WHEN DONALD TRUMP announced this week that he intended to sign an order temporarily halting all immigration to the United States, nativists and xenophobes cheered. The white nationalist group VDARE, for example, promptly proclaimed it would "never stop giving President Trump credit for this moment," and regretted only that the ban hadn't been announced on his first day in office. There was joy in MAGA Nation, too. When Charlie Kirk, a prominent 26-year-old pro-Trump activist, urged his Twitter followers to show they "are THRILLED Trump is suspending all immigration to the United States," almost 36,000 of them retweeted the message.
But it would be a mistake to think that Trump's latest move to keep immigrants out will find favor only within his hard-right base. Anti-immigrant sentiment has been growing since the coronavirus catastrophe erupted. Two nationwide Ipsos/USA Today polls in the past two months show surging support for stopping all immigration. As of April 13, when the second poll was released, that support had reached 79 percent.
Anti-immigrant animus has been a mainstay of Trump's political career literally from Day 1: He launched his first presidential campaign with a speech that smeared Mexican immigrants as "rapists" who are "bringing crime" across the border. While such rhetoric elated some voters, it repelled many others. But now, with the nation reeling from a pandemic that has killed more than 50,000 Americans and cost 26 million their jobs, it is easier than ever to scapegoat immigrants. . . .