Letter to a Trump Supporter #3: Liberation Theology

This is the third in my series of “Letters to a Trump Supporter,” from correspondence with a family friend who supports Mr. Trump.

Continuing our conversation about Central and South America, he sent me a blog post accusing Tim Kaine of being a Marxist for his association with “liberation theology.”

If you haven’t heard of liberation theology before, you’re not alone. It’s a relic of the Cold War, when it was used to paint Latinos as a threat to the United States. It plays on the same fears as the rest of Mr. Trump’s nativism.

Below is my response.


Dear Mr. ——,

Liberation theology is a fascinating branch of Catholicism. I find a lot to admire in it for its service to the poor and its pursuit of social justice.

Its most famous proponent was probably Óscar Romero, the Archbishop of San Salvador. Pope John Paul II gave him the official title of Servant of God, Pope Benedict XVI nominated him for beatification, and Pope Francis officially beatified him. So, far from opposing liberation theology, the last three Popes have been very supportive of liberation theologists like Romero.

Archbishop Romero was assassinated in 1980 by US-backed Salvadoran troops, one of many casualties of US-backed regimes in the Cold War. So, before we starting throwing around words like “Marxist,” we should be aware of where those attacks have led us in the past.

I think it is particularly disturbing to see Catholics criticizing Tim Kaine’s beliefs at a time when he is running against a campaign that Pope Francis has publicly declared is “not Christian,” to which Donald Trump replied by calling the Pope of the Catholic Church “disgraceful.”

It’s not surprising, therefore, that a long list of Catholic conservatives published an open letter in the National Review imploring their fellow Catholic voters to vote against Mr. Trump.

Nor is it surprising that Mr. Trump is alienating the fastest growing block of Catholic voters in the country, Latinos. This hostility to Latinos, after all, dates back to the Cold War, when it led to the deaths of Óscar Romero and his fellow Catholics.

Best regards,

Letter to a Trump Supporter #1: Undocumented Immigration

We will all remember this election. Our children and grandchildren will read about it. They will ask us what it was like to live through it. They will want to know what we did, where we stood, how we voted.

This is the record I will leave behind.

Throughout this election season, I have been corresponding with a family friend who supports Donald Trump. I have explained, point by point, why I oppose Mr. Trump and why I see the country so differently than he does. In this final month leading up to Election Day, I will publish these “Letters to a Trump Supporter” on this blog.

I will begin with the issue that started it all: undocumented immigration.

He sent me this video as an argument in favor of Mr. Trump’s rhetoric on this issue. Below is my response.


Dear Mr. ——,

Thank you for sending this video. It’s interesting to see the fears that people have about undocumented immigration.

Hopefully, it’ll comfort you to learn that most of those fears are unwarranted.

First and most importantly, the undocumented immigrant population is shrinking. It peaked in 2007 at 12.2 million people. Now, there are only 11.1 million. So, contrary to all the accusations in this video, undocumented immigrants have been leaving more than they’ve been coming here during the Obama administration.

Contrast that with the Bush administration, during which the population grew from 8 to 12 million…a 50 percent increase!

Second, President Obama never said that he welcomed undocumented immigrants to cross the border. Notice that they never show him saying such a thing. That’s because such a video doesn’t exist. He never said it.

Third, immigrants actually commit fewer crimes than native-born American citizens. This shouldn’t be surprising, when you consider the fact that violent crime rates have plummeted nationally over the past couple decades when undocumented immigration has been rising. What this video is doing is pure racism, assuming that foreigners are more “dangerous” when the facts say the exact opposite.

They’re trying to scare you. Don’t be fooled.

Fourth, there are very, very few undocumented immigrants who are granted asylum on the border. In 2013, for example, only 155 Mexican immigrants were granted “defensive asylum.” The numbers from other Central American countries are even lower.

That shouldn’t be surprising, since it’s not nearly as easy as this video alleges. The Border Patrol has no control over it, and neither does the President. The asylum-seeker has to prove their case before an immigration judge.

Fifth, it is not true that immigrants run to the Border Patrol. On the contrary, the Border Patrol is regularly accused of using excessive force, to the point that it “has normalized policing practices that would be considered patently unconstitutional if carried out by local police.”

Sixth, undocumented immigrants cannot receive “free heart surgery.” The Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) explicitly prohibited undocumented immigrants from receiving subsidized health insurance. Some community clinics provide charity care, but they do not do expensive operations. Even those options are few, however, and too underfunded to serve most of the undocumented population.

Finally, I want to point out how this is a classic case of biased, unprofessional journalism. Notice that he only presents one side of the case: He only interviews Border Patrol workers. He never interviews a single undocumented immigrant!

This presentation would fail even the most basic journalism class. It’s not news. It’s propaganda.

Best regards,