The President’s Blind Spot

Michael Geiger

Just over five weeks ago, a caravan of roughly 7,000 Central American immigrants departed from Honduras. This event has become an avatar for President Trump, and he is pressing the advantage on what he views as a winning issue for Republicans. 

The Wall™ was the signature policy proposal of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, and despite the southern border still remaining conspicuously wall-free, immigration is still the issue that Trump most consistently hits on in public speeches. 

On Monday, October 29th, President Trump pledged to send over 5,000 troops to the border to prevent migrants from crossing into the United States illegally. These troops will join the 2,100 members of the National Guard Trump sent in April to prevent a similar caravan that formed earlier this year. 

The same day he announced the deployment of additional troops to the border, Trump tweeted, “Many Gang Members and some very bad people are mixed into the Caravan heading to our Southern Border… This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you!”

As he is wont to do, Trump undermined his justified actions by making irresponsible comments. This isn’t that difficult. Trump can enforce the law without turning the outrage dial up to ten. 

Of course, our border must be enforced. Allowing illegal immigrants to flood into the country en masse is unacceptable, and America can’t tolerate it. However, Trump’s inability to show even a shred of sympathy damages the messaging surrounding his immigration policies.

There are almost certaintly some bad characters in the caravan of 7,000 en route to the US. However, Trump consistently paints immigrants with a cynically broad brush. This attitude does him no favors in America, where 75 percent of citizens think immigration is  good for the country. 

Again, Trump’s policy measures on immigration are entirely defensible. The problem occurs when his needlessly provocative rhetoric leads to his words speaking louder than his actions. 

And of course, the media often treats him unfairly. For evidence of that, just look at the way Trump was pilloried for enforcing the same child separation policies that President Barack Obama did during his two terms. 

I’m not claiming that the media would treat Trump much differently if he adopted an elder statesman persona. He’s going to be eaten alive regardless of his demeanor or tone, but that doesn’t mean he has to hand the hyenas red meat every time he gives a speech. 

If Trump wants to convince people outside the MAGA-sphere to support him on immigration, he would do well to, at the very least, respect the sheer will and courage it takes to embark on a 1,000-mile journey in the hope of a finding a better life. 

This isn’t to say that the Democrats’ immigration stance is better than Trump’s. No, it is much worse. 

Democrats often trot out the “America is a nation of immigrants” talking point, but this is nothing more than disingenuous preening. They can claim no moral high ground in this arena. 

The early immigrants from Europe had no social safety nets to support them if they failed in the new world. Success was solely based on hard work. 

That isn’t to say that every illegal immigrant today is looking for a handout, I’m just saying that the immigrants America should accept wouldn’t need one.

The Democratic Party’s widespread support of policies like amnesty and free healthcare for illegal aliens exposes their misunderstanding of the spirit that motivated the immigrants who helped build America.

That spirit is self-evident in reading about the late Peter Schramm, an author and academic born in 1946 in Hungary. He told his story in an academic article in 2006.

Schramm’s family faced incredible hardship after the communists took control of Hungary in 1949. That same year, Schramm’s grandfather was sentenced to ten years of hard labor for the crime of owning a small American flag. 

Peter’s grandfather managed to secure an early release and rejoin the family in 1956. Shortly after this, a hand grenade landed directly next to Peter’s father while walking home from the grocery store. 

Miraculously, the grenade did not go off, but Schramm’s father decided that it was time for the family to flee the country.

Schramm’s mother would only relent to the move with the consent of 10-year-old Peter. Schramm writes, “…I told my father I would follow him to hell if he asked it of me. Fortunately for my eager spirit, hell was exactly what we were trying to escape and the opposite of what my father sought.”

Schramm’s father then told his son that they were heading to the United States. When Peter asked why, his father replied, “Because, son. We were born American, but in the wrong place.”

That story captures what the president is missing from his rhetoric on immigration. A strong border is necessary to maintain the integrity of a just immigration system, but to gain widespread support for his policies, Trump must also grasp that the American Dream isn’t restricted by walls or borders.