“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” Donald Trump told the country when announcing his candidacy for president. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
That statement pretty much set the tone of the rest of the Trump campaign. From there, he would go on to attack the Muslim parents of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq, demand the removal of the U.S.-born judge in his Trump University fraud case because of his Mexican heritage, and promise that on his first day as president he would resume deporting so-called Dreamers, the foreign-born children of illegal immigrants who have been raised here as Americans.
On the other hand, consider the lives and deaths of Alonso Guillen and Tomas Carreon Jr. When Hurricane Harvey hit, Guillen and Carreon rushed to help. They left their homes in Lufkin, Texas with a borrowed boat and headed to Houston, a two-hour drive away, to try to rescue flooding victims.
On Wednesday night, around midnight, Guillen, Carreon and a third man were trying to negotiate swollen Cypress Creek near Houston, hoping to reach an apartment building where people were stranded in the rising waters. Their boat hit a bridge abutment and flipped in the heavy current. The third man survived; Guillen and Carreon were swept away into the darkness.
Carreon’s body was found Friday; that of Guillen was recovered Sunday afternoon.
Both Guillen and Carreon had been born in Mexico but were brought to this country by their parents illegally. Guillen had applied for and had received protection against deportation through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA, allowing him to work in the United States legally. Carreon was eligible for the program but had not yet gone through the bureaucratic process.
Since his election, Trump has spoken more charitably of the so-called Dreamers, claiming that he would show “great heart” in dealing with their predicament. It’s hard to know how much, if any, of that expressed sentiment was honest and how much was driven by Trump’s concern over the political blowback of beginning to deport the 800,000 DACA beneficiaries.
We do know that on Tuesday, after Trump had incited anti-immigrant fervor for more than two years, after he rode that fervor all the way into the presidency, he tried to wash his hands of the Dreamers’ dilemma. His administration announced that it would keep the president’s promise to rescind DACA, while allowing Congress a six-month window in which to reinstate its protections if it chooses.
That shows not just a lack of heart but a lack of guts. Having taken this step, a leader of courage and decency would speak out forcefully in favor of congressional protection for the Dreamers and thus provide needed political cover to his fellow Republicans. Such a leader would not have handed the announcement duties to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who as a U.S. senator fought hard to undermine protection for Dreamers.
Take a second to ponder Trump’s lack of concern for others and his unwillingness to risk angering his dwindling base. Compare that with the courage and the willingness to sacrifice for others demonstrated by Alonso Guillen and Tomas Carreon, and then ask yourself which are the better men, the better people, the better Americans.