Donald Trump tripled down on his usual rhetoric at a Wednesday campaign rally in Phoenix, Ariz., regarding the removal of 11 million people – what he calls illegal immigrants – and his great wall that he will somehow force Mexico to pay for, calling for a complete reform of who the United States will accept as citizens if he were to win the presidential election.

Opinion box“We take anybody, come on in anybody. Just come on in. Not anymore!” Donald Trump told an enthusiastic crowd, saying the country had admitted 59 million immigrants since 1965. “That is the only conversation we should be having at this time: Immigration, security. Cut it off.”

What he meant is that pre-1965, U.S. immigration policy was based on quotas that drastically favored northern European countries such as the U.K. and Germany and restricted immigration from Asia and Africa – and even from southern and eastern Europe.

Pro-Trump buttons being sold in Reno, Nev., advocate for a wall between Mexico and the United States.

Pro-Trump buttons being sold in Reno, Nev., advocate for a wall between Mexico and the United States. (Photo: Darron Birgenheier)

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 passed by Congress and signed into law by President Lyndon Baines Johnson, was a significant break from those policies.

Opponents claimed the United States was basically a Anglo-Saxon nation and that the new law, also known as the Hart–Celler Act, would change the face of the nation. In fact, it did exactly that: We are now a more diverse, inclusive nation, with races and people from all over the world.

Trump is not only calling for a deportation force to remove millions of innocent people, including families, children and the elderly, but for an end to an inclusive immigration policy in favor of one that allows in only people he chooses, believing they will be beneficial to the United States. That precludes the displays of empathy and charity for which the United States has always been known for – the kind captured in lines by Emma Lazarus inscribed at the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

This hard line on anti-immigrant policy, regardless of whether the immigrants are documented or not, is due to the recent addition of hate mongers such as Stephen Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News, which promotes nothing but hatred for anyone and anything different from what they believe is American.

Regardless if Trump wins the presidential election, the change in attitude toward immigrants is alarming. Millions of people throughout the United States – even here in Cambridge – are siding with Trump, resulting in an increase in hate crimes. The racist language surrounding the fight for the Islamic community to bury their dead in Western Massachusetts is only being spoken at town meetings due to the empowerment racists feel due to Trump’s popularity.


Emmanuel “Manny” Lusardi is an East Cambridge resident and immigrant activist working to increase immigrant representation in Cambridge city government.