The New York-to-Washington cognoscenti corridor of media elites is abuzz over the warning from Marcos Gutierrez, the founder of Latinos for Trump, that unless the United States gets serious about stopping illegal immigration, "you're going to have taco trucks [on] every corner."
The reactions run the spectrum from mockery to amusement to outrage.
Chuckled the Huffington Post: "Donald Trump won't just deport undocumented immigrants. Apparently, he is also America's best hope against the Great Taco Menace."
MSNBC's Joe Scarborough stirred laughter throughout his show's New York studio with his enthusiastic response: "That sounds like an America that I want to live in," he said, observing that he wouldn't have to hire any more taco trucks for family parties.
Gutierrez, who was born and raised in Mexico and migrated to the United States as a young man in 1991, issued his taco truck warning Thursday on MSNBC's "All in With Chris Hayes". It came after guest host Joy Reid asked him to elaborate on his statement that unchecked immigration was causing problems for the United States.
"My culture is a very dominant culture," Gutierrez said "It is imposing and it's causing problems. If you don't do something about it, you're going to have taco trucks [on] every corner."
Reid was horrified. "Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Wait a minute! I'm sorry. Hold on a second!" she said. "I don't even know what that means, and I'm afraid to ask."
Gutierrez had made a mistake, one of many produced by Trump and his surrogates. He used an awkward and insensitive cultural stereotype that was bound to raise the hackles of combative, partisan cable-TV journalists like Reid, who makes no effort to conceal either her disgust with Donald Trump or her support for illegal immigrants.
Reid began the interview with a distortion that is a staple on the cognoscenti corridor, saying Trump had used his speech in Arizona "to warn immigrant populations that they are living here on borrowed time. To be accepted as a cosmopolitan elite, you see, one must make no distinction between immigrants who came here according to U.S. immigration law and those who came — or stayed — illegally.
One day earlier, Gutierrez had spoken in more measured and thoughtful terms in the less politicized setting of CNBC. There he said this about Donald Trump and his determination to build a wall across the Mexican border:
For me the wall, it's more than physical. It's symbolic. And I think it's about boundaries. I came to this country to achieve the American dream. I came here to be an American. I think a lot of Hispanics have felt complacent. They've forgotten that. And I think Donald Trump is just reminding us that we have a country to protect.
In the 30 years that I have been writing about immigration and border issues, I have heard many such heartfelt expressions that we should get serious about stopping illegal immigration. One of the most moving and memorable came from a Mexican immigrant named Gerardo Jimenez, who had received amnesty under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.
At the time I met him in 2002, Gerardo was a foreman at a drywall company that was working on a new food court in the National Press Building in Washington, D.C. He was worried about the relentless influx of illegal immigrants who were eager to hang drywall for whatever wage the company bosses were willing to pay. He said the desperate newcomers were undermining immigrants like him who were striving to establish themselves in this country.
Gerardo spoke good English, but he used Spanish to convey the plaintive force of his conviction. "Alguien tiene que poner orden," he said. Someone needs to impose order.
The precious importance of order is especially apparent to those who have known the turbulence that comes in its absence. In 1998, Robert Kaplan, the intrepid, world-traveling journalist, wrote about this in the trans-border context of the twin border cities of Nogales, Ariz., and Nogales, Sonora:
As I walked around Nogales, Arizona, I saw a way of doing things, different from Mexico's, that had created material wealth. This was not a matter of Anglo culture per se, since 95 percent of the population of Nogales, Arizona, is Spanish-speaking and of Mexican descent. Rather, it was a matter of the national culture of the United States, which that day in Nogales seemed to me sufficiently robust to absorb other races, ethnicities, and languages without losing its distinctiveness.
But Kaplan appended this note of caution to his observations, aware of the forces that threaten what he calls "the coming anarchy" on the world scene:
The silent streets of Nogales, Arizona, with their display of noncoercive order and industriousness, cast the United States in a different light not only from Mexico but from many of the other countries I had seen in my travels. Nogales, Arizona, demonstrated just how insulated America has been — thus far, at least.
I wish Marco Gutierrez and Donald Trump would find wiser, less polarizing ways of presenting their warnings. I am hoping that more conciliatory and more politically astute figures will emerge to challenge the utopian fantasies of the insulated, isolated, and often astonishingly uninformed media elites in New York and Washington.