I’ve always publicly acknowledged that the United States gave me opportunities that Mexico, my country of origin, did not. But decades after I arrived here, the anti-immigrant rhetoric being turned into policy under Donald Trump has made me realize that I just don’t recognize this country anymore.
In the early 1980s, moving to the U.S. meant that I could speak freely. As a journalist in Mexico, I was censored. Moreover, the U.S. provided me with a job and economic opportunities that I couldn’t have found anywhere else. With boundless generosity, America protected me and granted me the same rights as any other citizen, even though I was an immigrant. I work here. I vote here. My children were born here.
All I want is for new immigrants to enjoy the same opportunities that I—and millions of others throughout American history—have received. But for the moment, Trump is making that impossible.
A couple of days after the president signed an executive order announcing that a wall would be built along the Mexican border, he issued a directive that radically changes deportation priorities in this country. Now, anyone who “committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense” may be deported, even if they were never convicted. Also, immigrants who have committed “fraud … before a government agency” are to be deported as well — which presumably applies to any noncitizen who has ever used a fake driver’s license or made up a Social Security number in order to work.
Translation: Deporting almost all of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. is now a priority. If this is truly the case, will there soon be widespread raids on homes or workplaces? This executive order makes it seem that anyone who is deemed deportable by an immigration officer is at risk.
And Trump—who aspires to be like President Ronald Reagan — refuses to even consider granting undocumented residents a path to citizenship. Since Republicans control both the House and the Senate, Trump could easily push to give immigrants a chance to stay in the U.S. But he won’t. In 1986, Reagan, recognizing the contributions of immigrants, and with the greater good of the country in mind, granted amnesty to about 3 million undocumented people. But Trump would rather expel them.
The president’s xenophobia isn’t limited to Mexicans. In his first days in office, Trump also signed an executive order banning refugees from being admitted into the country for 120 days, and anyone from seven countries — Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen—from entering for three months. Trump, who partly campaigned on a promise to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., has said that this ban isn’t based on religion. But it’s no secret that these seven nations have a Muslim majority, and that innocent Muslims with no connections to terror networks will be most harmed.
Nobody wants to be a victim of terror. But we must remember that no citizen from the seven countries included in Trump’s ban has participated in a recent terror attack against the U.S. Most of the 19 terrorists who carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were from Saudi Arabia; the brothers who carried out the Boston Marathon bombings were from Chechnya; and the husband and wife behind the shooting deaths of 14 people in San Bernardino, California, were from the U.S. and Pakistan.
I came to the U.S. in 1983. If Reagan had crafted an arbitrary ban similar to Trump’s and included Mexico, I wouldn’t be here, all on account of an unjust decision. People from those seven countries are being arbitrarily punished, along with refugees from the rest of the world. They are being discriminated against merely because they were born in the wrong country.
As the old saying goes, powerful nations are judged not by how they treat the rich and influential, but by their solidarity with the weak and vulnerable. The U.S. had a rich and storied history of accepting and supporting immigrants with open arms—until Trump arrived.
It’s bizarre that a man who is the son of a Scottish mother, the grandson of a German immigrant and the husband of a Slovenian woman would spout such anti-immigrant rhetoric.
No, some days I don’t recognize the country that has helped me so much.
Jorge Ramos, an Emmy Award-winning journalist, is a news anchor on Univision and the host of “America With Jorge Ramos” on Fusion. Originally from Mexico and now based in Florida, Ramos is the author of several best-selling books. His latest is “Take a Stand: Lessons From Rebels.”