The Danger of President Trump's Outbursts on Immigration

By Jerry Kammer on January 15, 2018

In my work at the Center for Immigration Studies, I have tried to make the case that there are reasonable and respectable reasons to limit immigration. That is why I have frequently found President Trump's comments on the subject to be not just repugnant but destructive. And that is why I want to associate myself with the remarks on last Friday's PBS News Hour by David Brooks, the New York Times columnist, as he spoke of the restrictionist efforts of Arkansas Republican senator Tom Cotton.

Said Brooks: "If you want to restrict immigration, which is a legitimate point of view — I disagree with it, but it is a legitimate point of view — somebody like Tom Cotton has an extra burden to rise up against what Donald Trump said, to show, 'Hey, restricting immigration is not synonymous with bigotry.' And if he doesn't do that, then whatever his policy views will always be tainted by the sense that there's an aroma of bigotry around it."

(For the record, Sen. Cotton denies hearing the president make the remarks attributed to him by Sen. Durbin. Cotton alluded to an earlier incident where Sen. Durbin seems to have misrepresented comments made at a private meeting at the Obama White House.)

Since coming to CIS, I have written about the restrictionist positions of such esteemed liberals as civil rights icon Barbara Jordan, labor leader Cesar Chavez, Earth Day Founder Gaylord Nelson, Sierra Club leader David Brower, and Barack Obama, who in 2006 wrote that the influx of illegal immigrants "threatens to depress further the wages of blue-collar Americans and put strains on an already overburdened safety net."

I have tried to point out the danger posed to our democracy by the federal government's failure to enforce the immigration restrictions included in the landmark Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. I have made the case that this decades-long failure has damaged American workers, fomented disrespect for the law, degraded the rules of fair play and civic responsibility, incentivized more illegal immigration, and made those employers and would-be immigrants who have worked within the system feel like suckers.

Now I point to the risks posed by President Donald Trump. His crude vulgarity and reckless insults undermine reasonable efforts to limit immigration because they provide rhetorical ammunition for those who say restrictionists are motivated by bigotry, racism, and xenophobia. Trump's outbursts are not just an embarrassment. They are a weapon, a fragmentation bomb that can do severe damage to those of us who want limits for reasons far different from those he presented last week.