Now I know what Americans – a significant number of them anyway – think of people like me. I’m hurt and I’m furious.
I came to America with stars in my eyes. After the required five years as a landed immigrant, I stood in the Tampa Court House and swore allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands.
The Republic I had in mind was a land in which everyone – rich and poor alike – was regarded with respect, where the old caste system of the British Empire had been replaced with equality for all – equal rights under the law, equal opportunity to succeed, equal social standing… a land of brotherhood from sea to shining sea.
I was inspired by the preamble to the Declaration of Independence.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
I was moved by the compassion reflected on the plaque that adorns the Statue of Liberty:
Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
Surely America had to be a land where I would be welcome, where I would be treated with respect regardless of my financial or social standing, where I could build a life for myself and my family, free from any stigma based on class or race?
I have lived in America for the past 36 years, working as a newspaperman, interacting with Americans, sharing chit-chat over coffee or a beer, exchanging smiles and pleasantries, never suspecting for a moment what some of them must have been thinking.
But recently I have been wondering. I have been wondering about the way young black men are gunned down – by police and others – with apparent impunity, how that poor Sandra Bland was bullied to her death, how states have been restricting voters’ rights for minorities.
Now it seems I need wonder no more. Donald Trump put into words what a lot of Americans seem to feel. He said that immigrants are a blight on America, that we create “problems,” that those who cross the border from Mexico, for example, are “rapists and drug dealers.”
Did Americans immediately repudiate this man’s bigotry? Some did, of course. But look at the polls! Trump is enjoying a surge of popularity among Republicans.
And this morning any doubts I might have had were laid to rest.
The “Fox News Insider” site reports a revealing comment that Ann Coulter made on last night’s “Hannity” show. She said she fully supports Trump’s remarks on immigration but thinks he didn’t go far enough.
My only quibble with him is that, number one, it’s legal immigrants, too. And, number two, there are no good ones.
So now we immigrants know how Americans really feel about us – at least the Americans who support people like Donald Trump and Ann Coulter.