Politics & Prejudices: To hell with immigrants! 

Donald Trump hates "illegal immigrants," especially Mexicans, or at least he pretends to. In any case, his crude, racist immigrant-bashing — along with virtually unlimited funds — has now made him the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.

"When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best ... they're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists," he said, adding gratuitously, "and some, I assume, are good people."

Well, no one ever went brokemanx underestimating the intelligence of the American people, at least more than a year before Election Day.

The booboisie, as Mencken called them, love it. Trump has also vowed to deport any undocumented aliens, even if they are working important jobs and are valued members of the community.

"We'll let them back in," he said. "But they have to leave first."

Nothing like spreading a little economic chaos around. Perhaps he's been studying the European mass deportations after World War II for tips on how to do that (many thousands died) or figured that since he is The Donald, he'll have no trouble moving millions of people.

Doesn't matter; the mob roars its approval with each new proposal from the bumptious blustering billionaire, a man famous mostly for just being famous, a procession of Slavic lovers and wives and daughters, and what looks like a blond Manx cat on his head.

Trump's most outrageous proposal is to build a huge wall across all 1,954 miles of our southern border, and somehow, through threats and extortions, make Mexico pay for it. (He would also triple the number of immigration officers needed to patrol the border.)

Gee, back in my youth it was the bad guys, i.e., the East German Communists, who built walls to keep people out or in. (By the way, they called the Berlin Wall the "anti-fascist protection wall.")

Well, it's nice to know that somebody inspires Trump. I thought eventually we'd have a presidential candidate who was openly committed to destroying the ideal that was America, and we do.

I'm not sure if he would blast Emma Lazarus' famous poem off the Statue of Liberty (Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to break free ...) but he's totally against the classic idea of America as a haven and the last best hope of the world.

Trump even denies that the 14th Amendment grants citizenship to all children born here, even though the U.S. Supreme Court has said it does. How could a mere court ruling compete with the will of Trump?

My guess is that he doesn't know that the Constitution says that even undocumented people — illegal aliens in Trumpspeak — have a right to remain here if they have a legitimate fear of persecution.

That's what Freedom House, one the noblest institutions in Detroit, has been doing unselfishly since the late 1970s, helping hundreds of people who have been tortured, raped, and beaten win asylum in this country or Canada, giving them food and shelter and medical and legal assistance while they wait.

Few of the other Republicans striving for the presidency have been as strident as Trump. But most of them have been demagoging it up as well, bashing "sanctuary cities" and playing up the story of a beautiful young woman, Kathryn Steinle, who was allegedly killed by an illegal immigrant. (Finding a beautiful young female victim always guarantees better publicity.) She may well have been.

On the other hand, John F. Kennedy, John Lennon, Ronald Reagan, Gabrielle Giffords, and oh, a few thousand others, have been shot every year by young native-born white guys.

Wouldn't it be more efficient to deport all of them?

Not every Republican is as xenophobic or nasty as Trump. Gov. Rick Snyder has been trying to get more special visas for talented immigrants to come here and help build up Detroit.

But there are those who say that Detroit has already been ruined by illegal immigrants, something that started on July 24, 1701, when a group of presumably ragged and dirty Frenchmen beached their canoes about where the Hotel Crowne Plaza Pontchartrain now stands.

They scrambled up the river bank, and life has been lousy for the former inhabitants ever since. The Trumps of this world don't seem to realize that those of us of European ethnicity descended from people who were, back in the day, illegal as hell.

Speaking of which, one of the things I intend to ask when I get to hell is this: What if poor old Squanto, the Native American who did so much to help the early colonists survive, could have seen what the white man would do to his people, his country, and his continent?

Would he have buried his ax in some of their skulls... or in his own?

Fixing the roads

If you were paying attention last week to the perpetual clown show that is the Michigan Legislature, you saw that once again, they failed to do anything to fix the roads. (Well, they did do this.)

Republicans didn't want to increase taxes, even though we're all paying even more than any tax hike would cost in the expense of car repairs. Democrats weren't willing to steal the money from already shrunken education and social services budgets.

So our alleged representatives once more did nothing about the one issue people care most about.

But there is a quick, sensible, and easy way to get this done, if we can find enough lawmakers with the brains and backbone of an uncooked strand of linguini. First of all, outlaw the word tax.

Also forget terms like revenue increases, etc. We need to think of this as a "user fee." Even the most reactionary conservatives grudgingly accept user fees for things like hunting licenses.

So here's what we do: Enact a 30 cent-per-gallon user fee on gas and diesel, and earmark it only for road and bridge repair.

That would generate, according to experts at MDOT, the Michigan Department of Transportation, about $1.4 billion a year. That might not be quite enough — but it's better than anything we could ever hope to get out of the legislature.

Calling this a user fee is also legitimate. I, who drive a good 30,000 miles a year, would pay more than a 90-year-old who only drives half a mile a week to get her prescriptions. Besides, the beauty of this is that nobody would notice after about a week.

That's because gas prices fluctuate so much; what I've paid has varied by at least $1.50 a gallon since January, and prices are supposed to nosedive again later this year. If we want to have any future, what's important is fixing the roads, as soon as possible.

This would be the easiest and most surefire way.

Jack Lessenberry is head of the journalism program at Wayne State University and the senior political analyst for Michigan Public Radio.

More by Jack Lessenberry

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