Is anyone really surprised that Donald Trump has taken to telling non-whites with whom he disagrees — in this case United States congresswomen— that they should go back where they came from?
He didn’t mean Brooklyn, Cincinnati or Detroit, where Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) or Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) were born. Of the four President Trump attacked, only Ilhan Omar (Minn.) was born outside America. What the four have in common, aside from their sex and left-wing politics, is that their skin color is darker than the president’s peculiar orange tint, which is apparently what makes them something other than American in his eyes.
The go-back-where-you-came-from refrain is one I experience frequently when I write on immigration or appear on television to discuss the subject. A few months back, one self-identified “college conservative” informed me he’d written to the president asking him to “arrest and deport” me, while most others just invite me to leave “their” country.
Never mind that my family has been here more than 400 years. My father’s family left Spain in 1597 and arrived in what is now the state of New Mexico in 1601. My mother’s family also came here in the 1600s, from England, and the first American-born child in the family, William Clements, was born in Gloucester, Virginia, in 1692. The last foreign-born ancestors in my family arrived in 1848 — from Ireland.
Somehow, I don’t think that when I am invited to go back where I came from, anyone is suggesting I return to the British Isles. Apparently, 10 generations of ancestors born on American soil still doesn’t make me American enough in certain quarters.
For years, I’ve argued for the importance of assimilation, the assumption being that becoming American was the natural progression and right of all who come here. I believed, like my old boss Ronald Reagan once said, “that anyone, from any corner of the world, can come to live in the United States and become an American.”
When I first began writing on the subject in the 1970s, I faced criticism from the left from those who believed that immigrants and their children should retain their native language and culture, eschewing the melting pot in favor of creating a multicultural society made up of distinct and enduring ethnic groups.
Now it’s the right, or segments of it, that refuses to believe that immigrants — especially those from Latin America — can or will assimilate. The evidence on Hispanic assimilation says otherwise, with virtually all second-generation Hispanics speaking English and about one in four who marry non-Hispanic whites. But what incentive is there to learn English, adopt American cultural norms, become a citizen, and proudly call yourself an American if the president of the United States can tell you, your children, your grandchildren to go back where you came from?
I’m no fan of Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib, Pressley or Omar, but their right to criticize or disagree with Trump — or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for that matter — is as American as the U.S. Constitution. If anyone should go back where he came from, it’s Donald Trump, whose permanent return to Trump Tower can’t come soon enough for me.
Linda Chavez is a senior fellow at the nonprofit Niskanen Center. She served President Reagan as White House director of public liaison and before that as staff director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. She was the first Latina ever nominated to the United States Cabinet when George W. Bush nominated her for Labor secretary in 2000.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.