Donald Trump recently shared with the Washington Post his policy plans to force Mexico to pay for the Trump border wall. At the heart of his policy is a Draconian plan to shut off the flow of alien remittances--the electronic payments immigrants, legal or illegal, make to their families still in Mexico or anywhere else in the world.
Trump's policy--essentially international blackmail--threatens the Mexican government by turning off the southbound flow of tens of millions of American dollars that bolster local Mexican economies and help uncounted numbers of Mexican families survive. What Trump is proposing is nothing less than a protection racket, as completely transparent and clumsy in its thuggishness as any B-grade gangster movie ever portrayed.
Almost every time I shop at my neighborhood grocery, or stop into a local convenience store, I see a short line of men (mostly) and women filling out forms to accompany their small electronic payments to a family member somewhere outside the U.S. The folks I see are day laborers, shop attendants, maids, painters, food-truck chefs, clerks, nannies, shelf-stockers, warehouse loaders, caregivers, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, uncles...human beings eking out a living.
Maybe they are living below the radar, maybe above. From a compassionate point of view, I don't care. To me, they are my neighbors, friends and fellow travelers on this planet. They are doing their best. And from what I've seen in my six-plus decades, they are doing a heck of a lot more toward achieving the American dream than many near-sighted, blinders-on, tiny-brained thinkers skulking in Presidential campaigns, posturing in the halls of Congress, bloviating in certain state legislatures and governors' mansions, and hating in the few remaining 17th century county clerks' offices.
The people I see standing in line to send money home are not drug dealers, rapists, smugglers, or thieves. They are everyday people who, for whatever dire personal or economic reasons, felt compelled to come here to find work and a pathway to some stability for themselves and those they left behind. They support the local economy, they buy products and pay sales taxes. Yes, their children go to public schools, but those children also often rise above their parent's expectations and contribute even more. The legality of their plight does not raise in me some fearful specter of harm--personal or economic. Neither I, nor my family, feels threatened by the immigrants' desire to establish a home, a wage, a safe way of life for themselves and their families. Apparently, Mr. Trump's ex-wife, Ivana, has her own thoughts on the value of alien laborers, as she so artfully posed in a recent Boston Globe interview:
As long as you come here legally and get a proper job . . . we need immigrants," she said. "Who's going to vacuum our living rooms and clean up after us? Americans don't like to do that.
I doubt that many Americans can begin to appreciate the conditions that exist in the immigrants' home countries, states, towns, or villages. We are good people, blessed with a bounty of social, technological, and material riches. We have so much relative to the rest of the world that it is hard to see over the top of the piles of goodies we have and see the voids and deserts so many others endure. I know there are many exceptions here at home--the American poor, the disenfranchised, the mentally ill, the abandoned seniors, the racially scorned, the physically disabled lacking proper assistance, the LGBT community always under fire...I get that, and I don't for a moment place the conditions of Americans who are in need of relief beneath the conditions and needs of legal or illegal immigrants.
But, having acknowledged that, we have to admit that as a nation at peace with ourselves, most of us do not live under a cloud of violence, gunfire, kidnappings, extortion, disappearances, abuse, neglect, ignorance, and fear. Most of us have no idea what it is like to know that tomorrow could be worse than today...and find it so in the morning. Most of us have no idea what it is like to drink from a fetid puddle of water, or walk many kilometers to buy a loaf of bread so stale that it would not merit a place in an American bird feeder. Most of us have no idea what it is like to know our children may never see the inside of a real classroom where learning is a key to success, and a teacher is a mentor and guide. Most of us don't know what it must be like to hold a baby so malnourished that its chances of making it to its first birthday are next to nil. These are the people on the receiving end of the remittances Donald Trump wants to squeeze off.
It is for those left-behind families that the men and women I see in line at the grocery store are filling out their remittance forms and handing over a scruffy stack of dollar bills--maybe with a few tens or a twenty-- that will be electronically deposited in an account 3,000 miles away. The men and women standing in line at the remittance counter are desperate to drink from the deep and pure well of the American economy and share that cool drink with their families back home, in the hopes that by slaking their thirst here they may find the strength to carry on tomorrow in the hope that one day their families might join them. These are not evil, faceless, rampaging Vandals seeking to destroy our society; they are human beings willing to work hard and integrate themselves into our communities..I'm just an average guy, but if I can see this, I must assume most Americans see it too.
Do we need to be concerned with the legalities of citizenship? Of course; there are no free rides, and American citizenship must be earned. Even illegal immigrants understand that. But, do we need to encourage people like Donald Trump to strike fear into immigrants' hearts by threatening to suffocate them by pinching off their homeward remittances like a villainous doctor in a terror novel would pinch off the breathing tube of a helpless victim on life support? And for what? To somehow force Mexico to build a wall? To seal us off from our neighbor and consign Mexico and all countries south to little more than debtors knocking at Trump's golden door? To threaten a ruinous trade war if Mr. Trump doesn't get his way? In a sane world, that's not going to happen.
Americans are so much better than Mr. Trump; he is not our model--he certainly is not mine--and I sincerely hope, fervently do I pray, that my fellow Americans' compassion will rise like an outraged and onrushing tide against this man who mocks all the good we have ever stood for. To draw from the righteous indignation of Joseph N. Welsh, Chief Counsel for the Army during the Army-McCarthy communist witch hunt hearing in 1954, in response to Senator Joseph McCarthy's unrelenting attack on one of Mr. Welsh's junior attorneys,
You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?