Christine Flowers, 9/2/2016 [Archive]

Trump's Immigration Speech Sounds Good, But Rings Hollow

By Christine Flowers

As an immigration lawyer, I approached Donald Trump's speech Wednesday night with anticipation, hope and trepidation.

I was willing to keep an open mind about a topic that, next to abortion rights and religious freedom, is the most important issue for me in this campaign. I was prepared to praise the man if he came out with an honest, workable, non-tweetable attempt to address the extremely complicated factors that go into the whole concept of "illegal immigration."

To say I was disappointed is an understatement along the level of "Houston, we have a problem."

I listened politely as the Republican presidential nominee spoke about building his wall, and understood that this was an appealing concept to many - including myself - who are troubled by the fluidity of our borders. As he discussed the modalities that would be used to build that wall, evoking technologies apparently not yet in existence, I realized that his use of this concept was much more symbolic than anything else. "Build a wall" has been an effective slogan over the years for many conservative opponents of immigration, and it doesn't require much cerebral heavy lifting.

Trump sounded more poetic than Maya Angelou: "On Day 1, we will begin working on an impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful Southern border wall." He talked about "above- and below-ground sensors" which other people call "tunnels." He talked about aerial surveillance, towers and additional manpower.

He also said Mexico would pay for the wall, even though the Mexican president whom he'd met only hours before made it clear that Mexico "no paga." So the estimated $8 billion to $12 billion needed to build this "beautiful Southern border wall" will have to come from somewhere.

Beyond the wall, and the absolute lack of detail on the methodologies by which it would both be built and financed, Trump talked about how he would increase the border patrol force by about 25 percent. I think that is a fantastic idea, but I'd like to know where that money is coming from, too, especially after we build those walls.

Then Trump announced the revolutionary concept that he would change enforcement priorities by "removing criminals, gang members, security threats, visa overstays, (and) public charges." I stood up and gave him a standing ovation when I heard that. But I gave President Obama that same standing ovation when he announced those same priorities in November 2014. Yawn.

Trump then talked about screening refugees, and no one who has seen the brutality wreaked by ISIS and other Islamic terror groups should object to that. But, as experts have noted, refugees generally undergo the most rigorous and time-consuming process of any category of immigrants who enter the U.S. Sometimes the process can take up to 18 months, or more. So again, nothing new.

And he talked about jobs, which is a big part of his appeal, the great job creator. Good for him. I agree something must be done to bring workers out of the shadows, provide them with work authorization, give them identification cards and continue to allow them to work legally in our restaurant kitchens, mowing our backyards and cleaning our bathrooms. Oh, yeah, and winning Olympic medals for us when they become naturalized U.S. citizens.

But the thing that finally made me realize this was not a serious speech was the last part, when Trump brought the mothers of slain citizens on stage to say "Vote for me." In this powerful, hardly subliminal attack on so-called "sanctuary cities," Trump did what the Democratic National Convention was justifiably criticized for doing when it trotted the mothers of Michael Brown and other so-called victims of police brutality on stage. I was appalled then that we would use mothers' grief to advance an agenda, and I was appalled when Trump did the same thing.

The suggestion that illegal aliens must be kept out of the country because they have an innate tendency to be more violent and homicidal than the average native-born American is wrong. Debatable, but still wrong. Statistics consistently show that immigrants commit violent crimes at a significantly lower rate that the native-born. It's an argument we can have; I'm fine with that.

My problem is using death to make your partisan point.

"My boy was shot by a cop. They're bigoted monsters."

"My boy was killed by an illegal. They're homicidal maniacs."

Same tune, different verses.

And if you don't think it's the same tune, that's because your ears are registered with a different party, and you think some mothers are less entitled to grieve than others.

As for me, I'm thinking Helen Keller was lucky.

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© 2016 Christine Flowers. Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, and can be reached at cflowers1961@gmail.com.

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