Six years ago, I wrote my first ever blog, titled “U.S. Immigration Policy: Don’t give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”, discussing the trend towards an increasingly selective and contradictory immigration system. On the eve of comments by President Trump which referred to immigrants from Central America, the Caribbean, and Africa as bringing from “sh*thole countries”, the Statue of Liberty weeps, and the true sentiment driving the U.S.’s current immigration policy has been truly revealed.
As an immigrant who dedicated his life to helping other good people from other countries realize their unique version of the American dream, the words uttered by Mr. Trump hurt deeply. As the founder of a non-profit which raises money to promote the education of orphans and needy children in Ghana, where I have traveled since 2010, the words ring in my ears as an insult to every wonderful, sweet and well-intentioned child, responsible and ambitious adult, loving family member, and those who have been born into civil war, suffered through debilitating natural disasters, or been persecuted for their religious or political affiliation, social class, tribal group, race, gender or sexual orientation.
The nations considered “sh*thole countries” have changed over the years, and the master list encompasses most of the countries all over the globe, whose individuals have been welcomed by Lady Liberty with open arms, at least that is what we have been told and what we wanted to believe. Mr. Trump’s heinous and deleterious comments reflect a long-time tradition that has existed from the days of Reconstruction, when the U.S. rebuilt itself in the wake of a civil war that almost destroyed it, and the Industrial Revolution, which created jobs and opportunities for foreigners willing to leave their lives and families behind and start in a strange new land known as America.
Many groups were at one point in time considered to be the bottom rung of society when they entered the U.S., from the Chinese who built the railroads, the Irish and Italians who filled the ghettos of New York and Boston, the Jews who escaped the Holocaust, the Japanese who were later put into internment camps during World War II, the Southeast Asians who fled war-torn Vietnam or the Killing Fields of Cambodia,the political figures who escaped Mao’s Cultural Revolution to Taiwan or the Tibetan Buddhists who fled to northern India, the Africans who fled war-torn countries like Congo, Algeria, Sudan or Rwanda, or Latinos who escaped oppressive dictatorships in Argentina, Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua or the drug cartels in Colombia, to name just a few.
Mr. Trump’s isolationist ideology and his recent comments essentially espouse a belief that almost all non-affluent, non-white majority countries are “sh*tholes”. This ideology has a fatal flaw, however: The U.S. is an amalgam of all the countries in the world. 99% of the U.S. population is non-Native American Indian, i.e. almost all Americans and people residing in the U.S., or their ancestors, are from somewhere else.
This means that Mr. Trump’s insults of other countries and his disdain for anything foreign is actually an insult to each and every one of us in the U.S. because the U.S. is the “ultimate melting pot”, and we all ultimately come from somewhere else. Ironically, this includes Mr. Trump, whose mother was an immigrant and whose family, including two of his wives, who were immigrants.
What Mr. Trump has done is insult ALL OF US. The result of his hatred is an anti-immigrant policy not based on the merits, as he claims, but actually based on blind hatred of all things foreign. For those of us who dedicate our lives to creating opportunities for immigrants who make this country great and diverse, no words of hatred will suffice to change the simple truth: THE UNITED STATES WAS, IS, AND ALWAYS WILL BE, A COUNTRY OF IMMIGRANTS. And so I say “God bless the United States of America.”