The Washington Post reported on February 8th that Trump hotels have been employing undocumented immigrants for more than a decade. While so many scandals have left Donald Trump unscathed with his core supporters, you might assume this particular scandal would matter to his base. After all, this is his signature campaign issue. It is the thing that most deeply bonds him with his supporters, and it is why he knows he cannot give in on his demand that the wall be built. He and his supporters believe we have to keep Mexicans out of America.
Why then, does the scandal of him employing illegal immigrants seem to roll off him, and not enrage his base, just like all his other scandals? The answer is relatively simple. It was never really about employing undocumented Hispanic workers at a lower wage. The real issue is a sinister form of class warfare. Trump and his base are desperately clinging to the idea that America is a nation properly run by white, Christian males.
As long as the stories about Trump continue to include details about him paying undocumented workers less than their licensed counterparts, and having them work in unfavorable conditions, Trump’s base will still support him. His base has been completely unmoved to hear that he had a pipeline of immigrant workers he employed and paid low wages to, and his base is unmoved to hear that many of these workers have been unceremoniously fired after working for him for more than a decade.
Trump is decried by the left as hypocritical, but to white supremacists, his actions and rhetoric show a form of consistency. He speaks and acts as if being American and white is synonymous with entitlements that should not be afforded to immigrants. Like the defenders of slavery, generations before, it is not bringing foreigners into the country, or making them work in poor conditions that move the most avid Trump-supporters. Instead, it is the idea that those foreigners might stay in the United States, and someday be entitled to the same rights, dignity, and status as a white American, that they find unacceptable.
The only way this scandal would affect Trump’s support from his base is if he suddenly showed compassion to the undocumented immigrants who have worked for him all these years. If he supported not only obtaining work Visa’s, and paying them a fair wage, but also giving them rights and status equivalent to white Americans, his supporters might finally turn on him.
The lack of reaction to the “scandal” of Donald Trump being a major employer of undocumented workers from South America, proves his supporters were never concerned about undocumented Hispanics taking jobs from Americans. His support is and always has been about the fear of Hispanics becoming equal in rights and status to white Americans.
Cheryl Kelley lives in the DC area with her husband and young son. She is active in government and politics.