This piece was originally published in the Wednesday July 18th, 2018 Edition of the KY Standard.
For the first time since 2002, the World Cup Finals ended without needing extra time.
But that’s not what captured the attention of the media. Rather, it was the fact that so many of the players on the winning side, France, come from immigrant backgrounds—either first or second generation.
It wasn’t just France, though. Many sides competing in Russia this summer relied heavily on players who are immigrants, children of immigrants, or citizens who grew up abroad.
This flies in the face of comments made by President Donald Trump in a recently recorded interview with the Sun, a pro-Trump British newspaper.
“I think it’s been very bad for Europe. I think Europe is a place I know very well and I think what has happened is very tough. It’s a very tough situation…I think it’s a negative thing for Europe. I think it’s very negative,” President Trump said in the interview. He also suggested immigrants increase the chance of terrorism and violent crime.
Facts, both found through rigorous academic study and by a simple perusal of the daily sports pages, seem to be lost on the 45th President. Think about the French sides from 1998 to today. Imagine if some sort of strict white-European heritage requirement had been imposed on Les Blues. There would have been no Zinedine Zidane, no Thierry Henry, no David Trezuguet, no Lillian Thuram, no Paul Pogba, no Kylian Mbappe.
France wouldn’t have hoisted their second World Cup title in Moscow on Sunday, they wouldn’t have even raised the first. There wouldn’t be thousands upon thousands celebrating in the streets of Paris. It is precisely because of immigration, France is celebrating as World Cup Champions.
Before you raise your hand to suggest this may have been a one-time thing or somehow only relating to the French teams. I should point out that, since 1992, every semi-final at every European Championship or World Cup has had at least one team with immigrants or children of immigrants on the roster.
But there’s also significant, rigorous academic study that suggests immigration, as a whole, is a net positive to each country. Violent crime actually decreases—immigrants tend to have lower rates of violent crime than the natives do. Incomes rise as more people in the marketplace increase demand for necessities. Tax revenues for local governments increase as immigrants are more likely to shop at local stores. To keep up with demand, businesses are forced to hire more employees, which ends up being an economic multiplier. Those immigrants also start businesses of their own—restaurants, hair salons, dry cleaners, taxi companies, medical offices, etc. The new businesses spur economic activity, raising tax revenues and creating jobs.
Trump and his supporters, however, view immigration as a surrender. Something that runs anathema to their vision for the future of American and Western civilization. They see the browning of society as a loss of power and somehow a tainting of culture. Meaning my family and people like us are a threat to their agenda.
We should be mindful, however, that the demographic shift beginning decades ago in both Europe and the US, due in large part to past colonial ambitions and covert/military action across the globe, is virtually unstoppable. Much of the sentiment and the actions taken to try to rectify it, by Trump and his merry band of cultural warriors, is really more akin to a drowning man fighting the very people who will be the keys to his survival.
But it’s far easier to be afraid of the unknown. It’s a simpler mental exercise to see the people who don’t look like you or have the same faith as you and suggest they’re the reason for society’s problems. And Trump, along with his advisors, understands many American voters are looking for simple solutions to complex problems.
I’m not sure how to break this to those voters, but solutions to life’s problems are rarely simple. And when millions of people are involved, it’s going to be far more difficult than simply saying, “close the front door.”
When I hear what President Trump said in Europe about immigration, I’m reminded of something one of his supporters, a local educator, told me in the aftermath of the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Instead of blaming guns, he gave a one-word response to describe the biggest threat facing this country.
That word was, ‘immigration.’
America deserves better than simple binaries. Our children deserve a better country than the scaredy cat, hyper-securitized version of America Trump is offering.
In order to survive, we need immigrants like my father. And we shouldn’t forget that.