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Trump’s Texas visit stokes immigration debate

Andres Dominguez has been keeping his eye on presidential candidate Donald Trump and thinking about the implications of Trump’s recent inflammatory comments on immigration – both legal and illegal.

Dominguez lives in Parkville. He was born in Mexico and his parents brought him to the United States when he was an infant. His father was a U.S. citizen from Wyoming and his mother a Mexican native.

Dominguez called Trump’s visit to Laredo, Texas, on July 23 “just grandstanding” based on his comments “about going to Laredo as if he’s going to a war zone, (and) it’s kind of a fallacy.”

Trump’s recent comments characterizing at least some portion of Mexican immigrants as murderers and rapists prompted widespread charges of racism and broad-stroke, unjustified insult to an entire group of people, though his popularity in some polls increased afterward.

“I have no sympathy for anybody who comes to this country to commit crime,” Dominguez told Kansas City Hispanic News. “When we talk about immigration in this country, it’s often seen through the lens of coming from Mexico, but they’re also coming from all over the world. I would argue that we only have immigration, legal or undocumented, because there’s always a demand for the workforce. As long as we have agriculture that needs to be harvested and other jobs that people don’t want to do, including dangerous jobs, you’re always going to find people willing to take the risk.

“In the end, (criticism of immigration) becomes a generalization about a culture,” he said. “If Trump had said something to the effect that we have immigration problems because of systemic problems in the U.S. and Mexico, I would agree with that.”

The National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) Local 2455 in Laredo had planned to meet with Trump during his visit but then bowed out. The local’s intent was “to provide a ‘Boots on the Ground’ perspective to not only Mr. Trump, but to the media that would be in attendance at the event,” Hector Garza, the local’s president, said in a written statement.

“After careful consideration of all the factors involved in this event and communicating with members of the … (NBPC) at the national level, it has been decided by Local 2455 to pull out of all events involving Donald Trump,” Garza said in the statement. “As a local of the NBPC, our purpose is to support and protect the men and women who protect our borders. Make no mistake, our border with Mexico is not secure and there’s no doubt that we need to have an honest discussion about that with the American people. Local 2455 will continue to represent our members to the best of our abilities and will make sure that our members’ concerns are heard by the American people.”

According to statistics from the U.S. Border Patrol categorized as “Total Illegal Alien Apprehensions,” border patrol agents seized 44,409 undocumented immigrants in Laredo in fiscal year 2014, down from 50,749 the prior year and 44,872 the year before that.

Garza also said in the statement that “an endorsement was never discussed for any presidential candidate” and that the local makes no candidate endorsements for any political office. Trump said that NBPC officials in Washington, D.C., had tried to silence Local 2455, the Washington Post reported.

Numerous other newspapers and broadcast outlets across the country also covered Trump’s trek to Laredo. The Post reported that Trump’s visit “was less than three hours from when his jet touched down to when it took off” and included a motorcade with seven SUVs and a greater number of police cars.

Trump has said publicly that he favors building a wall or fence along certain stretches of the U.S. southern border. Laredo City Manager Jesus Olivares said the city doesn’t “think that’s necessary at this time,” the Post reported. Trump “got a raucous reception” from plainclothes Border Patrol agents and other law enforcement personnel when he said he’d give agents “more leeway to do their jobs,” according to the newspaper.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whom the Post reported Trump as having called a “terrible” governor regarding illegal immigration, responded by calling Trump “a cancer on conservatism.”

“As a known employer of illegal immigrant labor, Donald Trump’s record on border security is non-existent at best and a farce at worst,” Perry said, according to the Post. “It’s going to take more than a day trip for him to convince the American people he is anything but a hypocrite when it comes to border security.”

The Post reported that Jose Gonzalez, a 67-year-old retired firefighter, had joined those protesting Trump’s appearance.

“The criminal element sells newspapers, but for every one of those there are hundreds of good Mexican nationals that... just want to work,” Gonzalez said.

The Post also reported that Trump had repeated that he employed thousands of Hispanics and that they “love” him. Asked how he would solve the problem of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, Trump said, “The first thing is to secure our borders, and after that we’ll have plenty of time to talk about it.”

The Laredo Morning Times reported that 72-year-old Pedro Omar Castillo had suggested that, in order for Trump to win in 2016, he’d have to get the Hispanic vote.

“But he’s not going to get it because of his words,” Castillo said in Spanish while walking through a downtown park, the Times reported. “He is a racist.”

Trump said he would win the Hispanic vote, ABC News reported; and he called Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton “the worst secretary of state in the history of our country” and said that Clinton is “going to be beaten and I’m the one to beat her.”

The Times also reported that 26-year-old Hispanic oil-field worker Karina Villalba had waited for Trump at the airport and held a sign saying “I heard your speech & I am NOT offended” and that she’d said she appreciated Trump’s blunt style of communication.

“Sometimes honesty hurts,” she said, according to the Times.

Despite the increasing debate about how to solve the complex problem of illegal immigrants in the U.S., Dominguez said he thought federal elected officials would resolve the issue during the next presidential term.

“People come here because of the incredible opportunity,” he said. “At the same time, countries like Mexico have a need for reform. Here’s the ultimate challenge for the Latino community: We don’t vote as much as we should vote.”