COMMENTARY: When Mr. Trump announced he was running for president, a vast majority of well-respected subject matter experts on political science did not take him seriously and assured that he would not be able to keep his momentum going and would inevitably withdraw from the presidential race by early 2016. After all, Mr. Trump was facing well-known and experienced politicians and he supposedly did not stand a chance to secure the Republican Party’s nomination. Boy, were they wrong!
No one can argue that Donald Trump is some kind of mythical figure who has achieved financial success and knows how to persuade voters, but this does not mean he is ready to become the United States’ commander-in-chief.
He portrays himself as a “lone ranger” who will “make America great again.” However, how can an individual whose entire campaign is based on hatred, xenophobia and prejudice lead a country and build the foundations that are needed to help citizens succeed?
Whether intended for women, Muslims, Mexicans, immigrants, other minorities, and everyone who does not share Mr. Trump’s views, his derogatory remarks hinder the dialogue that the United States needs to advance those policies that will foster social and economic progress.
As the savvy businessman that he is, Mr. Trump is trying to benefit from the harsh economic conditions the United States is experiencing and has found someone to blame. To him, Mexico is a drug-infested country that exports rapists and murderers into the United States. I, myself, being a Mexican national, have written about how detrimental drug-trafficking and the drug cartels are to Mexico, but this does not mean that all of us are criminals who come to the United States to engage in illegal activities and drain the country’s resources. Mr. Trump’s remarks further reinforce negative misconceptions about Mexicans while perpetuating a never-ending cycle of hatred.
For most Mexicans, migrating to the United States represents an economic decision that will help them get a job, get ahead in life and provide for their families. I personally decided to come to the United States to learn a new language and pursue a graduate degree, but I never planned on staying permanently when I first came to this country. One thing led to another, and I was fortunate or blessed enough to find a fulfilling job that allows me to grow professionally and personally while giving me the opportunity to provide for my family.
The point of this story is that either by necessity or desire, those of us who come from Mexico bring our strong work ethic, skills, education and knowledge into the United States. Those who did not have the opportunity to receive a formal education do still bring their courage, motivation and determination into this country — and some of them risk their lives while crossing the border. Yes, Mr. Trump, crossing the border (illegally) is no walk in the park.
I have realized that desperation and people’s inability to provide for their family will force an ordinary person to cross the border illegally in search of better life prospects. I was not born into poverty, but have studied and seen the toll that poverty takes on real people. In other words, I cannot help but feel some empathy for undocumented immigrants who have to live in the shadows.
Being an economic development practitioner, I am well aware that the United States is unable to offer unlimited educational and employment opportunities to every single immigrant who chooses to come to this country. However, some of us actually contribute to this country by working hard and raising good kids who will become the leaders of tomorrow. Do some research and you will realize that our contributions are evident and can no longer be ignored.
Like every single immigrant who has entered the United States, I entered an implicit social contract because I inadvertently adopted some of the values that the United States was built upon, which I am surely passing on to my kids who were born in this country. I am happy to embrace this country’s culture, but that does not mean that I have to be embarrassed of my cultural heritage and turn my back on my roots. After all, this country was built by immigrants, and I do not have to give my identity up or compromise my values.
Mr. Trump, your aggressive rhetoric has convinced a large percentage of the population to vote for you, but it has also encouraged some formerly unregistered Latino voters to participate in the upcoming election and have their voices heard. In other words, they went through a political awakening and decided to become advocates for themselves and their communities.
When you started your campaign, I decided to ignore your misconceptions and non-sense. However, I started listening to your words and decided to speak up and state that nothing good can come from racism, discrimination and an unrealistic sense of superiority. This behavior does not look very presidential, and history has shown us how this can end up.
The wall you want to build across the U.S.-Mexico border will be a double-edged sword or a self-inflicted wound. It might help you “lock us out,” but it might also lock you in and isolate you from the world.
Most of us have never asked this country for charity. Some citizens see us as an asset, not a liability or a burden. We have the determination, courage and motivation to succeed and we have earned what we have accomplished.
I am in the process of applying for my employment-based permanent residency, but regardless of the outcome, I will be just fine wherever I go and life will not end here. Even if I return to Mexico, my two little children were born in the United States and might decide to live here when they grow up. So, I decided to speak up and raise my voice against your proposed policies because I do not want them to inherit a nation that was transformed into a hate land.
Rodolfo Acosta Pérez is director of family empowerment for a nonprofit organization in Las Cruces and a former research assistant at the Arrowhead Center for Economic Development.