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A Country Unbecoming In the Age of Trump

| March 14, 2017

84 lumber ad immigration

A still from the 84 Lumber ad that aired during this year’s Super Bowl. One YouTube version has been watched more than 10 million times. Watch the full ad below.

By Martin Dyckman

A young woman who works at a store that we frequent told of a recent experience that haunts my mind, as I hope it will yours.

She and her husband were homebound from a European vacation. As the aircraft waited on the tarmac at Amsterdam’s airport, an announcement told three named passengers to identify themselves to a flight attendant.


Every name, she noted, sounded Middle Eastern.

Each was asked to produce a passport, even though all the passengers had had theirs inspected at least twice before boarding.

A young man near her was one of those singled out. As he stood to retrieve his bag from the overhead bin, she saw that his hands were trembling. She wondered whether he would even be able to handle the bag.

A flight attendant checked the passport and left him alone.

He took his seat, still shaking.

“Are you all right?” she asked him.

“I am an American,” he said. “I was born here.”

So that is what we have come to in the time of Trump.

Concurrently, wire services reported that Khizr Khan, the Gold Star parent who denounced Donald Trump at the Republican convention and challenged him to read the U.S. Constitution, had canceled a speaking engagement in Canada after being told, or so it was said, that “his travel privileges are being reviewed.”

His son, Captain Humayun Khan, was protecting his troops in Iraq when he was killed by a suicide bomber.

“This turn of events is not just of deep concern to me but to all my fellow Americans who cherish our freedom to travel abroad. I have not been given any reason as to why,” Kahn said. The statement did not say who told him about it.

The cancellation was announced on the same day as Trump signed a new travel ban targeting Muslims abroad.

The speech Khan had been scheduled to give in Toronto was on the subject of “tolerance, understanding, unity and the rule of law.”

Khan, a native of Pakistan, has been an American citizen for more than 30 years. There is no legal ground for the government to restrict travel of a citizen who is not accused of crime.

A statement from an unnamed Customs and Border Patrol official, quoted by Politico, declined to comment on the specific report but asserted that the agency doesn’t contact travelers in advance of their foreign trips. It hinted, however, that questions might have been raised about Kahn having or having applied for trusted traveler status, which speeds up airport security checks.

We need to know more about this. Was it only a rumor that reached Kahn? Was it a misunderstanding? Or something more sinister?

In any event, it was reasonable for Kahn to be concerned in the time of Trump.

Now imagine, if you will, the terror of that young man aboard the airplane multiplied millions of times by Americans with dark skins or foreign-sounding names now that ICE — Immigration and Customs Enforcement — agents are on a rampage.

It’s about American citizens, not just immigrants who are unauthorized. It’s no longer about targeting only those who commit serious crimes — which they do less frequently than legal residents. It’s about expelling everyone that ICE and its allies in some police agencies can get their hands on. Even Dreamers, those brought here as children, whom a humane president had promised to protect, are being swept up.

There are an estimated 11 million of these vulnerable people, by the way, and they are your neighbors. They could be the people who built your house, picked the fruit for your breakfast, and tidied up the hotel room where you last stayed.

Think of our country without them. It will be a different country if Trump has his way, and it won’t be a better one.

The statistics are sobering.

According to a draft paper published in November by the National Bureau of Economic Research, unauthorized immigrants account for about 3 percent of our gross domestic product (GDP). Take that away, and it spells recession.

They represent 18 percent of the workforce in agriculture, 13 percent of construction employment, and 10 percent of the leisure and hospitality sector. They’re particularly significant to the economies of five states: California, Texas, New York, Illinois and, yes, Florida.

The report’s authors, professors at Queens College of the City University of New York, calculated that if their presence were legalized, their contribution to GDP would increase, significantly, to 3.6 percent. It would no longer be easy for unscrupulous employers to exploit them.

“Documented foreign-born workers,” they added, “are about 25 percent more productive … with the same levels of education and experience,” as the undocumented.

Legal workers would not replace most of them. A 2013 North Carolina study noted that “natives prefer almost any labor market outcome … to carrying out menial harvest and planting labor.”

context florida politicsHere, from The New York Times, are some other pertinent facts:

About 60 percent of the 11-million have been here 10 years or more. Many are homeowners. A third of those 15 or older live with at least one child born here, who has citizenship by birth. (Where will the foster care be for so many Trump orphans?) The proportion of the estimated 300,000 with felony records is half the rate of felons in the overall population. Illegal border crossings are declining; a growing number of unauthorized immigrants simply overstayed their visas.

The 11 million are here, for the most part, because America has needed their labor and the taxes they pay. The entire nation collectively turned a willfully blind eye to the underlying illegality, just as it did during Prohibition. Every president before now has tried to reform the situation in a humane way. Only now is one catering to a minority — and they are a minority — who vote their hatreds instead of the religions they profess.

