This piece originally ran in The Houston Chronicle.
On Saturday, Donald Trump is scheduled to come to the most diverse city in the nation, presumably to do what he has done since the start of his presidential campaign — pillory many of the individuals who make Houston so great: immigrants.
Specifically, he plans to address the Remembrance Project, an organization that advocates “for a National Program for the families of victims killed by illegals.”
I understand why those who share their tragic tales of loss with the Remembrance Project clamor for answers and action. But answers like his are the wrong answers, and the actions he proposes would threaten the republic.
The link between immigration and criminality is convenient for thoughtless politicians in need of scapegoats. But countless studies have proved conclusively that no such link exists. Immigrants — regardless of status — are less likely to commit crimes or be incarcerated than the native-born. The women and children locked up in our privately run internment camps for immigrants who are in the U.S. without authorization are here to flee violence, not to wreak it.
And contrary to scaremongering rhetoric from politicians here in Texas and those like Trump plowing a trail of invective and hate from sea to shining sea, immigrants actually improve the economy by creating jobs, by increasing overall productivity and by paying billions of dollars in taxes for services to which they may not be entitled and will likely never receive.
And what about our Southwest border, home to millions of hard-working Texans and so often linked to the immigration debate? It’s far from some lawless zone of “tremendous danger,” as Trump often repeats at his rallies. In fact, our border towns are among the safest in the country. You’re more likely to be the victim of a violent crime standing in front of Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan than you are in Laredo, Brownsville, or McAllen. Meanwhile, El Paso is the safest city of its size in the country.
Trump’s solutions for this problem-that-doesn’t-exist are as harebrained as they are dangerous. His preposterous wall alone would cost $25 billion and rip our border communities apart. (By the way, you, oh U.S. taxpayer, have already paid for a lot of wall along that border.) And his proposal to round up 11.3 million undocumented immigrants would cost about $600 billion, shrink the U.S. economy by $1.6 trillion, and require 650 school buses a month full to the gills to transport deportees south, for the next 20 years.
And that’s where the nightmare scenario truly unfolds. Some truly believe that in Trump they have “someone finally listening to American and legal immigrant families.” But let us consider the inhuman toll Trump’s proposals would take on those families.
It is not possible to round up 11 million undocumented immigrants without resorting to racial profiling. People of color everywhere would suffer the results: stop-and-frisk; no-cause traffic stops, wanton interrogations, and arrests; jack-booted federal agents in full paramilitary gear conducting house-to-house searches and frog-marching children out of their classrooms. We would become a nation of checkpoints and internment camps and “Papers, please!” We would quickly cease to be the nation that so many of our soldiers and veterans — including veterans who are among those our government has deported — have fought and died for.
Unfortunately, this is already the reality many immigrant children and families face in their daily lives — in Houston, in Texas, and across the nation.
But as we have in the past, let us summon our better angels and beat back the bombast before it does lasting damage to our democracy, our rights, and our very way of life. Then will we have truly made America greater again.