Jim Hartman: Race to the bottom
A new low has been reached in our nation’s politics between Donald Trump and Democrats over who’s the biggest racist, or real anti-Semite, or greater disgrace to the nation.
President Trump started the fight July 14 with a Twitter barrage targeting four hard-left Democratic congresswomen, telling them to “go back” to the countries from where they came. All four are minority women, three of whom were born in the United States. The “go back” is a taunt that immigrants have heard for more than 200 years.
Fox News’ conservative commentator Brit Hume concluded that Trump’s comments were “nativist, xenophobic, counterfactual and politically stupid.” Democrats and media critics claimed them to be “racist” as well.
Trump’s tweets are in dramatic contrast to Republican rhetoric coming from President Ronald Reagan in his farewell address. Reagan spoke of America as a “shining city” that was “teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace” and whose “doors were open to anyone with the will and heart to get here.”
Each of the four Democratic congresswomen are super-critics of the United States and have incensed fellow Democrats by charging them with racist behavior, encouraged hard-left challenges to incumbent Democratic lawmakers, and undercut Democrats’ attempts to modulate their message to win back moderate voters.
The policy debate behind the charged rhetoric is over immigration. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, most noted among the four women dubbing themselves “the squad,” has called for abolishing both U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement and “the entire Department of Homeland Security.” Her radical view would imperil American security.
Extreme views on immigration now extend to all the Democratic presidential hopefuls. They advocate turning the entire United States into a sanctuary country, where illegally crossing the border has no consequence. In the June 27 debate among 10 Democrats, all raised their hands indicating support for making illegally crossing the border a civil offense rather than criminal. Each also indicated wanting to provide health care to illegal immigrants.
Surely border security has to mean something, including deportation of illegal immigrants after fully adjudicated final orders. In his first term, President Barack Obama took the right approach in directing federal officials to target for deportation illegal immigrants who were “violent offenders and people convicted of crimes.”
Obama expanded a program initiated by President George W. Bush that cross-checked fingerprints taken at local jails with an immigration database. In 2013, 82 percent of deported individuals had been convicted of a crime.
Deportations during the Trump administration are significantly below the peak years of the Obama administration. In 2018, a total of 256,085 immigrants were deported, while removals under President Obama peaked at 409,849 in 2012.
In 2018, 57 percent of the deported immigrants had criminal convictions, while an additional 9 percent had criminal charges pending.
Nationally, the need for border security was highlighted in the 2015 killing of Kate Steinle in San Francisco by a Mexican illegal immigrant previously deported five times and walking the streets after seven felony drug convictions.
Northern Nevadans were on edge in January resulting from an illegal immigrant from El Salvador going on a murder spree killing four people, two in Reno and two in Douglas County. And, a previously deported illegal immigrant from Mexico was convicted in June by a Douglas County jury of a brutal stabbing murder at a Lake Tahoe hotel-casino.
Southern Nevadans are dealing with the violent activities of MS-13, illegal immigrant gangsters from El Salvador making Las Vegas home and responsible for 10 murders in Clark County over a 12-month period.
With extreme partisan discord, Americans need common ground on immigration.
Jim Hartman is an attorney residing in Genoa and a Republican National Convention delegate in 1980 and 1984 for President Ronald Reagan.