Donald Trump, the magnate and businessman, upon launching himself once again as a potential presidential candidate of the Republican party, declared that he would stop the rapists, drug traffickers and criminals coming across the southern border by building an enormous fence, paid for by Mexico. He said Mexican immigrants are taking jobs from American workers and that the Mexican government sends them for that purpose.
The reaction was immediate, diverse and energetic, and it is growing. It came not only from politicians and ordinary people in Mexico, the United States and other countries, but also from well-known personalities in the entertainment, media and business worlds. Univision, the largest Spanish-language network in the United States, cancelled its contract with Trump to broadcast the Miss USA pageant on July 12, and its association with the Miss Universe organization, which Trump heads. The Mexinca Televisa, the largest Spanish-language broadcast company in the world, after much hesitation, did the same. Macy’s also cancelled Trump’s clothing contract, and ESPN moved a tournament from his golf course.
Although some argue that he was referring only to real criminals and traffickers who do come to this country, he nevertheless insulted some 35 million Mexicans and their descendants by lumping them in the same category. And even after the huge backlash, he has refused to apologize. His nonsensical remarks are even more irresponsible coming from someone who wants to be the leader of the richest country in the world, and who proudly represents the economic and social success that can be achieved here.
Why would it occur to Trump to make such odious declarations against Latinos, a group that is growing both in numbers and political force, just when the ghost of discrimination against African-Americans has risen again? Some say he didn’t calculate the impact of his words, merely wanting to call attention to himself in order to compete with the most radical and conservative candidates, such as Ted Cruz. He must know he doesn’t stand a chance as a serious Republican candidate, let alone as an elected president of the United States.
Trump is an entertainment entrepreneur, not a politician. He owns casinos and hotels and his businesses include successful beauty pageants and a reality TV show called “The Apprentice,” in which he plays a bold businessman who mercilessly judges apprentices who want to go to work for him at a salary of $250,000. Now, after his comments, NBC, which owns Telemundo, the second largest Spanish-language network in the country, which has aired the show since 2004, has announced it will no longer broadcast it or the beauty contests, citing a petition that garnered 200,000 signatures.
But what does Trump really think about Mexican immigrants and Latinos in the 21st century? In his businesses in New York, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Nevada and other states, he has to employ an enormous number of them. Does he actually feel so contemptuous of the many people on whom he depends so much, who have helped him become a billionaire? Surely such a successful man cannot be such an ill-advised idiot politically.
The research simply does not support his words. Studies have shown there is no measurable increase in crime in the areas where Mexican immigrants have settled. On the contrary, those areas are seeing a prospering economy and social peace, thanks in good measure to the availability of their cheap, dedicated labor and their peaceful nature. The majority of these immigrants are good people, dedicated to home, family and religion. They are happy about their achievements and proud of attaining a standard of living they probably could never enjoy in their home country, even though it is below the standard in this country.
Like so many other groups of immigrants here and elsewhere, they are primarily seeking a better life for themselves and their children, a fact that can be traced through history. They are no different from German immigrants 150 years ago who stayed and prospered in the United States, and from whose ranks Trump descended. Perhaps he has forgotten these ancestors.
And let’s not overlook the reaction to his words in the media and social networks. A significant number of responses have ranged from thoughtful pieces from editors, opinion writers and prominent intellectuals to messages on YouTube and Facebook ridiculing or praising him or making incoherent remarks.
Now he will go down in history not as the successful and progressive man he appeared to be, but as a radical conservative and promoter of senseless, unthinking hatred. No one with an ounce of intelligence would see him as a model for this country, one of the best examples of equality and democracy. Shame on you, Donald Trump!
Victor Reyes is a translator, teacher, writer and native of Puebla, Mexico. The Spanish version of this column is available online.