the recent caravan were attempting to do. It was Trump who closed their legal port of entry on Nov. 25, preventing access and violating both U.S. and international law. For people who had traveled thousands of miles, this was understandably frustrating.
The San Ysidro crossing in Tijuana is the busiest border crossing along the Mexico-U.S. border. In 2017, over 32 million people crossed there, for business, tourism, and personal reasons. Closing the crossing for just a few hours cost businesses $5.3 million. It was a stunt, done to create chaos, just as sending troops to the border was a stunt.
Trump wants his followers to believe the border is wide open and criminals are pouring over, neither of which is true. In fact, the number of undocumented immigrants coming into America is at a 14-year low, according to 2016 government data, but this fact doesn’t fit Trump’s fear-mongering narrative.
Trump complains that Democrats won’t pass immigration reform. This again is not true. On May 25, 2006, the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan comprehensive immigration bill, by 62-36. The Republican-led House refused to take it up. Again, on June 27, 2013, the Senate passed another bipartisan bill, 68-32. Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner refused to bring it to a vote. Both times, Republicans blocked bi-partisan immigration reform.
On Jan. 17, 2018, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., released a bipartisan immigration bill that Trump had promised to approve. He changed his mind, opposed it, and once again immigration reform died. Democrats don’t want open borders or crime. They want fair, reasonable immigration laws, so people from other countries can continue to pursue the American dream.
Trump’s family history is founded on immigration. He should be encouraging other families to do what his did. Instead, he has turned this issue into a weapon, trying to make us afraid of the “other.” We mustn’t let him do this to us and to all future Americans.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.