US President Donald Trump has run a disgraceful and hysterical campaign vilifying illegal immigrants and refugees - two categories that appear indistinguishable to him. He doesn't have a positive word to say about any immigrants, even the legal ones. Most of his vitriol has focused on a caravan of a few thousand refugees fleeing Central American crime and poverty, which he calls an "invasion" of "criminals and gang members", necessitating a response from up to 15,000 US troops.
Even Fox News has rejected his notorious commercial falsely accusing Democrats of letting a criminal into the country. His son Donald Trump Jr echoes the language of white supremacists in accusing Senator Angus King of wanting to "repopulate Maine with Syrian and Somalian refugees".
Democrats are appalled but also largely silent, reluctant to change their focus from healthcare, which they view as an election-winning issue. They may be right in their political calculation, but the silence may validate Trump's charges in the minds of some voters. Since so few others are speaking up for refugees, I'd like to lend my voice.
Admittedly, I'm biased, having come to the United States in 1976 as a refugee myself, along with my mother and grandmother. We were helped on our journey from Moscow, via Vienna and Rome, by the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, or HIAS, the same organisation against which the alleged Pittsburgh synagogue gunman developed a homicidal antipathy. Eventually my mother became a professor at UCLA, teaching generations of students Russian (a language deemed critical to US security), and I became a writer and historian whose books have appeared on many military reading lists. I hear from a lot of Trump supporters who would like to deport me either to Russia or Israel. But even they would have to concede that, while I may be guilty of thought crimes, my family has not turned into gang-bangers who prey on God-fearing, hard-working, native-born Americans. At the very least, we pay our fair share of taxes - which is probably more than Trump can say.
Other refugees have contributed much more to America - and to the world - than we have. Their ranks include Henry Kissinger, Madeleine Albright, George Soros, Gloria Estefan, Yasiel Puig, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Sergey Brin, Stephanie Murphy - and many members of the armed forces. But perhaps it's unfair to cherry-pick anecdotes of successful refugees as the counterpoint to Trump's anecdotes about cop killers. So let's look at the data.
Trump's own Department of Health and Human Services concluded that refugees brought in $63bn (€55bn) more in tax revenues over the past decade than they cost. The findings were confirmed in a 2017 study.
Trump scaremongers about crimes committed by illegal immigrants, but a study published in the journal 'Criminology' found that "states with larger shares of undocumented immigrants tended to have lower crime rates than states with smaller shares in the years 1990 through 2014".
A study conducted by the Cato Institute found that, in Texas, immigrants, both legal and illegal, commit crime at lower rates than the native-born: "In 2015, homicide conviction rates for illegal and legal immigrants were 16pc and 67pc below those of natives, respectively." The scandal isn't that refugees want to come to the United States. It's that Trump is abusing these aspiring Americans and closing our doors to them. (© The Washington Post)