Update, May 24, 1:36 pm:

Over 450 American writers have published An Open Letter to the American People opposing Donald Trump's candidacy: The letter reads in part:

"Because American history, despite periods of nativism and bigotry, has from the first been a grand experiment in bringing people of different backgrounds together, not pitting them against one another;

Because the history of dictatorship is the history of manipulation and division, demagoguery and lies; ...

the rise of a political candidate who deliberately appeals to the basest and most violent elements in society, who encourages aggression among his followers...intimidates dissenters, and denigrates women and minorities...

For all these reasons, we, the undersigned, as a matter of conscience, oppose, unequivocally, the candidacy of Donald J. Trump for the Presidency of the United States."


The above statement is one more voice dealing with the question whether opposition to Donald Trump is only based on a dispute over the details of immigration policy, as some of his supporters contend; or whether Trump's immigration proposals are indicative of a more fundamental issue, namely whether America will continue to be a democracy based on equal opportunity and justice for all people, without regard to race, color or religion.

My previous updates and original post appear below:

The following includes a revised version, as of May 22, of the opening portion of these comments, which were originally posted on May 21.

Is Donald Trump merely another immigration restrictionist who is calling for more rigorous enforcement of existing immigration laws in order to protect America from terrorism, crime and job losses, especially among working and middle class Americans who are worried about their future; but who is willing to operate within America's democratic system if he becomes president, and who knows better than anyone else how to make deals to get America's broken immigration system working again?

This is the explanation of some of Trump's defenders, who believe that criticism of him for allegedly using anti-immigrant prejudice in order to pave the way for the overthrow of democracy and its replacement with one-man authoritarian rule is highly exaggerated, or entirely without foundation; and that it is only motivated by attempts on the part of immigration advocates to vilify and tear down his reputation for refusing to support more liberal immigration policies.

On the other hand, there are those who see a more sinister aspect to Trump's anti-immigrant pronouncements, one which goes far beyond merely calling for stricter enforcement of existing laws on order to protect ordinary Americans, and seeks to exploit fear and prejudice against unpopular minorities as a stepping stone to overthrowing democracy and establishing dictatorship; as Hitler did in Germany, as other dictators have done since then in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and as a number of right wing neo-fascist parties, some of which claim to be inspired by or in the same mold as Trump, are seeking to do in Europe today.

A succinct summary of this view by slate.com's Jamelle Bouie reads as follows:

"Trump is a bona fide authoritarian, with a tenuous commitment to the foundations of liberal democracy (eviscerated by his plan for mass deportation) to freedom of the press. His entire campaign is an exercise in conjuring bigotry for political gain, from his initial call for a wall to keep Mexico from sending "criminals" and "rapists" and a subsequent one for a ban on Muslim entry to the United States to his coy relationship with white supremacists (Trump refused to disavow former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke) and constant repetition of anti-Muslim myths, including a widely-debunked claim that New Jersey Muslim-Americans celebrated the attacks on September 11, 2001."



Of all the comments warning of a possible Trump dictatorship, one of the most powerful and comprehensive is a May 20 article by Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker called: The Dangerous Acceptance of Donald Trump. Even though this article does not mention immigration issues specifically, many of Trump's stated positions on immigration are entirely in line with Gopnik's warning that American democracy could be in grave danger from a Trump presidency, and that this country might never fully recover from the loss of its freedom even after the era of Donald Trump is behind us.

I will quote from the article, and add my own comments about how Trump's positions on immigration support Gopnik's conclusions. First:

"One can argue about whether to call him [Trump] a fascist or an authoritarian populist or a grotesque joke...but under any label Trump is a declared enemy of the liberal constitutional order of the United States - the order that has made it, in fact the great and plural country that it already is."

Gopnik continues:

"He announces his enmity to America by word and action almost every day. It is articulated in his insistence on the rightness of torture and the acceptable murder of non-combatants. It is self-evident in the threats he makes daily to destroy his political enemies..."

One could add that Trump's proposal to ban Muslims from every country in the world (including, very possibly, US citizens - he has never ruled this out) from entering the US solely on the basis of religion, his plan to build a Wall on our Southern border, and, above all, his plan to use a "special task force" to carry out mass deportation on an immense scale which can only be called ethnic cleansing of non-white immigrants, accompanied by racial and religious slurs that recall the darkest moments of our history, are also diametrically opposed to America's most fundamental freedoms and values.

