Multimillionaire Donald Trump, a Republican candidate for the U.S. presidency, insulted Mexican immigrants by saying that “México sends us drugs, crime and rapists.”
He announced that when he is president, he would build a wall along the border to keep out undesirables and force them to pay for the construction. In response, cartoonists and indignant editorial writers ridiculed Trump, singers complained, diplomats were astonished and beauty queens threatened reprisal. All Latinos collectively felt the remark referred to them, and were humiliated and offended by Trump’s statements which they considered an unacceptable joke.
He can be intolerable. But he has always been tolerated, and this is nothing new. All the U.S. presidents have thought the things that Donald Trump says, and at times, they have even said those things themselves. Whether speaking or keeping silent, all the presidents have behaved according to the thoughts expressed by Trump. It was James Monroe that defined Latin America as the “backyard” of the United States in his Monroe Doctrine. From Washington in the 18th century to Obama today, they have all treated Latin America as if it were. Washington supported Haiti with arms and money for the French planters’ fight against the revolution of black slaves, fearing the spread of freedom. Lincoln wanted to get rid of emancipated slaves by sending them to colonize Central America, but could not do so. Obama continues using his Guantanamo base in Cuba for the illegal dumping of prisoners without trial. Why doesn’t the same thing happen on other continents that also have military bases? Like in Japan or Great Britain, for example? Regarding Trump’s proposed wall, President George H.W. Bush’s son has already built most of it.
The presidents are not alone in their secular disdain for their southern neighbors; it is shared by the entire nation. The United States is a country of immigrants who are assimilated — which is, like everything, good and bad at the same time. They are assimilated to the point of being considered, by way of the “American dream,” to be genuine White Anglo-Saxon Protestants or WASPs from the second generation on, having arrived as Irish or Polish, Italian or Russian, but still white in every way, not black or red. For example, there are two candidates competing with Trump for the Republican nomination, Cuban-Americans Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, whose announced immigration policies consist, as usual, of deporting those who come to take the path that they used to access the American dream. Xenophobia is the first patriotic sentiment that new immigrants absorb.
However, moving from sentiment to reality, Donald Trump’s statements are only partially true. Latino drug dealers in the United States have been deported, and after transferring part of their fortunes to the U.S. Treasury, they remain living outside the U.S. The contrary situation is much more notorious. The United States is the “good” northern neighbor which has historically sent thieves and criminals to its “bad” southern neighbors in Latin America. The U.S. has not only exported drug traffickers but the drug business itself. This is the product of American drug addiction and laws prohibiting drug use, without which there would be no business.
But to say that would be unpopular, even if it were true. Xenophobic insults have more impact, though they generate protest by Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin or Mexican magnate Carlos Slim. So it is possible that the next president of the United States could be Donald Trump, and he’ll make us pay for his promised border, but that would be nothing new.