BUILD a wall. Curb undocumented immigration. End sanctuary cities. Implement an extreme vetting process.
In his anticipated immigration speech in Phoenix, Arizona on Wednesday night, August 31, these were some of the policies Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said would help “take our country back.”
“When politicians talk about immigration reform, they usually mean the following: amnesty, open borders, and lower wages,” Trump said. “Immigration reform should mean something else entirely: it should mean improvements to our laws and policies to make life better for American citizens.”
The issue of immigration — particularly undocumented immigration, which Trump said is “one of the greatest challenges” the country faces — has been a bedrock of the real estate billionaire’s campaign. In announcing his candidacy last year, he mentioned that Mexican immigrants were “rapists” and “bringing drugs” into the United States.
Following the attack in San Bernardino, California in December, Trump proposed banning Muslims from entering the country until lawmakers “can figure out what is going on.”
Last month, he even received backlash from many Filipino-Americans when he suggested curbing immigration from “terrorist nations,” including the Philippines. He cited the case of a Philippine citizen living in California who was convicted of plotting to join Al Qaeda.
Prior to his speech, Trump went to Mexico earlier that day to meet with President Enrique Peña Nieto, a conversation he said was “thoughtful and substantive.”
The Republican candidate said he and the Mexican president did not discuss the latter’s government footing the bill for the border separating the U.S. and Mexico. However, during his remarks, Trump suggested otherwise.
“We will build a great wall along the southern border. And Mexico will pay for the wall. One hundred percent,” he said. “They don’t know it yet, but they’re going to pay for it.”
Among other policies he proposed in his hour-long remarks included: end catch-and-release; “zero tolerance for criminal aliens”; “cancel unconstitutional executive orders and enforce all immigration laws”; suspend issuance of visas without proper screening; and making sure countries take back deported individuals.
Though reports leading up to the long-awaited speech speculated that he would backtrack from his hard-line immigration stance in an attempt to garner broader appeal, he reiterated that those without papers would be deported.
“Anyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation. That is what it means to have laws and to have a country,” he said.
He went on to add that under his administration, a pathway to legal status would be impossible for undocumented immigrants because “those days are over.”
The only solution, he said, would be for them to return to their home countries.
“For those here illegally today, who are seeking legal status, they will have one route and one route only. To return home and apply for re-entry like everybody else, under the rules of the new legal immigration system that I have outlined above,” he said.
For some Fil-Am Republicans, Trump’s speech supported their beliefs that potential immigrants should wait in line to enter the U.S.
Consuelo Almonte, founder and president of the Philippine Community Center Services for Aging in New York, applauded Trump’s speech and said he “expresses the failures of this administration.”
“I am with Trump for zero tolerance for illegal aliens that [are] flooding our schools, our hospitals [and] social welfare. It is a burden for the citizens and taxpayers,” she said. “Furthermore, there should be extreme vetting for those who want to stay here. Those who desire to stay here should assimilate and respect our laws and accept our norm of life. Otherwise, why would anyone wants to live in a place where they despise the way of life? Simple as that.”
Emmanuel Tipon, an 83-year-old immigration lawyer from Hawaii, said the core of the immigration debate is the “well-being of the American people.”
“Filipinos waiting for visa availability should be taken care of first before letting others in. Immigration policy should be based on national interest [and] what is good for America,” Tipon said on Thursday, Sept. 1.
Lisa Noeth, a Fil-Am small business owner and grassroots Republican Party volunteer in Las Vegas, told the Asian Journal that “there is a misconception about Mr. Trump’s tough stance on immigration.”
“Illegal immigration in the United States should not be taken lightly, because if you are entering the United States illegally, it is a criminal act. Here is an example of why illegal immigration must be halted under Mr. Trump’s administration,” she said. “I’ve heard stories countless Filipinos, who’ve applied for their visas to come to the United States. Unfortunately, the immigration process takes them 10-15 years to have their visas approved to legally [come to] the United States.”
Shirlene Ostrov — a Fil-Am retired Air Force colonel who is running under the Republican ticket in the race for Hawaii’s 1st congressional district — said Trump’s policies show “his concern for safety” and are “good attempts to restore law and order” in the country.
“As the daughter of immigrants, I do believe in a vibrant immigration system that is enforced properly and takes into account the safety and security of American citizens,” Ostrov told the Asian Journal.
However, she noted that she disagrees with “the notion of ideological certifications,” a screening test that Trump said would ensure the U.S. was bringing in people who “share our values and love our people.” Earlier in August, the Republican nominee proposed the vetting system, alleging that the U.S. government does not know exactly who is coming in.
On the other hand, the campaign for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton said it was Trump’s “darkest speech yet.”
“Donald Trump once again showed us that he will continue his decades-long record of divisiveness and campaign of hate by pledging to forcibly remove every single undocumented immigrant from our country,” the campaign said.
Similarly, Clinton supporters echoed the campaign’s reactions.
Meriam Reynosa, a member of Filipino Americans for Hillary, said, “If Trump were elected, he really would create a barbaric state of America because all of us would continuously have to look over our shoulders. Undocumented people would have to live in fear of being deported every day.”
“As the first Filipino American in the California Legislature and the son of an immigrant, I am disgusted by how casually Trump speaks about deporting millions of people, including Filipinos. He has demonstrated a willful ignorance about America’s history and our values, and is simply unfit to serve as president of our United States of America,” Assemblymember Rob Bonta told the Asian Journal in a statement. “The only candidate with the vision to lead and a plan for comprehensive immigration reform is Secretary Clinton.”
Aries Dela Cruz, president of the Filipino American Democratic Club of New York, said listening to the speech “seemed like a nightmare.”
“In that America, Filipino immigrants like me and my family are not welcome. The Filipino community will not be fooled by Trump’s hostility against our families and his desire to round us up. It’s clear now that he is not the leader of a party or a campaign, but a hate movement. That’s why we will be out in full force in November to vote for Hillary, and why we are working every day to make sure our community’s vote and voice will be a decisive one,” he told the Asian Journal in an email.