Editorial: Trump’s immigration policies cast dark shadow over L.I.

Editorial: Trump’s immigration policies cast dark shadow over L.I.

President Donald Trump’s views on immigration were well known the first time he came to Long Island to tout his immigration policies and efforts to combat MS-13 gang violence here.

Trump kicked off his presidential campaign in June 2015 by demonizing Mexican immigrants: “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

And he repeatedly linked Mexicans and others from Central America with increasing the crime rate and unemployment in this country.

So it was little surprise when Trump came to Brentwood in July 2017 to falsely claim that MS-13, a transnational gang that has ties to El Salvador and uses machetes to kill, had turned Long Island neighborhoods into “blood-stained killing fields.”

And when he returned to Long Island in May, Trump repeatedly referred to gang members as “animals” and called for the country’s political leadership to toughen “horrible”  immigration laws.

This was the start of a midterm elections campaign centered on stoking resentment and anger among his base.

The tipoff was the timing of his Long Island visit.

From January 2016 through April 2017, the Suffolk County police said there were 17 murders committed by MS-13. In Nassau County, there were six MS-13 murders.

But the gang had not killed a single person on Long Island in a year. Need an explanation? See above.

On Wednesday, Trump once again used Long Island as a backdrop in his election campaign, twice claiming he had “liberated towns” on Long Island with his tough tactics.

Never mind that the reduction in MS-13 crime was actually the result of effective local law enforcement with the help of the federal government.

But what happened to the “animals” that were threatening Long Island the month before?

The explanation is the outrage which greeted a “zero tolerance’ policy implemented by his administration in which children as young as three months old were ripped from their parents’ arms at the U.S. border and placed in what amounted to prisons.

And Trump’s need to distract people from his reversal of the policy after it appeared to be doing more political harm than good.

In its place, the administration began making plans to house up to 100,000 migrants – including children – in modern-day internment camps for an undetermined amount of time.

And on Sunday, Trump took a page out of the dictator playbook by saying that people who enter the United States illegally should be sent back immediately to where they came from without any judicial process. The Constitution be damned.

Long Island was once against thrust into the limelight when it was learned that a location in Syosset was housing 10 of the more than 2,000 children separated from their parents, many of whom had traveled 1,000 miles to escape gang violence.

The children had been shipped off, often in the dead of night by plane and by bus, to locations across the country with no system in place to ever reunite them with their parents.

Making this unspeakable cruelty worse is that Trump’s justifications are lies.

Immigrants are not a crime threat. Native-born Americans are incarcerated at almost twice the rate of undocumented immigrants and nearly three times the rate of legal immigrants. And crime rates in America are at historic lows.

So are border crossings. They are a fraction of what they were 10 years ago, and more Mexicans are leaving the country than entering.

But repugnant as it is, fearmongering and demonizing minorities can be politically effective.

Voters who supported Trump in the 2016 Republican primary approved of family separation by a 45-point margin, 68 percent to 23 percent, according to YouGov/Economist polling conducted this month.

In recent remarks, Trump has referred to immigrants as “breeders” and claimed immigrants had “infested” and “invaded” this country.

Infestations are caused by insects and rats – not people. There is a long, sad dark history of leaders who use words like that to describe people and where that leads.

For all these reasons, people on Long Island – elected and unelected – should use the elevated position Trump has assigned us to oppose his immigration policies and embrace the words of President Ronald Reagan in his farewell address.

“I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it,” Reagan said. “But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it, and see it still.”

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