Some people who voted for Donald Trump have a deep-seated hatred of immigrants. They are racists who represent the absolute worst of America.
But I don’t believe that every person who voted for Donald Trump is a racist or a xenophobe. There are good people who voted Trump, for a range of reasons.
Candidate Trump tapped into fear across suburban and rural America that we haven’t seen in such a powerful way before. Voters responded to a candidate who voiced their deep anxiety, and yes, some of that anxiety was about us, the “other.” That was a proxy for the economy, jobs and national security, but perhaps most of all for identity.
As much as the campaign was about fear, what happens next comes down to a definition of culture, values and who we are as a country.
President-elect Trump has an incredible challenge ahead.
America, built by immigrants, welcomes them and relies on their contributions. Our shared values include patriotism, love of country and freedom and family. Understanding this is a point of pride for us as a people.
First, he must understand that some people have taken his rhetoric regarding Latinos, Muslims and others as permission to express their worst instincts. He must — must — revoke that permission by loudly and clearly denouncing hate and restating his desire to represent all Americans. We need both words and actions — beginning with whom he appoints to positions in his administration.
(Naming Stephen Bannon a top adviser was not a promising step.)
But Trump also has an opportunity to surprise us. That’s because we might be closer to consensus on immigration reform than we realize.
Trump and Hillary Clinton supporters alike wanted solutions for an immigration system that is not working well for our country. But Trump’s specific proposals on immigration are out of step with what most Americans, including his own supporters, envision. And his proposals on immigration would set our country back, should he implement them.
A poll released in October, not long before the election, showed that 60 percent of Trump supporters and 80 percent of voters overall want a way for undocumented immigrants to earn legalized status, once they meet certain conditions.
With his recent statements in support of ever-greater border enforcement and desire to deport 3 million “criminals” (an arbitrary number impossible to reach unless mothers and fathers are detained), we have reason to doubt that President Trump will behave very differently from Candidate Trump. Unless that changes, we may have to find common ground on our own.
All of us must build new relationships and help all Americans see the love and patriotism immigrants bring to their adopted country. Immigrants, their families and their communities must stand up not only for their desire to contribute to this country, but to help the United States remain the great country that has always been a light in the world.
That means we must fight to protect those whose ability to stay here depends on programs such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. And we must do so in a way that emphasizes our shared values as Americans and our common love of country.
The only practical solution remains immigration reform that includes a pathway to earned legalized status and citizenship, alongside measures that assure the safety and security of everyone in our communities. A Republican-led White House, Senate and House have the opportunity to take full and fair credit for this type of solution. Or they can take credit for walls and deportations.
President-elect Trump, when he becomes President Trump, will have the opportunity to heal this country.
But first we must listen to one another, and President-elect Trump must listen to all of us.