A young citizen trembling on a plane. A prominent naturalized citizen who fears to travel. Parents and children terrified of separation. Business booming for private prisons.

What kind of country have we become?

martin dyckmanMartin Dyckman covered local, state and national government and politics and wrote editorials and opinion columns during a 46-year career with the St. Petersburg Times, where he retired in 2006 as associate editor. He is the author of three books. He lives in western North Carolina. See Dyckman’s previous column on the death penalty here.

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22 Responses for “A Country Unbecoming In the Age of Trump”

  1. brad says:

    Give it a rest, you lost the election. Stop with the Bleeding heart crap, its not working.

  2. Fredrick says:

    The more the alt left keeps calling the right racists and hateful, the more people they push to the right. Keep it up. You have nothing but a failed message you tried to shove done our throats for the last 8 years. You sent everything you had against us “deplorables”, you had the media, hell even the Republican party was against the “deplorables”. You lost. Get over it and move on.

  3. Dennis Moran says:

    WHAT BRAD SAID!!
    Please stop!!

  4. OMG says:

    I agree Brad They need to give it a rest.. And what is wrong with protecting our Citizens. AND following the immigration laws already on the books.

  5. Richard Smith says:

    My name happened to be on the “No Fly” list for years while living in California. Therefore I could never check in using any kiosk. I always had to wait in line and then once I got to the counter The service agent had to go into the back office with all of my credentials and maybe 10 minutes later come back out and check me in. I eventually had to jump through federal hoops, send in multiple forms and be thoroughly investigated before issuing me a “Free Pass” letter with my file number. Now I still cannot use a kiosk to check in quickly or ahead of time but I can show them my Free Pass Travel Letter at the counter. And my name is no wheres close to being middle eastern but as American as apple pie and Tom Jones. Did I ever complain or get nervous or upset, Hell No!

    Let’s get realistic here and call a spade a spade. The illegal immigrants who are felons, rapists, violent criminals and murderers are the ones being targeted for PERMANENT deportation along with people who cannot be vetted with authenticity. Illegal immigrants with family and children who are here that are not criminals will be given the opportunity to become legal. If they choose not to then their only option is to leave. What makes them any better than my Thai wife who had to wait and be vetted properly along with paying the fees to come to the US, get her 2 year green card, then her 10 year green card and eventually become a US Citizen with a US Passport? We followed the laws and paid the fees. These immigrants can do the same. If not Goodbye.

  6. George says:

    To all the people who say, “Give it a rest, Trump won, accept it!” …did any one of you give it a rest during the Obama administration? I think not. First the birther conspiracy theorists, then “OBAMA IS A MUSLIM!” and also, “Obama ruined the economy and there are no jobs.” relentlessly and for years, none of which is true. Blindly following a president just because he is the president is foolishness and madness.

  7. snapperhead says:

    Couldn’t agree more George….you know if Trump ran and won as a Democrat the same people who worship him at the altar now, would be lining up investigations of his Russian connections, tax returns and business dealings. But because their side “won” any questioning of the asterisk president policies, ass kissing of Russia, moral ineptitude and daily fabrication of lies and misinformation is totally acceptable. Hillary Clinton isn’t the only one that lost on Nov 8th…the country lost….bigly.

  8. Richard Smith says:

    Nothing is preventing anyone from changing countries. I have yet to be detained at the border attempting to leave.

  9. Sherry says:

    Amazing that our local racists can only beat their chests and say over and over again. . . trump won, you lose! No compassion for their fellow humans what so ever! Where exactly is their “loving” Christian God?

    They are correct about the “trump won you lose” part though. . . . we all LOST! We LOST American values! Equality, Honesty, Ethics, Integrity, Love, Compassion, Caring, Justice. . . . ALL LOST in the new age of FEAR and HATE!

  10. Pogo says:

    The day after Trump finally blows away in a cloud of his own dirt, none of these get-over-it-and-move-on birds will even admit they voted for him. But the resistance movement that Trump created will just be a beginning.

    Thanks Trump.

  11. Geezer says:

    George:
    The people you cite sound like 3rd-grade dropouts who took a course in parroting.
    No offense to real parrots. They are beautiful birds and a whole lot more intelligent
    than the alt-right boobs.

    Sherry:
    “ALL LOST in the new age of FEAR and HATE!”
    This is nothing new–let’s just call it an “unmasking.”
    The bigots have been emboldened, but look at the bright side: the more they talk,
    the more they reveal just how profoundly dumb they are.

  12. Sherry says:

    Awwww. . . wonderful Geezer! Buenos Diaz . . . all the way from near Antigua, Guatemala! We have soooooo missed you, and your intelligent and entertaining comments!

