“[To] ‘make America great again’ we also need a comprehensive immigration reform that protects our borders and at the same time allows a path to citizenship for the millions who already live among us. If we need ‘walls,’ we need walls with ‘doors’ because some of our ‘greatest Americans’ have been immigrants or refugees … we won’t make America great again by making America mean.”
— Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski, November 14
Where to begin.
This is a column impossible to imagine just 10 days ago. Despite raising and spending vastly more money than Donald Trump, despite celebrity endorsements, despite the predictions of experts and pollsters, despite the vigorous support of a sitting president, and despite the thinly disguised loathing of her rival by much of the mass media, Hillary Clinton is not the president-elect. Donald Trump is.
Whatever else can be said about the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump’s message clearly connected with massive numbers of ordinary Americans, and he won an open election fairly. He cannot be dismissed as a fluke. He deserves our prayers and an opportunity to serve the nation well without being deliberately undermined by his critics.
As others have already noted, Mr. Trump is a pragmatist. After eight years of an ideologically zealous White House, that could be a good thing. But words and actions have consequences. The trademark Trump bluster on the campaign trail further divided a fractured nation and frightened millions of immigrants and members of ethnic and racial minorities. Media hostile to Mr. Trump have clearly made the problem worse. But the main author of the current ugliness is Trump himself. And only he can fix it with responsible language and behavior, and a willingness to listen to those who feel threatened by his victory.
Ensuring public safety, the solvency of our public institutions and the nation’s border security in an age of narco-syndicates and terrorism — Mr. Trump has voiced all these concerns, and they’re all legitimate goals. But the vast majority of undocumented persons in the United States are decent people. They pose no threat to anyone. They want a fruitful life, they work for a living, they raise families, and their children born here are American citizens.
In other words, they’re a vital resource for the future of our country, not a tumor to be cut out of the body. Sweeping talk of building a border wall and deporting millions of people is not just impractical and wrong-headed. It’s also dangerous. It fuels anti-immigrant resentment. And it feeds the anxiety now creating turmoil in immigrant and minority communities.
Over the past week I’ve heard from dozens of laypeople and pastors in our Latino and other minority communities. Many spoke of sleepless nights and “great concern and fear” among their people. Another wrote that his “community was very upset, and feeling numb and hopeless.” Another, who lives in Center City, said that someone threatened his foreign-born wife on the street and warned her to go back where she came from. These are not invented stories. They involve real people and real suffering.