The Republican presidential race has devolved into a contest about who can spew the most venom at immigrants. Make no mistake about it, the rhetoric on the campaign trail hasn’t been limited to illegal immigrants but even those who came to the United States through the legal process.
Much of the focus has been on the comments of Donald Trump, the businessman turned celebrity turned presidential candidate turned general annoyance of anyone who wants a serious discussion of the issues facing the United States.
Trump has already accused Mexico of “sending people that have lots of problems,” accusing immigrants from our neighbor to the south of being drug runners and criminals. Of course, that isn’t true. But Trump has continues to spout of this nonsense to appeal to a certain segment of the public that, simply put, just doesn’t like people of color.
On Tuesday evening, for example, Trump told Fox News host Bill O’Reilly that he wants to eliminate citizenship for children who are born to immigrant parents in the United States. He actually said that Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees citizenship to people “born or naturalized in the United States”, is “unconstitutional.”
“What happens is, they’re in Mexico, they’re going to have a baby, they move over here for a couple of days, they have the baby,” Trump said on The O’Reilly Factor. “It’s not going to hold up in court, it’s going to have to be tested.”
Yes, seriously. He said that, and it’s painfully ignorant of, you know, the Constitution – the “supreme law of the land.”
Other Republicans contenders have made equally asinine comments. Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon turned presidential candidate, said he wants to use militarized drones to police the southern border.
“We can use a whole series of things to do that, not just fences and walls but electronic surveillance, drones and many of the techniques that are used to keep people out of top secret places,” Carson told a crowd in Phoenix on Wednesday. “All of those things are available to us. We have the ability to do it; we just don’t have the will to do it. That will change when we have the right administration in place.”
“The reason that is so important—a lot of people think there are just people coming from the south of the border—there are radical global jihadists who want to destroy us and our way of life and we have to keep them out. We have to make it not easy for them to get in here. This is a matter of our own security,” he said. “Then once we have that border sealed, we have to turn off the spigot that dispenses the goodies. If there are no goodies, guess what? They won’t come. It won’t be worth trying to get through our borders if there are no goodies. That includes employment—we should make it illegal to employ people in this country who are not legally here.”
Carson’s nativist logic – which has been repeated by a handful of other Republican contenders – is baseless. Immigrants contribute to the economy. A 2006 study conducted by the Texas Comptroller found that immigrants contributed $17.7 billion to the state’s economy and paid $1.58 billion in taxes, more than the $1.16 billion they consumed in services.
On the whole, immigration, much like trade, is a net-benefit for the economy. This doesn’t mean that immigration reform proposals in previous congresses were worth passing, but as a general principle, immigration is a good thing. Republican candidates need to stop demagoguing this issue and propose serious policies to educate to the party’s base rather than appealing to the lowest common dominator of it.