    Your are most certainly correct regarding the “unmasking”. . . . the lid has be removed from the cesspool of humanity in our country. “Civilization” is taking a huge step “backwards”!

  13. ed james says:

    if the Immigrants are here legally, thats fine..if not GET OUT!! PERIOD

  14. Common Sense says:

    Trump’s presidency will go down in history as the most corrupt and divisive in our history.

  15. Nancy says:

    Not TOO biased a commentary by Mr. Dyckman….I guess it’s okay for him to spew his opinion but not for those opposing.

  16. Richard Smith says:

    @ Common Sense – and I bet you think that Obama’s two terms in office were not completely filled with lies and corruption. Plus he was able to divide this country in so many ways there isn’t enough space here to list them all but here are a few – blacks against whites, blacks killing blacks, blacks against cops, illegal immigrants killing innocent people. Trump will have a hard time overtaking Obama for first place. Not too much common sense, Eh!

  17. Ws says:

    A country unbecoming? What country are you in?? I love this country and I love our new President, Donald Trump. Finally we have a real president who is doing what we the people elected him to do. What is unbecoming is the alt-left continuing their attacks of violence, non-stop speeches of hate and verbal abuse from the media. Go home snowflakes and eat a donut!

  18. Richard Smith says:

    If Trump had run as a democrat I would have still voted for him, I vote for the person and what they stand for along with what they promise to do as president. I have never voted a party line and never will even though I am a registered republican. In fact I wished that Trump would have stayed a democrat then the country would not have had to listen to crooked Hillary’s blabber and her nothing platform which was built on her lies and corrupted political career.

  19. Carbonated carbon cabal says:

    This editorial says nothing about the jobs lost and small companies destroyed by the “el cheapo” wages that the illegals accept. Shame on the myopia by everyone who enables the degredation of the labor wages. This model ultimately fails because fewer and fewer people have enough purchasing power to buy the goods and services that are produced or provided for less The tax base shrinks and tax revenues decrease. The old adage is true. ..you get what you pay for.

  20. palmcoaster says:

    Better watch what you wish for here when it comes to undermine and insult and prejudice Mexico and Mexicans!
    Mexico is the United States’ second-largest export market and third-largest trading partner. With the world’s 11th-largest population, it offers significant prospects for exporting: You can reach more than 110 million potential customers when you ship to Mexico. Mexico has huge potential and has demonstrated predictable, stable economic growth. And by taking advantage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), your products may qualify to enter Mexico duty-free, saving you money. Learn more about North American trade solutions.

    Ship nowhttps://smallbusiness.fedex.com/international/country-snapshots/mexico.html?cmp=KNC-1001816-2-3151-950-0100000-US-US-EN-NBZ4770Z01ZINTL&s_kwcid=AL!3806!3!188921944034!b!!g!!exporting%20to%20mexico&code=FXT%7CInternational%7CNB%7CBM%7CCountry%7CMexico&ef_id=VBePuwAABPmEwQee:20170407210109:s

  21. Augggie says:

    I think the 2 party system needs to end, when it final upshot becomes– hatred towards anyone of the opposite, regardless, of the fact—you do not know that person
    . That, IS what our society has turned it into.
    Wasnt there a little something about- One Nation, under God…. etc?
    I admit Im scared of T, for his 100% lack of governing experience in politics, and his ego.To me, seems a foolish mix, to govern a wealthy country, into….?
    I think he is used to having his way & does not know the history of anyone hes dealing with, in any situation, that requires study & knowing who’s real & who’s not. Every President needs a Henry Kissinger, too bad thats not possible.

  22. anon2 says:

    Nazi-loving Trump and his corrupt minions are out to ruin this country. Just now we are bleeding jobs at 30,000+ a month since Feb. Republicans and Trump want to throw out the ACA and provide their millionaire friends with (more) massive tax cuts, while stealing the food out of the mouths of the poor and middle class, literally. They put corrupt rich people into positions of power who don’t have a CLUE what to do, and for all you Trump supporting Medicare recipients, Trump and his band of ‘robbing from the poor to give to the rich’ pirates are after YOUR medicare and social security too. They want to change the Constitution so that the only thing left in it is the 2nd amendment. Republicans here in Florida have already tried passing legislation that would take away freedoms and the balance of powers (Travis Hutson is one of them, Rep. Gonzalez is another, Renner wants to destroy the tourism industry and they ALL want to allow fracking and oil pollution to happen here). Stop listening to Limbaugh and corrupt scummy Gingrich and low-life Hannity and fake conspiracy theorists like Breitbart and Alex Jones. Wake up! Before we have Great Depression II, Hitler II and WWIII.

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