This is true even though, as Trump's supporters have argued, some of these proposals may be legal under current immigration law, which still includes doctrines that were developed in the authoritarian, racially charged, period of the late 19th Century Chinese exclusion laws.

The New Yorker article goes on to say:

"To say 'Well, he would not really have the power to accomplish that' is to misunderstand the nature of thin-skinned authoritarians in power. They do not arrive in office and discover, as constitutionalists do, that their capabilities are more limited than they imagined. They arrive, and then make their power as large as they can."

And this:

"Ted Cruz called Trump a pathological liar, the kind who does not know the difference between lies and truth."

We can certainly see this in Trump's statements that most Muslims around the world hate America and have terrorist sympathies, and that Mexican immigrants are mainly "criminals" and "rapists".

Gopnik continues:

"Whatever the clinical diagnosis, we do appear to be getting, in place of the once famous Big Lie of the 1930's, a sordid blizzard of lies...

He's not Hitler, as his wife recently said? Well, of course he isn't. But then Hitler wasn't Hitler - until he was. At each step of the way, the shock was tempered by acceptance. It depended on conservatives pretending he wasn't so bad, compared with the Communists, while at the same time the militant left decided that their real enemies were the moderate leftists, who were
really indistinguishable from the Nazis."

Even though Gopnik does not mention this, Hitler of course also drew support from popular anti-Jewish feeling which had been widespread throughout Germany for at least 100 years before Hitler's rise to power. Many Germans were so anxious to get rid of the Jews that they did not mind giving up their freedom in order to do so.

The same could be said about numerous Americans who are so motivated by resentment and prejudice against Latino and other non-white immigrants, as well as by Islamophobia which many leading US politicians, not only Donald Trump, have been spreading, that they are looking for a strongman to "Make America White Again".

Gopnik's article then issues a powerful warning:

"The American Republic stands threatened by the first overly anti-democratic leader of a large party in its modern history - an authoritarian with no grasp of history, no impulse control, and no apparent barriers on his will to power.

And it concludes:

"if Trump came to power, there is a decent chance that the American experiment would be over...Countries don't really recover from being taken over by unstable authoritarian nationalists of any political bent, left or right - not by Perons or Castros or Putins or Francos or Lenins or fill in the blanks...Ask Argentinians or Chileans or Venezuelans or Russians or italians - or Germans."

One could also mention Syrians, whom Trump has pledged to send back from the United States (if any more are allowed in by a cowardly Obama administration which has set a pathetically low admissions target of only 10,000 refugees from the twin horrors of Assad and ISIS, in one of the worst humanitarian crises of modern times - comparable in at least some respects to America's refusal to let in Jewish refugees from Hitler in the 1930's, whether one likes this comparison or not).

Finally, Gopnik writes:

"The national psyche never gets over learning that tts institutions are that fragile and their ability to resist a dictator that weak. If he can rout the Republican party in a week by having effectively secured the nomination, ask yourself what Trump could do to the American government if he had a mandate."

And we should also ask ourselves what Trump could do with our entire immigration system as we know it if he takes over the White House. This question goes far beyond legitimate policy issues such as whether our immigration laws should be enforced more compassionately or more strictly; or whether certain types of legal visas should be available to a greater or lesser number of people.

A Trump presidency, based on some of his statements and proposals, could destroy the heart of our entire immigration system, as well as turning America into a country that Americans are more eager to leave than immigrants are to come to in the future.

The link to Gopnik's article is:


Multi cives aut ea pericula quae imminent non vident, aut ea quae vident neglegunt.

("Many citizens either do not see the dangers in front of them, or they disreard the ones that they see." - Cicero)
Roger Algase is a New York immigration lawyer and a graduate of Harvard College, where he majored in Government, and Harvard Law School. For more than 35 years, he has been helping mainly skilled and professional immigrants obtain work visas and green cards.

Roger believes that promoting prejudice and discrimination against immigrants endangers the basic rights of Americans as well, and puts the foundations of our democracy at risk. His email address is algaselex@gmail.com