‘Anchor Baby’ and ‘Illegal’ Are Not Insults

The Boston Globe is reporting that two brothers from South Boston who beat up a Hispanic man who was homeless claimed that they were partly inspired to the crime by Donald Trump. Trump has stirred up a lot of passion on the right by his inflammatory language and willingness to push the envelope in his comments about illegal immigration. His remarks about Mexicans coming into the country being rapists and drug dealers were both offensive and inaccurate. But blaming Trump for this crime is more than a bit unfair. As much as I disagree with him, he hasn’t called for violence. The two alleged assailants have criminal records and were, according to the Globe, on their way home from a Red Sox game at Fenway Park. It’s likely that Trump had a lot less to do with their actions than the alcoholic beverages they may have consumed and their own violent inclinations. But the incident does remind us that while concerns about illegal immigration are both serious and legitimate, we also have a long tradition of xenophobia and nativism in this country. That’s why the Boston incident and the growing discussion about the use of the terms “illegal immigrant” and “anchor babies” illustrate the perils of the immigration debate. Blurring the line between defending the rule of law and promoting hate is a dangerous business. But neither should we confuse sterile political correctness for a genuine concern for civility.