Horowitz: Trump’s Demonization of Immigrants is Not Working

Tuesday, July 03, 2018
Rob Horowitz, GoLocalWorcester MINDSETTER™

Donald Trump
President Trump’s disgraceful effort to demonize immigrants—a constant feature of both his campaign and his presidency—is not working, according to a recent Pew Research Center.  Nearly 7-in-10 Americans are very or somewhat sympathetic to immigrants who are here in the United States illegally--views little changed from 2014 despite all the misleading efforts to paint immigrants as violent criminals, drug dealers and gang members emanating from the White House.  In fact, nearly 2-in-3 Americans do not believe that undocumented immigrants living in the United States commit more serious crimes than American citizens.

Additionally, Americans, by and large, reject the oft-repeated conservative argument that giving people in the nation illegally legal status is wronghead because it rewards lawbreaking. “Currently 67% of Americans say they do not view granting legal status to immigrants in the U.S. illegally as a reward, while just 27% say it amounts to a reward to unauthorized immigrants for doing something wrong. "  

This is a significant reduction in the percentage of Americans who agree with this argument:”In both 2015 and 2013, larger shares of the public (36% and 37%, respectively) said granting legal status to immigrants in this country illegally was like a reward for wrongdoing.”

The poll, which was taken mainly before the recent saturation level coverage of immigrant children being separated from their parents at the border, also shows an uptick in Americans supporting increased legal immigration.  “Since 2001, the share of Americans who favor increased legal immigration into the U.S. has risen 22 percentage points (from 10% to 32%), while the share who support a decrease has declined 29 points (from 53% to 24%).” This is a direct repudiation of the Trump Administration’s ill-advised proposal to cut legal immigration in half.

To be sure, views of the Republicans surveyed are more mixed on immigration overall and less sympathetic to undocumented immigrants than the sample as a whole. People without a college education are also less inclined to be supportive.  So one can see, that for part of Trump’s base his strong anti-immigration positions and over-the-top rhetoric can be motivating.

But the good news for those of us who believe that one of our signature strengths as a country is that we are a nation of immigrants is President Trump’s demagogic and false depictions are if anything resulting in his anti-immigration positions losing ground with the rest of us. And it is important to note that the rest of us are the majority.

A far different and far  better Republican President captured this unique quality of the United States in his 1989 farewell Address, where with characteristic eloquence, he elaborated on what he meant when borrowing from John Winthrop, he called our nation a "Shining City on a Hill."  President Reagan said, “After 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she's still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.”

On the question of immigration, I am pleased to say that most Americans stand with Reagan--not Trump.

Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.

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