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Editorial: No matter their politics, telling people of color to go back where they came from is wrong
Trump Twitter account
President Donald Trump's Twitter feed is photographed on an Apple iPad in New York, Thursday, June 27, 2019. - photo by Associated Press

Four congresswomen this past week were told by President Trump to go back where they came from to clean up their countries.

You’ve likely read opinions about that, heard opinions about that and have your own opinion about that.

Just in case you’re not up to speed, the four women are:

Trump’s terribly misguided tweets reflect an all too common sentiment in our country — the thought by some that if you don’t look sufficiently white European, then you can’t possibly be a legal resident of the United States.

Here in Hall County, the “go back where you came from” sentiment sounds all too familiar. Almost a third of our residents are Latino. Some are Americans by birth. Some are Americans by virtue of having obtained citizenship. Some are here as legal residents or with work visas. Some have no legal status, whether they crossed the border illegally, overstayed a visa or otherwise have no documentation.

It can be argued that those in that last category should return to their country, and we all know our immigration system needs serious work. However, all too frequently Latinos in all of those categories are lumped into the “illegal” group until they prove otherwise. 

The Times editorial board

Staff members

  • Norman Baggs, general manager
  • Shannon Casas, editor in chief

Community members

  • Cheryl Brown
  • David George
  • Mandy Harris
  • Brent Hoffman
  • J.C. Smith
  • Tom Vivelo

A man from Belgium, a woman from South Africa, a child from Canada — any could be here illegally, but questions of illegality aren’t lobbed at those who “look” American. Here, they’re directed with infuriating regularity at those with brown skin who speak Spanish. 

Most often at The Times we see these questions in regard to suspects of crimes. The questions about their legal status — or outright assumptions of their legal status — are asked on social media, called in to our newsroom and written in via email and snail mail. 

Those living in our community should follow its laws, including federal immigration laws. And to that end, suspects’ immigration status is checked by our local law enforcement as those suspects enter the jail. But their policies aren’t to check status based on skin color, just as employers don’t run E-verify background checks on new hires based on skin color. 

Our news articles don’t report that Latinos are here legally for the same reason they don’t report that white suspects are here legally — it’s not relevant unless they are here illegally.

When the default belief is that all Latinos immigrated illegally, it disenfranchises those who did come here legally or were in fact born here. The citizenship process is not easy, and those who work to become Americans should be celebrated more often. But Latino Americans shouldn’t have to prove they belong here any more than Irish Americans or African Americans or any other Americans.

Trump’s recent tweets weren’t nuanced with any challenge of the legality of his targets’ citizenship, which makes them even more divisive and disappointing. Instead, he sought to pit American against American with a message clearly based on skin color, ethnic heritage and political philosophy.

When our president encourages Americans to forsake their country for another, he’s saying they don’t belong here — and it doesn’t matter if they are American citizens.

If their vision for America is wrong, let’s talk about that. If their policies will hurt our country, let’s talk about that. 

There are plenty of legitimate political differences between the president and the four congresswomen that are deserving of public debate. But to lump them together in a single group based on their ethnic heritage instead of their political philosophy is wrong and it is racist.

We can have empathy for the humanity of others without endorsing their politics.

We can have a discussion about how to make America greater and the role of dissent in that process, but implying Americans don’t belong here because they don’t look like some of us does the opposite of making America great. We used to take pride in being known as the “melting pot of the world.” What happened?

Meanwhile, American-born children are growing up in our North Georgia community, attending our schools and increasingly moving into the workplace in fields such as health care, education or logistics.

Let’s celebrate this American dream rather than argue they’re not American enough, and focus our debates instead on policy, such as how to effectively and humanely patrol our border.

Asking our politicians to work together to find solutions to the country’s problems seems too tall an order these days. 

Parting the seas of Congress with inane comments rather than crossing the aisle to discuss solutions is unfortunately business as usual from both sides. And warring on Twitter has become the norm.

But at the very least, can we get back to arguing about ideas instead of accusing every opposing voice of hating the country we all call home?

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