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In his newest column for the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof explains how Trump is using the caravan and his anti-immigrant rhetoric to distract from the real national challenges we’re facing as midterms approach.
Kristof’s column is excerpted below and available online here.
It’s not about immigration. It’s about bigotry.
That’s the real story — to the extent there is a story at all — about the caravan of 5,000 impoverished Central Americans rampaging toward the United States border at, er, two miles an hour.
President Trump, ever the champion speller, declares this to be a “National Emergy”! He may call out the Army! He’s talking about sealing the border!
So, here’s some perspective, by my back-of-envelope calculations:
More than 1.4 million foreigners immigrate to the United States each year. If, say, half the caravan reaches the border, and half of those people actually enter the U.S., they would represent less than one-tenth of 1 percent of this year’s immigrants.
If the caravan proceeds by foot, during the period of its journey 16,800 Americans will die from drugs.
In the period of the caravan’s journey, perhaps 690,000 Americans will become homeless, including 267,000 children.
In the period of the caravan’s journey, 8,850 Americans will die from guns, including suicides and murders.
In the period of the caravan’s journey, perhaps 9,000 Americans will die from lack of health insurance (people die at higher rates when they’re uninsured, although there’s disagreement about how much higher).
Maybe the real “National Emergy” is drugs, homelessness, gun deaths and lack of health insurance?
Trump’s trumpeting isn’t protecting America, and the number of people is so modest that the issue isn’t really even immigration. Rather, it’s fearmongering. Scholars have found that reminding people of dangers makes them temporarily more conservative, so this kind of manipulation can be an effective campaign tactic.
Remember the 2014 midterm elections? This is a replay. In the run-up to voting, Republicans ratcheted up fears of a “border crisis” with terrorists sneaking in from Mexico to attack us, plus alarm about Ebola and the risk that the outbreak in West Africa could reach America.
I fear that we in the media have become Trump’s puppets, letting him manipulate us to project issues like the caravan onto the agenda.
Trump is right that, although there’s no evidence of it, “there could very well be” Middle Easterners hiding in the caravan. It’s equally true that the Easter Bunny “could very well be” in the caravan. Speaking of Easter, Jesus Christ “could very well be” in the caravan.
So let’s stop freaking out about what “could very well be” and focus on facts. Here are two: First, the Caravan won’t make a bit of difference to America. Second, we have other problems to focus on, from drugs to homelessness to health care, that genuinely constitute a “National Emergy.”
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
Let’s not be fooled again. Let’s not be taken in by a man who is deliberately choosing to create the ‘American carnage’ of his inaugural address. He said he would stop the carnage, but as is often the case with this president, he is projecting. He is creating chaos and carnage — carnage of American values, of our health care system, of our common sense of identity as Americans where character and contribution matter more than background and birthplace. He is deliberately dividing our nation by pointing fingers at immigrants, people of color, women and Democrats in hopes of hanging onto power. Despicable. Let’s respond by coming together to reclaim the America the majority of us believe in and aspire to.