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Anchored To Intolerance

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Editor’s note: This column by Maribel Hastings was originally published in Spanish, which can be viewed here.

The Donald Trump circus stopped Friday in Mobile, Alabama to close, with a flourish, a week of mistakes from Republican candidates seeking their party’s nomination and leaving a bad taste for the direction of political discourse in an electoral season that is just beginning.

Trump is still riding on his anti-immigrant horse, now preying on U.S. citizens with undocumented parents whom he called “anchor babies,” a pejorative term also used by other Republican candidates including Jeb Bush, who knows better. With his family background and having been governor of a state like Florida, it was out of place not only for Bush to use that phrase, but to not retract it, saying instead that he knows of no other term for these U.S. citizens. Those who support him claim that he was referring to a term used to “describe” those citizens. It remains an insult.

Trump’s speeches, if they can be called that, are haphazard diatribes to all but those who worship him. He repeats words and incendiary phrases and changes topic without us ever knowing exactly what it is that he is proposing, except of course to build a wall along the southern border and make Mexico pay for it; and that “illegals” are criminals that have to leave and only the “good ones” will be able to return. All this is possible, he says, with good management. They are code words and phrases that have the sole intention of stirring up the worst instincts of the extremist faction that sees Trump as its leader.

Extremists like the two brothers from South Boston who attacked a Hispanic homeless man and, according to police, who said that Trump was right and that we must remove all of the “illegals” from the country.  Trump said that his followers love this country and are “passionate.”

But this isn’t an attack directed only at the undocumented. All of this bad blood is directed toward Hispanics. He forgets that there are families of mixed immigration status; he forgets that he also offends U.S. citizens and voters. They forget that 66,000 Latinos turn 18 each month and become eligible to vote. That recalcitrant Republican sector feels threatened by a demographic reality thatthey see as a nightmare.  The growing demographic of Latinos and other ethnic groups has changed the face of this country, but rather than take advantage of the potential of these changes, it is easier to appeal to prejudice.

A New York Times article on Trump’s stop in Alabama quotes one participant as saying that he hopes that when Trump is president that he says “we’re going to make the border a vacation spot, it’s going to cost you $25 for a permit and then you get $50 for every confirmed kill…That’d be one nice thing,” the person said.

In 2011, Alabama implemented the anti-immigrant law HB56 that sought to do what Trump proposes. Undocumented immigrants and their U.S. citizen children locked themselves in their homes out of fear of being detained by the police. Others preferred to leave and the state’s economy suffered the consequences. Crops were lost and businesses and the state felt the absence of Latino consumers.

But bad habits are hard to break.

Trump appeals to the same bigots who rail against anyone who looks “different” regardless of whether they are citizens or undocumented. They are the same ones who always talk about “family values” as long as those families look like them; the same ones that carry a bible under their arm and gather every Sunday in churches, but the rest of the week trample on biblical teachings. They are the ones who defend the Constitution in order to maintain their guns, but do not care if it is amended to discriminate.

The unfortunate thing is the non response from the rest of the Republican candidates and the Republican Party to this “bullying” crowd, personified by Trump, becoming complicit with their silence. An extremist sector that isn’t enough to win the presidency; a faction that continues to define the Republican Party among Latino voters and that at the end of the day is only anchored to one thing: its own intolerance.

Maribel Hastings is a Senior Advisor to America’s Voice.