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Trump Co-Opts Mexican Holiday with Proclamation Demonizing Illegal Immigrants

Forget the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free”—the president says there’s “no room at the inn.”
November 1, 2020
Trump Co-Opts Mexican Holiday with Proclamation Demonizing Illegal Immigrants
A demonstrator disguised as a Catrina walks along the border fence during a protest against US President Donald Trump's migration policies, in Playas de Tijuana, Baja California state, on the border with the US, on October 31, 2020 - Trump said in an interview with Mexican newspaper El Universal released Friday, that he will keep hard migration policies with Mexico if he wins the election, and that he presumes there will be a good relationship with the country, since he "wants to make America great again, and President Lopez Obrador wants to make Mexico great again". (Photo by Guillermo Arias / AFP) (Photo by GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP via Getty Images)

Thirty-five minutes before midnight on Friday, Donald Trump dumped a Halloween surprise on the country. It was so stunningly tone-deaf, many initially thought it was parody. It wasn’t.

The president introduced a proclamation to assist “Our Angel Families” before using the deaths as a launching-board to brag about his mostly unbuilt border wall. The proclamation, headlined “National Day of Remembrance for Americans Killed by Illegal Aliens, 2020,” sets aside November 1 for this occasion—or Día de Muertos, the Day of the Dead. The move has been decried as insensitive by many in the Hispanic community on social media.

“I call upon the people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities,” Trump, or more likely Stephen Miller, wrote.

The proclamation emailed to White House reporters did not show up until hours later on the White House website, prompting many to believe the callous, xenophobic statement was either satire or “fake news.” When we reported the proclamation many were left wondering, Is this real? or Can they sink any lower?

The answers are: Yes, it is real. And yes, they can sink lower.

This latest proclamation has led many to question the administration’s priorities. George Conway tweeted out, “When’s the National Day of Remembrance for Americans Killed by the Trump Administration’s Failed Pandemic Response?”

Actor Jon Cryer noted that “immigrants both documented and undocumented commit crime at a LOWER rate than citizens. Are we gonna have a national day of remembrance for the vastly larger group of Americans killed by Americans?”

Others wondered if we would have a national day of remembrance for those killed by police, white supremacists, and other assorted mayhem.

As the election gets closer, Trump and his cronies are hitting all their foghorns. Never forget that racism is a cornerstone theme in the Trump rancid roadshow. And remember, they can always go lower.

Trump’s not above using the dead to promote his wall, which Mexico has never paid for and which remains largely unbuilt. Independent audits show that most of the wall Trump claims has been built is actually replacement, and just a few miles of new wall have been erected. That’s not much of an erection along a 1,954-mile-long border. It’s also mostly steel bollard fencing, and not the “wall” Trump promised.

But facts, again, mean little and have never meant much to Donald Trump.

If they did, he wouldn’t have co-opted the Day of the Dead that many immigrants celebrate to proclaim a day of celebration for the families of those who have died by the hands of undocumented immigrants.

His proclamation not only foments anger against immigrants, but goes against the American principles enshrined on the Statue of Liberty. Emma Lazarus’s sonnet “The New Colossus,” cast in bronze and mounted inside the statue’s lower level, is seemingly irrelevant to Trump and his ilk:

. . . “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

In Trump’s vision of America, we don’t want the wretched refuse. We sure don’t want any homeless. He tells us these people are “thugs” and “very bad people.”

The history of the United States has been one of acceptance of immigration. As President Ronald Reagan put it in his 1988 State of the Union address, America has long been a shining city on a hill for freedom-loving people everywhere, open and accepting people from other countries, with minimal requirements to become citizens.

But for those who have come from our own hemisphere, south of us, America has failed to live up to these ideals and often been dismissive of our neighbor’s efforts to become part of the American experiment. We waged wars to reduce the size of Mexico and increase our own country’s size due to “manifest destiny.”

“I spent 33 years in the Marines, most of my time being a high-class muscle man for big business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short I was a racketeer for Capitalism,” explained one of the most decorated Marines in U.S. history, Brigadier General Smedley D. Butler, in his famous speech and later book War is a Racket. He warned of the dangers in waging wars in our own hemisphere for the sake of profit or business interests.

As Butler pointed out, we have tried to keep Central and South America in check for years in order to provide cheap labor for the United States. Trump’s disdain for the downtrodden certainly isn’t anything new.

But Trump’s xenophobia is blatant and unmatched in modern American political culture.

Not only does he not pay lip service to the ideals of our forefathers or heed the advice and warnings from generals, he has adopted a new ideal: No room at the inn. Caging children and disparaging the immigrant population by singling out the very few undocumented immigrants who commit violent crimes does a disservice not only to the immigrant community but to the victims of the violent crimes—reducing them to pawns in Trump’s greater xenophobic vision for the United States.

Many victims of violent crimes in immigrant communities are immigrants themselves and many of the crimes in those communities go unreported for fear of being deported. These are not the people whom Trump is engaging with this proclamation. No, this is another callous political stunt to appeal to his base of God-fearing white people.

As the country heads into the final stretch of the election, it’s increasingly obvious that not only will Trump not change—he is incapable of it and administration has only one note left to play: Fear.

They want you afraid.

Don’t be.

Brian Karem

Brian Karem is the former senior White House correspondent for Playboy magazine. He successfully sued Donald Trump to keep his press pass after Trump tried to suspend it. He has also gone to jail to defend a reporter's right to keep confidential sources.