In his kickoff speech as a presidential candidate, billionaire Donald Trump suggested that most Mexican immigrants are criminals, saying they are “bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” He conceded, as an afterthought, “And some, I assume, are good people.”
As Trump surged in popularity, other candidates emulated his anti-immigrant rhetoric, reminding we Hispanics of our heritage of rejection and violence.
In August, according to a news story in The Boston Globe, two South Boston men, Scott Leader, 38, and his brother Steve, 30, were returning home from a baseball game when they came upon a 58-year-old homeless Hispanic man sleeping outside a train station.
The two, both with extensive criminal records, according to the newspaper, urinated on his face, punched him and beat him with a stick. The victim was taken to Boston Medical Center where a day later he remained in fair condition with a broken nose, bruises on his head and a large bruise across his torso.
The assailants were arrested on multiple charges and held without bail. Police said the older brother told them it was OK to assault the man because he was Hispanic and homeless. “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported,” he said, according to police.
The assailants did not check or know the immigration status of the victim. They saw brown skin and concluded he did not belong in the United States. That view has a long history, going back to the mid-19th century when the United States conquered Mexico and annexed half of its territory.
Although the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo granted citizenship to the Hispanics residing in the conquered territories, there was a prevalent idea that only people of a certain skin color should be added to the union.
Apparently that idea still appeals.
When Trump went to Mobile, Alabama, to give a stump speech, a landscaper, Jim Sherota, 53, quoted by The New York Times, said he hoped that Trump, if elected, would “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 a nice thing.”
Of the estimated 54 million Hispanics now in the U.S., millions descend from people who never crossed the U.S. border. My own family simply moved within what was called New Spain when they came to New Mexico in 1693.
Ricardo Aca, who emigrated without documents from Mexico to New York with his mother in 2005 as a 14-year-old and now has a permit to work, courageously responded to Trump.
Aca, a high school and community college graduate from Queens, New York, works as a busboy for a restaurant inside the Trump SoHo hotel, as a runner for another one in Queens and as an assistant in a photo lab. With a filmmaker friend, he made a video contesting Trump’s opinion and posted it on Facebook, where it attracted more than 300,000 views in 24 hours.
He saw a wrong and tried to right it. “This is not who we are, this is not who I am, this is not anybody I know who is an immigrant,” he said in the video.
In Mobile, Trump said the Bible is his favorite book, but his message is miles apart from the message found in Leviticus 19:33: “When an alien resides with you in your land, do not mistreat such a one.”