Before his attack on the Khans – immigrant parents of a United States soldier who was killed in Iraq in 2004 – many immigrants in the United States and their children had voiced support for the Republican candidate Donald Trump.
This may seem odd given that Trump has spoken about building a wall along the Mexican border, barring Muslims from entering the US, and making disparaging comments against various ethnic and religious groups.
One would think that such comments would have made Trump radioactive among immigrants and their descendants, but that was not the case.
A considerable number of legal immigrants in the US say they played by the rules and waited many years before they were allowed to immigrate.
They believe illegal immigrants took advantage of the porous US-Mexican border or overstayed in the country with their visitor visas illegally. The main argument is that this is fundamentally a question of fairness.
Another reason many legal immigrants have voiced support for Trump is because he is the quintessential entrepreneur in their estimation.
It is fair to say that most immigrants who come to the US want to achieve the American dream that, in their eyes, means starting a business, prospering and giving their children a better life than they had back in their old country.
What about the children and the future generations of legal immigrants? Many of them saw how hard it was for their parents to earn a living in the US – in reality the American dream was a real struggle – as they faced language barriers and, at times, discrimination.
They say that their parents endured a lot but, through hard work and perseverance, overcame obstacles and made a better life for themselves and their children.
Coupled with this sentiment is the belief that the government “did not give their parents any handouts”, nor were there any applications in multiple languages as there are now. Immigrants were compelled to learn English to succeed.
Of course, such beliefs are not entirely accurate. Today, while many legal immigrants get some government assistance, the illegals do not because they would then have to come out from the shadows and be subject to deportation.
In addition, many of the earlier immigrants lived in ghettoised communities and never learned proper English.
Nonetheless, the feeling that the new immigrants – particularly the illegal ones – are “taking advantage of the system” seems to grate on many of the descendants of the earlier waves of immigrants.
The country that they knew growing up seems to be changing for the worse in their eyes. That is why when Trump says he is “going to make America great again” this phrase has some resonance with some immigrants and their children.
If Trump had just stuck with the issue of illegal immigration, he would not be in such hot water today. But as a narcissist, he cannot control himself. His attack on the Khan family who appeared at the Democratic National Convention was a bridge too far.
Unless he apologises and avoids such comments in the future, he will remain in second place and will not regain the support of many immigrants and their children, particularly those who served in the military, of which there are many.
This article has been excerpted from: ‘Immigrants and Donald Trump: It’s a complicated story’. Courtesy: Aljazeera.com