I'm a Republican Immigration Lawyer—And Trump is Killing my Party | Opinion

As an immigration lawyer, there is a presumption I am a progressive liberal. The fact I am former military and a life-long Republican is often greeted with incredulity, as if witnessing matter and anti-matter occupying the same space. The subsequent reaction generally is one of loathing, premised on the belief I am a Trump supporter. I am not.

The juxtaposition of the values of the Republican Party that first led me to lean to the right and the present state of Abraham Lincoln's party merits comment. But first, I must indulge myself in a retrospective journey into the evolution of my political alignment with the right.

I became of political age during the Vietnam war. Like many Americans, I saw Vietnam as an endless and deadly quagmire. Nixon's pledge of "peace with honor" was a welcome political cowbell. Later, Watergate culminated with Nixon's abdication of his presidency. The saving grace of Watergate was the Congressional Republicans placing country before party. This impressed me.

In 1979, the fall of the Shah of Iran and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan shook me out of my post-Vietnam hangover. These shifts in the geopolitical landscape ushered in my abandonment of isolationism.

Next came Reagan's presidency. The cold war battle against the "Evil Empire" was a potent blend of realpolitik and adherence to ideology. This combined with Reagan's commitment to smaller government, fewer taxes, national defense, immigration reform and American values solidified my identity as a Republican.

Now, leap forward in time to the present day. The Republican Party I joined decades ago no longer exists. The party now belongs to Trump. A demagogue. A racist. A purveyor of hate and cruelty.

Today's Republicans place party before nation. Republicans are shamelessly complicit in the divisiveness that enables Trump's presidency and the fear stoked by his racist and xenophobic actions and rhetoric.

On the two-year anniversary of Charlottesville's "Unite the Right" rally, it is painfully obviously that the reason Trump could not condemn the Neo-Nazis is because their message and his message are the same. The chant of "Jews will not replace us" is no different than Trump's racist attacks on the "other." Trump's message to non-whites is, "You will not replace us."

Non-whites are viewed as invaders and treated as an infestation, regardless of their legal status in our country. The recent shooting in El Paso, Texas, exemplifies the dangers of Trump's demagoguery. A white supremacist drove 10-hours from Allen, Texas, to El Paso, Texas, to kill Mexicans. He succeeded.

Trump's response to this horrific mass shooting is very telling. He is photographed grinning and hyping the crowd size that greeted him in El Paso while holding a 2-month-old infant who was orphaned by the slaughter that left both his parents and 20 other people dead.

Trump also attempted to leverage the mass shooting to advance his immigration reform agenda. His pairing gun control with his xenophobic and racist immigration plan was contemptuous of the El Paso dead.

Amazingly, on the same day ICE conducted raids in Mississippi that yielded 680 arrests of undocumented workers. Trump viewed the raids as a "good deterrent" to illegal immigration while manifesting complete indifference to the fear this action fueled in the Hispanic community.

Regardless of their immigration status, the Hispanic community throughout the United States lives in fear. Hispanics feel targeted both by white supremacists and the Trump Administration.

Trump's recent expansion of the expedited removal program, which allows ICE to remove certain non-citizens from the United States without the right to appear before an immigration judge is perhaps especially terrifying to Latinos. The fear is that ICE will detain and process citizens and lawful permanent residents for removal.

This is not an irrational fear. This is precisely what happened in the the 1955 mass deportations referred to as Operation Wetback. Approximately a million American citizens (yes - a million) were rounded up and deported, based solely on their ethnicity. This included school children and the elderly.

So this is the state of the Union. As to the state of the GOP, the question that must be asked is whether Trump has irreparably altered the DNA of the party.

While the jury appears to be out on this question, with each passing day that Trump's raw racism is allowed to fester, the Republican Party in ever increasing danger of losing its soul—and sowing the seeds of its own demise, as the demographics of our nation shift to a non-white majority. Trump's "make America white again" agenda has no future. It may very well may be the death rattle of Mr. Lincoln's party.

It is time for Republicans to put nation before party, and to take a stand against hate and divisiveness. Continuing to enable hatred and cruelty cannot end well for either the Republican Party—or our nation.

Dario Aguirre is an immigration lawyer and an Air Force veteran based in Denver, Colorado.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​​​