Donald Trump speaks in Des Moines, Iowa, September 19. Brian C. Frank / Reuters
By Alaa Elasser AtlantaMuslim.com
Fox News aired the first GOP presidential debate on Aug. 6, attracting millions of views, including many American Muslims. Most of us did not enjoy hearing Donald Trump reiterate his stances regarding women, war, and immigration. However, listening to his point of view was a necessary step towards becoming a well-informed voter in advance of 2016.
Unfortunately, we first heard what Trump thinks of Muslims back in 2011, when he criticized a mosque near the site of the 9/11 attacks.
“I don’t notice Swedish people knocking down the World Trade Center,” Trump said. “I came out very strongly against the mosque being built virtually across the street.”
Although Trump also said, “I know many Muslims, and they are fabulous people, they’re smart, they’re industrious,” he added, “Unfortunately, at this moment in time, there is a Muslim problem in the world.”
This despite the fact that between 1980 until 2005, 94% of all terrorist attacks committed on American soil were committed by non-Muslims. Although Trump’s past comments should not come as a surprise, American Muslims did not expect him to use the 2016 campaign to (once again) push us into the spotlight of public concern.
“Christians can’t come into this country but Muslims can,” Trump said during a recent national security summit in Iowa. “What’s that all about? Something has got to be coming down from the top. People are flowing through [the southern border] like water. At what point is it going to be too late?”
Conservative activists at the same Iowa summit used more pointed anti-Muslim rhetoric.
“[Muslim] doctors, civil engineers, and scientists have a capacity to prove very problematic if they embrace this jihadist doctrine of Sharia,” warned Frank Gaffney, an Islamophobic activist who helped organize the event. But Muslims are not the main targets of Trump’s concern.
Consider his now-infamous thoughts on illegal immigrants from Mexico: “they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they’re telling us what we’re getting.”
Trump also promises to limit new immigration and build a triple layered fence at the border, which he will force Mexico to pay for. Moreover, he wishes to make citizenship for illegal immigrants impossible (“It’s a GOP suicide mission!”).
A little follow-up investigation often reveals that Trump’s “facts” are anything but. For example, as immigration increases, even illegal immigration, crime seems to decrease.
Walter Ewing, who studied immigration and criminal behavior, discovered that the foreign-born population rose from 7.9 percent to 13.1 percent between 1990 and 2013. During this same time period, the number of “illegal” immigrants more than tripled, while the violent crime rate actually declined by 48 percent and property crime dropped by 41 percent. What Donald Trump doesn’t seem to understand is that from 1860 until 2013, over 41,348,100 legal immigrants have made homes in the US, making up more than 13.6% of the population.
Trump speaks out against illegal immigrants who sacrificed proximity to their families for the promise of a better life.
These are immigrants who witnessed the spilling of blood at the hands of systematically powered genocides. These are immigrants who bear generations of history on their backs, tolerate years of inconceivable odds and accept discrimination for the sake of securing their futures. They continue to work in the same country which does not welcome them yet is eager to benefit from their wisdom.
They are immigrants who were assaulted and ignored for more than a decade at the hands of post-9/11 discrimination, yet still embraced the promise of friendship among a hostile community.
Despite what they have gone through, they continue to resist the difficulty of this world in order to create a home for themselves and sculpt a path for us to follow.
I refuse to allow the poorly censored language of politicians like Mr. Trump to disparage the legacy of immigrant parents like my own. I will not let them destroy what immigrants have courageously planted in this country. We were raised by heroes and will never carry the sacrifices of our parents as a burden. Instead we will use such sacrifices as a stepping stool to speak against the words of people like Trump, who refuse to accept the fact that we belong here–on some level, even more than he does. After all, immigrants were not born here. They had to work and strive to make America their home.
On a final note, Mr. Trump: as our founding fathers once said, “Our union ought to be considered as a main prop of our liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear to you the preservation of the other.”
Editor’s note: The author’s views are his own. This article originally appeared in AtlantaMuslim.com.