The media needs to stop telling this lie about Donald Trump. I’m a Sanders supporter — and value honesty
Trump’s words on Mexicans have been misconstrued by all sides. This liberal, Puerto Rican professor says enough
ALBERTO A. MARTINEZ
It’s time to start cleaning up the mess of misinterpretations about Donald Trump.
Back in June, I first saw Mr. Trump announcing his candidacy for president. What he said about unauthorized immigrants seemed ridiculous so I laughed. I showed the video to friends, and I laughed again. His words were poorly chosen.
But something worse happened. People interpreted Trump’s words in the most awful and offensive ways.
In one of my courses, at the University of Texas at Austin, I asked my students: “What has Donald Trump said that you found most offensive?” One student raised her hand high: “He said that all Mexicans are rapists.” I asked a coworker the same question. He replied: “He said that all Mexican immigrants are rapists.”
I explained that Trump said no such thing. This is what Trump said:
“When do we beat Mexico at the border? They’re laughing at us, at our stupidity. […] When Mexico sends its people they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you; they’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists, and some, I assume, are good people. But I speak to border guards and they tell us what we’re getting.”
You might well dislike Trump’s words. I did. But let’s not make it worse. He did not say that all Mexicans are rapists. Yet that’s what many commentators did. For example, Politico misquoted Trump by omitting his phrase about “good people.” They said he was “demonizing Mexicans as rapists.” They argued that Mexicans do not really commit more rapes in the U.S. than whites. But that’s not what Trump claimed.
Similarly, other news sources misrepresented his words in offensive ways:
The New York Times: “Trump’s claim that illegal Mexican immigrants are ‘rapists.”
Time Magazine: “Trump’s comment that Mexican immigrants are ‘rapists.’”
Associated Press: “Trump called Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals”
CBS News: “Trump defends calling Mexican immigrants ‘rapists.’”
L.A. Times: “describing Mexican immigrants as ‘rapists.’”
Fortune: “in a speech branding Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists.”
Hollywood Reporter: “he referred to Mexican immigrants as ‘rapists.’”
Huffington Post: “He called Latino immigrants ‘criminals’ and ‘rapists.’”
The Washington Post: “He referred to Mexicans as “rapists.”
Compare such words with Trump’s words. Which is worse? Writers excerpted the phrase: “they’re rapists,” as if it were about all Mexican unauthorized immigrants, or worse, about all Mexican immigrants, or even worst, about all Mexicans. But that’s not what he said. That’s not what he meant. It was just a remark about some of the criminals crossing the border.
The trick for misrepresenting Trump’s words can be used against anyone.
For example, on October 7, at a Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton answered the question: “Which enemy are you most proud of?” She replied: “In addition to the NRA, um, the health insurance companies, the drug companies, um, the Iranians.”
If you do to her what the media did to Trump, then you should believe that Hillary Clinton is proud to be the enemy of 77 million citizens of Iran, plus millions more living outside Iran, including mothers, children, and disabled people. But that’s not what she meant.
On November 6, at the MSNBC Democratic Candidates Forum, Bernie Sanders said: “we have to pass a constitutional amendment that everyone in America who is 18 years old or older is registered to vote.” He said everyone. Someone might then write: “He proposed that everyone who is in the U.S. should vote, everyone who is 18, even illegal immigrants, tourists, and terrorists.” But that’s not what he meant.
It is no wonder that many people think the media is grossly dishonest. No wonder Mr. Trump’s critiques of the media make his followers cheer.
Trump was discussing crimes committed by unauthorized immigrants. Is it true that some people who illegally cross the border from Mexico are good? Yes. Is it true that some others commit crimes? Yes. Is that a problem? People disagree. Some conjecture that unauthorized immigrants don’t commit more crimes than U.S. citizens. But crimes by unauthorized immigrants, even murders, would not have happened if those individuals had not entered the U.S.
Time for a disclosure. I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. Spanish is my first language. I voted for Obama. I live in liberal Austin, Texas, where I work as a tenured professor of history. I’ve never voted for a Republican. My preferred candidate for U.S. president would be Elizabeth Warren. Since she is not running, my preferred candidate is Bernie Sanders.
Anyhow, discussions about illegal immigration are ruined by lack of data. I asked my friends, university faculty: “How many people do you think are deported per year in the U.S.?”
There are two kinds of deportations: some are caught near the border and “returned,” others are “removed” by a court order. Consider the border patrol agents, personnel, the bureaucracy, the lawyers, the resources needed to find people and deport them. How many were deported in 2014?
One of my friends guessed 3,000. Another guessed 10,000. Another guessed 50,000—which would really be a lot of people, imagine.
Actually, in the fiscal year 2014, the U.S. deported a total of 893,238 foreigners! That’s a huge number. It includes 577,295 deported by the Department of Homeland Security, plus 315,943 deported by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Among the latter, 2,802 were classified as suspected or confirmed gang members.
Since 1990, the average is 1.2 million deportations per year. The highest in U.S. history was 1.86 million foreigners deported in the year 2000. That’s astonishing.
How many were criminals?
We don’t know because most criminals are not caught. Plus, many who are accused are not convicted because of a lack of evidence. Still, in 2014, the U.S. deported 177,960 convicted criminals. Surprisingly, 91,037 were already convicted criminals before they even entered the U.S.
At the University of Texas at Austin, the football stadium can seat 100,119 people. I have seen it full. I’ve see more than 100,000 people at once—it’s an incredible sight. It’s a staggering swarm of people. I have seen them yelling all at once.
It is utterly astonishing to me that this stadium would fail to seat all the convicted criminals deported in a single year.
CONTINUED AT SALON.COM