Jose Loayza, a native of Peru, emigrated to the United States on a student visa nearly 30 years ago, and now works as an immigration lawyer in Salt Lake City. Many of his clients live in the United States as undocumented immigrants. Despite all of this, Loayza is spending his Thursday afternoon in Cleveland, Ohio, leading a group called "Illegals For Trump" in a protest on the final day of the Republican National Convention.
Loayza isn't naive—he understands people are initially taken aback by the dissonance between his experience and his political perspective. In an interview with Fusion, Loayza explained how he reconciles his empathy for American immigrants with Donald Trump's extremist rhetoric.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
What's your basic position?
I'm trying to put forward a point of view that's being neglected, which is that, basically, a minimalist approach of benefits that would satisfy illegal immigrants that is opposed to the Democratic proposal that requires a path to citizenship. What I'm arguing is that that has shown to be impractical.
How do you reconcile the extremity of Trump's position on mass deportation with your desire to compromise from your own?
On the matter of deportation, Trump said we were going to deport all illegals and then screen them to allow those who deserve to be here back inside the country. Honestly, I think there's a problem with language here. In my mind, that's not a deportation. In my mind, that's more like a temporary departure by which they can then come back. And that's those that really deserve to come back.
This is happening, right now, and it's something the immigrant community is used to. Often, they have to go back to their country to pick up their visa to be able to come back in. And right now, for instance, for something like the provisional waivers—they can apply for a provisional waiver, and most of the paperwork is done in the United States, but they have to go back to their country to get it signed there. But it's a matter of days or a few weeks at most.
The reason for the support for Trump is that it doesn't seem like the American people are going to be willing to go up to immigration reform and grant these limited benefits unless they're confident the borders are secure. Unless they're confident immigration is under control, that it's illegal, and that the flow of immigrants is compatible with the numbers that can be assimilated by the country.
And has Donald Trump given you the sense that he really would be able to compromise on that issue, based on the rhetoric so far?
His platform doesn't mention mass deportation. It does talk about—I've heard some of the proponents of the Republican platform on immigration argue that even though they'd have to leave, that there would be criteria for them to be allowed back in the country.
As illegal immigrants, we're not going to win the argument that people with long criminal histories should remain. We're not going to win the argument that there should be uncontrolled, open borders immigration.
The advocates of illegal immigration have a conflict of interest here, because it is one thing to protect the interests of people who are here, and another to protect the rights of any potential future immigrant who don't even live there. It seems like this organization are protecting the rights of people who don't even live here to enter this country.
What do you make of the dog whistle racism present in Trump's campaign?
I am myself Hispanic. Ethnic minorities should not be so prompt to take offense or look at things as racist. There are problems that occur at the border, and the fact that you have a poorer nation in which a flow of drugs is coming from south to north, and this poor country happens to be a gateway. Even if everyone was white as snow, we'd still have that problem.
I don't see why we need to concentrate on the race. These are socioeconomic problems that happen when a disparate economic status, when the flow of narcotics is from south to north. Drug-dealing and a culture of crime south of the border—it'd happen regardless of race.
With regard to Muslims, one thing that needs to be very clear is it's not all Muslims, but there is a segment of the Muslim population that are Orthodox, that are Fundamentalist, and have this hatred of the United States and are causing problems with violence and terrorism around the world.
Islam is not a race—it is a religion. And an interesting angle—I'm a former Mormon. When they have notions, ideas, and practices, wars have occurred. Property was seized, and the private citizenship was taken, to combat polygamy. It's been done, and they're all white.
There's a confusion that's not helpful, and is muddying the waters.
And "the wall"—do you take it for more than some foreign policy fantasy? How do you justify "the wall"?
OK, there are two questions. One: Is the wall feasible? Two: Would the wall work? If the answer to those questions are yes, I don't see why it shouldn't be built. The wall would have a gate, and points of entry, and it'd be a way of controlling unauthorized entry into this country. The saying goes, 'Good fences make for good neighbors.'
We have walls around our schools and courthouses. It's a matter of modulating and regulating the flow. It's like having a spigot that works. If you have one that works, you can modulate the flow.
And what should be clear to the undocumented and the illegals, it's about more than money. It's a fight for the cultural identity of this nation. It's going to be much harder to overcome. Brexit shows that not everything is about money.
Michael Rosen is a reporter for Fusion based out of Oakland.