Thanks to the News-Times for recently giving immigration policy a top billing. On the 10th of July, there were about 20 submissions in the opinion section. About seven were passionate appeals for Americans to stop the abuse of refugee immigrant children. Good for them.
Most of the rest of the submissions were disheartening or worse. One person wrote that “Immigrants want this…” (a classic blame-the-victims argument). Trump’s administration has made it clear that his brutal, inhumane policy is not accidental; it is really about deterring further immigration.
Another writer claimed that Obama also had a child separation policy. (The old they-did-it-first ploy.) In fact, under Obama, only unaccompanied minors were detained — or those suspected of being victims of child abuse. They were detained for up to 72 hours. The goal was to get them out of detention with a minimum of trauma. That is not what Trump’s policy is about. There was no “crisis at the border” until Trump created one by abusing children.
A third writer argued that people “should stop complaining and do something.” Well, complaining about a problem is usually the first step to making change. To argue you shouldn’t take the first step first (but take the second step first) is absurd.
A few people tried to change the topic completely. “We should be talking about something else!” (classic bait-and-switch.) Several writers talked about enforcing existing laws. Trump’s current policy actually violates both U.S. and international law. Trump and his adherents are exceptionally ignorant about both sets of law.
Sadly, the most common argument in the remaining submissions was the idea that we should ignore the obvious abuse of children and take care of our own first. At first glance, that seems reasonable. Coming from Trump apologists it rings hollow and hypocritical. It is a sly version of “America first.”
But what America?
What is “our own?”
Democrats have repeatedly proposed legislation to protect “our own.” They have promoted health care for all, protections for people with pre-existing conditions, aid for children and at-risk mothers, permanent support for 9/11 first responders, better funding for the VA to help veterans. They have worked to defend our seniors through Medicare and Social Security. They have proposed comprehensive immigration reform, laws to protect our children by controlling gun violence and programs for disadvantaged groups of all kinds. They have worked to provide help for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Finally, there is nothing more “your own” than your own environment, yet Republicans consistently oppose real action on climate change or the environment.
Almost across the board, Trump and his GOP have tried to defund or defeat such efforts to protect “our own.” They prefer to give tax cuts to their wealthy donors. So I can’t really take seriously the idea that these apparent Trump supporters would care about the children at the border after we take care of our own.
Apparently people want to appear “charitable” while refusing to actually be charitable. Does a truly charitable, compassionate person drive by an abused child three blocks from their home in the hope of finding another child to help nearer their doorstep? You could use this reasoning to avoid helping anyone ever. It’s just a matter of how you draw and re-draw the line between “your own” and “someone else’s.”
On July 15, Trump told four U.S. congresswomen to “go back home.” They are all American citizens but, not in his mind (since they are women of color), “our own.” The problem for Trump apologists is that someday they will desperately want the help they callously denied to others. At that point, they, too, will cease to be “our own.” They will just be on their own.
Wake up Trump apologists. “Me first” is just a step away from “America first,” but Trump doesn’t care about taking care of America or our own. He cares about taking care of Trump.
Gilbert Schramm is a resident of Newport.