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Trump is trying to Make America White Again

Eugene Robinson on

The net result of Trump's plan -- the whole purpose, apparently -- would be to welcome fewer people of color into the United States. In an Oval Office meeting, Trump reportedly demanded to know why there couldn't be more immigrants from countries such as Norway. Surely it is not a coincidence that Norway is one of the whitest countries in the world.

It should also be noted that while Trump's proposal would provide a 10- to 12-year path to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented immigrants who came into the country as children, it says nothing at all about the other 9 million or so here without documents. Presumably they would remain in the shadows.

There's a simple question here: Do you believe in America or not?

Throughout its history, the country has accepted waves of mostly low-skilled immigrants -- German, Irish, Italian, Eastern European, now Latino. There are highly skilled immigrants, too; African newcomers, for example, are better-educated than the U.S. population as a whole, and an estimated 63 percent of people holding "computer and mathematical" STEM jobs in Silicon Valley are foreign-born. But most immigrants over the years have arrived bearing not much more than grit, ambition and a dream.

Does an influx of workers with entry-level skills tend to depress wages? That's the wrong question. Instead, we should be asking why the federal minimum wage is so low as to be almost irrelevant.

And we should recognize that immigration gives the United States a tremendous competitive advantage. In other advanced countries, populations are aging rapidly. Immigration provides a steady stream of younger workers whose brain and brawn keep programs such as Medicare and Social Security viable.

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The only coherent -- if despicable -- arguments for Trump's plan are racial and cultural. The way they used to put it in the Jim Crow days was succinct: White is right.

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Eugene Robinson's email address is eugenerobinson@washpost.com.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group

 

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