Donald Trump is not Anti-Immigrant

By Constantinos E. Scaros and Dan Georgakas


Dan, I think this is our umpteenth time discussing Donald Trump in the last few months, but considering his commanding lead in the GOP presidential primaries and increasing speculation that he has a good chance to win the general election, there is still plenty to say about him, including a discussion the question: is Donald Trump “anti-immigrant?” My answer is: absolutely not.

Let’s review the three main pieces of evidence against him. First, there is the accusation that Trump said “Mexicans are rapists and thugs – but some of them are good.” That, if it were true, would be a terrible thing to say and would make a strong case for Trump being anti-Mexican, willing to condemn an entire nationality of people. If Trump had really said that, he would be unworthy to clean the gum off the bottom of the president’s shoe, let alone be president himself.

But Trump never said that.

What Trump really said was that the Mexican government “is sending us their racists and thugs” and keeping the good Mexicans in Mexico. His theory is that the Mexican government is very smart but very corrupt, and so what they’re doing is encouraging their societal dregs to cross the border into the United States, so that Mexico itself would only have good people. A national housecleaning, so to speak.

Whether or not Trump’s theory on this is true is one thing – but it is an entirely different concept to accuse a government of encouraging the criminal portion of its population to immigrate than it is to condemn an entire ethnicity.

Next, there was Trump’s comment – this one, he really made – to “create databases for Muslims.” Taken in context, Trump actually said: 1) the vast majority of Syrian refugees being admitted into the United States are Muslim; 2) we don’t know their background, motives, etc.; therefore 3) we should keep them in databases so we can track them carefully. Again, whether or not there is reason to believe that there are some terrorists scattered among the vast majority of peaceful Syrian refugees is one thing, but Trump never said he wanted all Muslims in the United States – such as Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – to be closely monitored in databases.

The flaw in Trump’s argument is that he used the word “Muslims” rather than simply to say “refugees.” And that he may not realize that “keeping them in databases” is what the immigration law calls for now anyway. Then again, it may have been his way of saying that the law is not being enforced effectively enough.

Finally, there was Trump’s unequivocal call for “a ban on all Muslims entering the United States until the authorities can figure out what the hell is going on.” That statement is flawed because it is impractical. For instance, if a Muslim at the border says “I’m Christian” and is allowed in, there goes that idea.

But there’s another problem with that plan: it ignores all those tourists who now enter the United States without a visa. As President Obama recently said, there’s about as much chance as a terrorist sneaking in that way as there is to pose as a Syrian refugee. Unfortunately, didn’t follow up by saying: “and therefore we are ending visaless travel immediately, and resuming entry into the United States, even for visitors, only with a visa.”

Taking Trump’s three statements into consideration, it is easy to conclude that the first is a tenuous conspiracy theory, and the other two are questionable in terms of effective implementation.

They are not “good ideas,” then, but they are not anti-immigrant, either.

Of course, just because those three statements may not be anti-immigrant does not by itself clear Trump of any anti-immigrant sentiment. But I think there is something else that does so, in a big way: Trump’s own mother was an immigrant, from Scotland. While visiting the United States as a young adult, Mary MacLeod met Fred Trump – and within a couple of years, they married.

It is hard to imagine a person being anti-immigrant when one’s own mother was an immigrant. But with Trump, it goes beyond that.

In 1977, he married a Czechoslovakian immigrant named Ivana Marie Trump Zelníčková. In the fifteen years during which they were married, they had three children, including one with an equally distinctively non-American name, Ivanka.

Moreover, after a second marriage to American-born Marla Maples, Trump married again, and once more to a foreigner: Yugoslavian-born Melanija (now Melania) Knavs.
Granted, Trump chose for two of his three wives two women who, in addition to being immigrants, were among other things, beautiful, glamorous high-profile models. But given Trump’s own celebrity status and well-known personal fortune, he could have had a virtually unlimited choice of beautiful, glamorous American-born models to choose from as potential wives.

Even if one argues, then, that Trump couldn’t choose his mother, he chose a foreigner to be his wife, twice in his life. He agreed to give one of his children a recognizably foreign name. That doesn’t sound “anti-immigrant” to me. What do you think?


Dino, you are very generous in your defense of Donald Trump. Whether or not Trump is personally anti-immigrant is almost irrelevant. What matters is that he is running a presidential campaign appealing for support from those who are. Just as disturbing are his statements that have little to do with reality.

As you note, what Trump said about illegal Mexican immigrants was that the Mexican government “is sending us their racists and thugs” and keeping good Mexicans at home. In fact, the Mexican government is not sending anyone across the border. These are individual decisions and the current version of a pattern that goes back to the 1850s.

I wonder, too, how he thinks the Mexican government determines which of its citizens are racists. One of Trump’s TV ads supposedly showed swarms of Mexicans crossing the border. But the footage was actually of Moroccans in North Africa. Not a very good command of detail.

Trump is concerned that there will be Muslim fanatics among the Muslim refugees seeking resettlement in the United States. He wants to delay admitting any Muslims and putting all Muslims in a database. You have indicated several of the problems with that. I would ask what he thinks the criteria for the database should be. And a reality check: Muslim fanatics who have struck in the U.S. have entered via the visa process or are homegrown.

Trump doesn’t note that most of the Muslims seeking refuge here are not mainly Syrians but an amalgam of people from North Africa through Southeast Asia. Mass media spotlights women and children refugees, but the vast majority consists of young males.

What has happened in Europe is that social discrimination and weak economies have created volatile Muslim ghettos in many major cities. These periodically erupt in violence and are breeding grounds for fanatical beliefs. Any resettlement program in the United States needs to keep that pattern from occurring here. This is not so easy without a booming economy and an urban environment that already has problematic Hispanic and black ghettos.

Trump poured more oil on the anti-immigrant fire by praising the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Given his statement about Muslim databases, this is a thinly veiled threat to the security of millions of Americans who are Muslim. Nor has Trump produced any evidence of the massive Muslim celebrations he says took place after 9/11.

You write that it is “hard to imagine a person being anti-immigrant when one’s own mother was an immigrant.” In fact, discrimination by immigrants against other immigrants is quite common. For decades, Irish seeking employment were faced with NINA signs meaning No Irish Need Apply. By the turn of the century the Irish posted their own NINA signs which indicated No Italians Need Apply. During that same period, Jewish immigration was denounced as a threat to Christian values and Greeks were castigated as crypto-European Ottoman garbage.

That Trump has wed Christian immigrants from Europe is not pertinent to our discussion as he has not derided European immigrants in his campaign. The immigrants he raises questions about are non-European Muslims and Hispanics.

The campaign Trump has mounted is consciously aimed at xenophobes. If he doesn’t actually believe what he is saying, he is a reckless demagogue. If he actually believes his crudely formed views and fabrications, he is terribly misinformed. In either case, he would be a disaster if elected to be the voice of the United States of America.



Donald Trump, flanked by his Yugoslavian wife, Melania (L) and Ivanka, his daughter with his first and Czech-born wife, Ivana.