The Trumpian case against supporters of a liberal immigration policy is that we are indifferent to law, blasé about crime and blind to the social costs illegal immigrants impose on American communities. How better to feed that case than to misrepresent, and then take umbrage at, the president’s tough talk on a psychotic Latin American gang?
The blunt truth is that immigrants have brought crime to our shores for a very long time: Decades before MS-13, there were the Dead Rabbits (Irish), Flying Dragons (Chinese), Undzer Shtik (Jewish) and, of course, the Cosa Nostra. And for just as long politicians have tried to portray immigrants as criminals, from the Know Nothings of the 1850s to the authors of the Immigration Act of 1924. Now the nativist-in-chief is also the commander-in-chief.
The intelligent answer to Trump can’t be that we have nothing to fear when it comes to immigrants, or that every attempt to enforce immigration laws or discuss immigration ills is just a thinly veiled form of xenophobia. The right answer is that, on net and over time, we have far more to gain from immigrants than we have to lose from them.