By Kourosh Ziabari
As the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria carries on its heinous operations of mass killing and beheading across the Middle East and spreads violence and terror overseas, the theme of immigration remains a high priority to the U.S. presidential candidates, who debate this concern intensely. The presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump has adopted the most divisive approach to immigration, and his inflammatory remarks about the Mexicans, Latinos, Muslims and other minorities have prompted waves of anger and surprise nationwide and globally.
Donald Trump had initially suggested that to preclude the spillover of ISIS-directed violence and bloodshed into the United States, there should be a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims” entering the country. However, after the brutal massacre of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando on June 12 by an American citizen of Afghan descent, Trump modified his proposal, declaring that once president, he will suspend the flow of immigration from the countries “where there’s a record of terrorism against the United States, Europe” and other U.S. allies.
The rampage at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando was called the deadliest mass shooting incident in the U.S. history. American right wing politicians including Donald Trump adeptly exploited the tragedy and the panic it generated to intensify their assault on the Muslims and immigrants and build up public support. However, there were leaders including President Barack Obama who raised their voice to denounce the undue Muslim-bashing that followed the Orlando shootings, censuring the defamation of an entire religion and its followers in the wake of this sad incident.
Prof. Charles Gallagher of the La Salle University says the broader American public has a favorable view of the immigrants and considers them hard-working people with “a strong work ethic” and “strong family ties.”
The Chair of Sociology, Social Work and Criminal Justice Department at the La Salle University in Philadelphia believes Donald Trump will not be elected the President of the United States, even though there are constituencies that support him fervently.
In an interview with Truth NGO, Prof. Gallagher noted that they were the immigrants who made the United States a thriving society, and without them, “America would have stagnated.”
Prof. Gallagher studies race relations, ethnicity, poverty and immigration, among other subjects. He is the author of several books, including “Rethinking the Color Line: Readings in Race and Ethnicity” which is his latest work published in 2011.
In this interview, Prof. Charles Gallagher provided an analysis of the anti-immigrant rhetoric surging in the run-up to the U.S. presidential election in November and the reasons why the Republican runner Donald Trump has come done so hard on the Muslims and ethnic minorities.
Q: In a February speech in New Hampshire, Donald Trump asserted that he would look in the faces of Syrian children refugees and tell them they cannot come to the United States. His stance appears to be callous, but it seems that many Americans endorse his anti-immigrant attitude, believing that he is a strong politician trying to keep their borders secure. What’s your reaction to that?
A: The overwhelming majority of Americans hold positive views of immigrants. The general perception is that immigrants are hard-working, have a strong work ethic, have strong family ties and do America’s “dirty work” that the native-born population will not or do not have to do. Immigrants are also credited with reviving various parts of city neighborhoods and helping to rebound sharing populations in rural counties. What Americans do is what they see as a coherent immigration policy which unfortunately does not now exist.
Q: The U.S. immigration laws were rigorously complicated following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Do Donald Trump’s calls for more paperwork and his frequent reference to the people who travel to the U.S. without sufficient “documentation” mean that coming to the U.S. will become even trickier if he makes it to the White House?
A: Donald Trump will not make it to the White House. His ban on Muslims from part of the world he deems a threat to national interests has been roundly criticized by his own Republican Party. As President Obama and others have said, there is no test of one’s religion to enter this country.
Q: Do you believe Donald Trump’s harsh anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric, including his proposed ban on the Muslims entering the United States and his recent demand that mosques across the States should be subject to surveillance will be a plus point for him in the race to the White House, especially as it appeals to the white voters in the Southern States?
A: If you drill down and look at the constituencies that are leaning towards Trump, those populations are extremely narrow. He does well with 50 and above aged white men with limited formal education from the South and rural communities, but he does not have the support of white moderate and liberals, Mormons, Jews, Blacks, Latinos, gays and women.
Q: Many of the greatest scientists, scholars, entrepreneurs, media personalities and public servants in the United States are dual American citizens and have diverse national origins. Would the American society have been as dynamic and thriving as it is today without these people, who were once welcomed to the United States, and are now subject to vilification by politicians like Donald Trump and his like-minded media organizations?
A: Immigrants made this country great and it is constant addition of new immigrants that keeps our country dynamic. In Philadelphia, immigrants comprise of 28% of all business owners in retail, food and neighborhood services. Nationally, immigrants have rates of entrepreneurship, that is starting new businesses, significantly above the native-born population. Without immigrants, America would have stagnated. Trump will however use fear to demonize an entire population based on their religion and use that anxiety of a “take over” to animate those who do not see through his demagoguery.
Q: Do you consider the recent bloody mass shooting in Orlando a driving force for Donald Trump’s campaign? The Republican contender has capitalized on the shooter Omar Mateen’s paternal origins to suggest that it’s radical Islam that is to blame for the sad loss of life at the Orlando nightclub. Do you agree with him? Will the public frustration the Orlando massacre produced help Donald Trump to solidify his popular base as a likely president who will not allow such a thing to happen again?
A: The majority of the U.S. population does not agree with Trump’s handling of the Orlando shooting. Mateen was a troubled man with a violent streak as indicated by the abuse of his wife who appears to have been trying to come to terms with his own sexuality. This was a hate crime towards the gay community that he wrapped in religious terms as justification for his own self-loathing. It appears that Trump’s intemperate behavior post-Orlando has hurt him in the polls. People saw firsthand how he would react, that is overreact and overreach, in the wake of a national tragedy.
Q: Do the majority of American citizens share this sentiment that immigrants or Middle Eastern visitors coming to America for different reasons pose a security threat to their country? To put it bluntly, has the American society become somewhat xenophobic, fearing and detesting those who are not white or speak a different language? It has been asserted and widely believed that the United States, being a plural and multicultural society, welcomes people from across the globe with open arms. Is it still the case?
A: It is probably the case that immigrants from the Middle East, especially those who have not assimilated to various aspects of the United States [including] clothes, food and customs, may raise some eyebrows among some Americans, especially those who reside in homogenous or segregated communities. Remember whites are the most segregated groups in the U.S. That said, if you believe polling data, the majority of Americans are not indicting 1.6 billion Muslims around the world. Americans take seriously their First Amendment of freedom of religion. The problem is many take their Second Amendment right to carry guns and assault weapons just as seriously.