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After 35 years in public education as a university administrator and a high school English teacher, I began my second life as a freelance writer, winning San Diego Society of Professional Journalists awards for my opinion columns in the former San Diego daily North County Times and the San Diego Free Press.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Trump Immigration Plan, Like His Candidacy, Mostly Smoke and Mirrors

After weeks of generalizations about his positions on the issues, Donald Trump released his first policy paper last weekend, Immigration Reform That Will Make America Great Again. Its three core principles are building a wall that can't be scaled or tunneled under, enforcing current law, and "improving jobs, wages and security for all Americans." It's clear that applies only to citizens. He lists a series of solutions to problems he believes he can solve, citing sources to support them. But following the links provided to those sources reveals the distortions and exaggerations that serve as the smoke and mirrors of his proposal. Here are a few of the more dishonest examples.

Trump claims Mexico's leaders have intentionally exported crime and poverty to this country by publishing pamphlets on how to cross the border illegally. He cites a New York Times article of January 6, 2005 . But he omitted the part of the article quoting Mexican officials in their description of the publication, not as an encouragement to sneak across the border, but to reduce the loss of life of those who try to do so. More than 300 migrants died last year while crossing rivers and deserts.

Trump refers to recent crimes to support his claim illegal immigrants are responsible for a spike in violent crime. He cites a 2011 GAO report that "there were a shocking 3 million arrests attached to the incarcerated alien population, including tens of thousands of violent beatings rapes and murders." He provides a link, not to the GAO report itself, but to a July 2015 Breitbart News story giving it an ultra conservative spin. According to the actual report, only 3% of the 3 million were arrested for violent crimes (1% for homicides). According to a July 2015 report by the federal Bureau Of Prisons, 3% of all federal prisoners were convicted of violent crimes. Only 23% of federal prisoners are non-US citizens.

Trump complains about the "billions" Mexico makes on remittances sent from illegal immigrants in the United States back to Mexico. But follow the link to read the entire news article and you'll find the "median amount per remittance in the first six months of 2014 was $294.49, compared with $295.39 in January-June 2013, the Bank of Mexico said Friday. Remittances, mostly from expatriates living in the United States, are Mexico's second-largest source of foreign exchange after oil exports and help cover living expenses for millions of households."

Trump plans to end birthright citizenship, calling it the biggest magnet for illegal immigration and pointing to a poll that shows, by a two to one margin, voters want to change the 14th amendment to the Constitution. He doesn't add that the same poll, taken in 2011 says 61% of liberals support the 14th amendment and 57% of all voters remain at least somewhat concerned that efforts to identify and deport illegal immigrants will end up violating the civil rights of some U.S. citizens.

Citing another Breitbart story, Trump declares decades of disastrous trade deals and immigration policies have "destroyed our middle class." The story was based on the findings of one economics professor. But, as reported by CBS MoneyWatch, America’s incredible shrinking middle class, there's no mention of illegal immigrants causing the problem.

After reading about how a President Trump would make America great again by attacking immigrants I got a little sick to my stomach. His rants about how immigration is killing this country caused me to Google "The Know-Nothing Party," the informal name of the American Republican Party of the mid-1880's that was formed in response to the flood of immigrants fleeing Ireland's Great Famine. There was a concerted effort at the time to require immigrants to live in the U.S. for 25 years before becoming citizens.

All four of my grandparents were German immigrants from Russia in the early 1900s, essentially draft dodgers when the Russian Empire stopped exempting German ex-patriots from military service. I don't know when, or even if, they became naturalized citizens. So I may be the proud son of what some might call an anchor baby.

Trump brags about how he was a "very good student" at the Wharton School of business. As a former high school English teacher, I'd give his paper a failing grade in citing sources, together with a note suggesting he not share it with his Wharton classmates.

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