By Pablo Alvarado, Co-Executive Director of NDLON
June 28, 2024

Donald Trump should be forced to answer the question: Do you really plan to deport all undocumented immigrants, and if so, how will you do it? It was a fair question, one of several asked at Thursday night’s debate that could have provoked an interesting or revealing answer.

But Trump didn’t answer. Instead he punched down at immigrants and called us criminals, rapists, terrorists, murderers. He even said we are insane. He said we are destroying the country and President Biden is allowing it.

Among many lies, his lies about immigrants were the most vicious, ridiculous and repeated lies of the night.

But lying is what Trump does. He lied over and over throughout the debate. Nobody stopped him. Nobody said, “Enough.” Nobody ushered him off the stage and into a padded cell. Nobody stood up to the convicted felon and said, You can’t do this. We won’t let you do this.

[And that, America, is how you lose your democracy.]

CNN’s bizarre experiment in running a “debate” with no live fact-checking was never going to work — not when one of the two candidates is a pathological liar. Allowing him on the stage at all had the perverse result of lending legitimacy to someone who is delegitimizing our democracy. Trump was asked multiple times if he will respect the results of the next election. But how can a man who doesn’t respect the results of the last election be trusted to answer the question?

Biden appeared feeble. But Trump, for all his bluster and smug aggressiveness, is himself a weak, petty, frightened little man. He is not like the strongmen he worships; he is a Hitler wannabe. He disguises his weakness and fear by relentlessly attacking others. Immigrants especially, though not exclusively. He whips up his followers to hate immigrants, then tells them, “I hate immigrants, too.” The hate creates a chemical bond between the autocrat and his followers that is all but impossible to break.

President Biden had his own problems at the debate. We wish he had been stronger in standing up for us — for immigrants who literally save and protect and defend and revitalize this country every day we are lucky enough to live here. We wish Biden had told Trump that a strong country does not fear refugees. A strong country welcomes the arrival of refugees — and gains strength from the infusion. Gov. Gavin Newsom of California delivered this message after the debate, but by then it was too late. Biden’s base had already turned off their TVs and retreated to their liquor cabinets. Nobody heard.

No one knows what will come next. Will Biden drop out or step down? Will the Democratic Party experience an insurgency in favor of another candidate?

We might be tempted to resign ourselves to the choice of two addled old men, but to do that would be to participate in enabling of the erosion of democracy.

Our message this morning isn’t to the politicians or the parasitical media, it is to ourselves. No one is coming to save immigrants. We have to save ourselves.