Fabiola Santiago

Fabiola Santiago: Trump campaign feeds ignorance and fear

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets the crowd at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. Trump wants to deny citizenship to the babies of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally as part of an immigration plan that emphasizes border security and deportation for millions.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets the crowd at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. Trump wants to deny citizenship to the babies of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally as part of an immigration plan that emphasizes border security and deportation for millions. AP

GOP front-runner Donald Trump’s immigration plan to “take back our country” is already yielding results: a Trump-inspired hate crime in Boston.

Two brothers leaving a Boston Red Sox game used a sleeping Hispanic homeless man as a punching bag for their frustrations. According to the police report, they urinated on his face, punched him and hit him with a metal pole, leaving him badly bruised, shaken and with a broken nose.

The brothers walked away from the crime scene laughing, witnesses told police. As they were being arrested, one of the brothers, 38-year-old Scott Leader, told police it was OK to assault the man because he was Hispanic and homeless.

“Trump’s right, all these illegals need to be deported,” Leader said.

That’s what hate speech does — it feeds ignorance, poisons people, turns them into barbarians. And by now, we’ve seen plenty of evidence that attacks flare up around the nation every time anti-immigrant rhetoric rises to a fever pitch in congressional debates, political campaigns and after terrorist attacks such as 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombing.

So why aren’t Republican candidates standing up to Trump’s hateful rhetoric and distancing themselves from his brand of negative, soul-sucking campaigning?

Because, despite Trump’s release of a xenophobic “Immigration Reform That Will Make America Great Again” platform, a CNN poll placed Trump closer to Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, than he has ever been before. He trails her only by six percentage points in a general-election match-up.

Fear and ignorance is what Trump feeds followers in a platform short on facts and high on racist beliefs. He not only calls for erecting a 2,000-mile wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and the deportation of 11 million people, including DREAMers, but he now wants to take away birthright citizenship and institutionalize a right-wing police state. Under President Trump even citizens would have to obtain federal work permits and answer to immigration police guarding cities as if this were a military dictatorship.

Trump’s divisive proposals — not to mention his offensive and trashy demeanor — should be an opportunity for GOP candidates to offer desperately needed sanity.

But instead, they cocoon with the billionaire celebrity on immigration.

“I’m a fan of Donald Trump,” says a slobbering Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said the United States should “absolutely” stop granting birthright citizenship.

Miami son Marco Rubio, whose parents were not citizens when he was born here in 1971, said he’s “not in favor of repealing” the constitutional provision that automatically grants citizenship to people born in the United States. But he told reporters in Iowa: “I'm open to doing things that prevent people who deliberately come to the U.S. for purposes of taking advantage of the 14th Amendment.”

Just how he plans to be in the bedroom at the time of conception to ascertain a couple’s motivation to reproduce, he didn’t explain.

As much as Rubio would like to distance himself from the barrio where he grew up to appeal to the GOP’s conservative white male base, surely he’s heard of the expression “nos mastican, pero no nos tragan.” They chew us, but won’t swallow. His poor poll numbers show that all his efforts to appeal to them are failing. In the slate of immigrant-bashing GOP candidates, he’s become just one more immigrant. The same goes for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, another sorry example of the self-loathing son of immigrants.

The only candidate with a shot at turning the hate talk around and becoming the GOP nominee is another Miamian, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. But he can’t afford to upset his conservative Texas-Florida base — and so, his stance on immigration is, at best, anemic. And his unfortunate use of the controversial term “anchor babies” for the U.S.-born children of immigrants doesn’t help the cause of constructive conversation on immigration.

But at least Bush was willing to rebuff Trump on Friday. He tweeted: “His massive inconsistencies aside, @realDonaldTrump’s immigration plan is not conservative and does not reflect our nation’s values.”

For the weary, at least it was something.

If the goal is to win the election, the GOP candidates shouldn’t be following Trump, but learning from Mitt Romney’s defeat. He coined the phrase “self deport” and dissed the non-white 47 percent he figured wouldn’t be voting for him anyway. He self-destructed where it counts: the voting booth.

The times call for leadership that comes with a substantive bipartisan plan on immigration reform based on fact, reality, and not fear mongering. Making immigrants the scapegoat for what ails the country is a Trump smokescreen to hijack the electoral process.

His initial reaction to the Boston attack only brings out the egomaniac.

“I will say that people who are following me are very passionate,” Trump told the Boston Globe. “They love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate.”

But on Friday he was softening his tone and tweeted that the incident was “terrible.”

“We need energy and passion, but we must treat each other with respect,” Trump said.

Too little, too late.

We need to take back our country from Donald Trump — and the campaign, too.