Following this week’s confrontation between Jorge Ramos of Univision and GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump in Iowa, there is much debate about why it happened and what it means.
Let’s not sugarcoat it. Donald Trump doesn’t just have a hard-edged immigration stance. He is calling for the mass deportation of 25% of the nation’s Latino population. He is calling for the roundup of 11.3 million undocumented immigrants and 4.5 million of their U.S. born children.
He is calling for the rollback of the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of birthright citizenship, one of our nation’s greatest victories in the quest for equality for all Americans. As the recent hate crime in Boston and the emergence of White nationalist and neo-Nazi support for Trump shows, he is fostering a climate that demonizes and dehumanizes 55 million Latinos because of the way they look or speak, even if their families have been here for centuries.
Trump claims to be only talking about “illegals” and “anchor babies”— not the Latinos who are “the good ones” or who “love Trump.”
Tell that to the millions of Latino kids who are now scared that their constitutionally-protected right to citizenship in America may now be taken away. Tell that to the millions of hardworking immigrant families who are deeply rooted in America but are now deeply concerned that they might be subject to an Americanized version of ethnic cleansing. Tell that to the 55 million Latinos in America whose contributions to the country they love could well be overshadowed by the specter of a significant increase in discriminatory treatment and racial profiling.
It’s time for people of good will to stand up to this repulsive and racist attack on one sixth of our nation. It’s time to stand up for America’s finest ideals and not bow to its worst instincts. It’s time for Americans from across the spectrum to denounce the scapegoating of an entire group of our fellow Americans.
Jorge Ramos did just that. He stood up and demanded that his voice, and the voice of millions of Latinos, be heard. For his efforts he was forcibly removed from a press conference in a nation that prides itself on a free press. After he was escorted out of the press conference, one of Trump’s supporters told him to “get out of my country.”
Ramos calmly responded, “I am a citizen.” Ultimately, Ramos was allowed back in the room and was able to engage in a testy exchange with Trump, but not after being singled out as a problem, as the other, as someone who should “go back to Univision.”
To Jorge Ramos, we say thank you for standing up – for millions of Latinos, millions of immigrants and millions of Americans who believe in an inclusive society where you’re supposed to be granted dignity and treated equally no matter the color of your skin, the place of your birth or the accent with which you speak.
To Donald Trump, we say shame on you for stirring nativist passions and racial animosity for the purposes of gratifying your runaway narcissism.
And to those pundits and media mavens for whom this has been good theater – and to Americans from all walks of life – we say this isn’t a joke. Trump has never been funny to those he has been attacking. Instead of celebrating him, you should challenge him. For what’s at stake is not just a nomination race, but what kind of society we are and want to be.
Frank Sharry is Executive Director of America’s Voice.
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