Trump Takes Immigration Rhetoric To Europe And Misses The Mark

In an interview with European media, Trump criticized Merkel for allowing entry to "all of these illegals"

An anti-refugee rally in Germany — REUTERS
Jan 16, 2017 at 2:43 PM ET

In a Sunday interview with The Times of London and the German tabloid Bild, Donald Trump criticized German Chancellor Angela Merkel for making an “utterly catastrophic mistake” in admitting into Germany more than one million Syrian refugees, “all of these illegals,” since 2015.

“No one knows where they come from at all. You will find out, you’ve had a clear impression of that,” said Trump, referring to the December terror attack in which a Tunisian asylum seeker plowed a truck into a Berlin Christmas market, killing 12. “I do believe this, if they (the EU countries) hadn’t been forced to take in all of the refugees, so many … I think that you wouldn’t have a Brexit,” said Trump, arguing that the 28-member NATO organization was “obsolete.”

“I think we Europeans have our fate in our own hands,” said Merkel in response. Her deputy chancellor threatened higher taxes on BMW imports into the U.S..

While the tit-for-tat slights will likely continue in the follow-up and aftermath of Trump’s official inauguration on Friday, the heated discourse reflects Europe’s deep-seated identity crisis as it splinters under the pressures of a new refugee population.

Throughout his campaign, Donald Trump has sought to legitimize the narrative that refugees are made up mostly of male Muslims who pose a threat to both the women and the economies of the western countries to which they’ve arrived. The argument defies official figures that the majority of refugees are women and children, and ignores studies that refugees hold promise for an economic boon in the aging continent.

Refugees carry smartphones and pay thousands of dollars to smugglers, the anti-refugee argument goes, so they must be economic migrants and not refugees in need of humanitarian help.

Trump references are omnipresent in the Twitter and Facebook accounts that use hashtags like #WhiteGenocide and #fakerefugees, which frame the European refugee crisis as a culture war. They have celebrated Trump’s responses to recent terror attacks in Europe, that “the civilized world must change thinking!” as he said last month.

The message has gained significant currency even in Germany, which first hailed Merkel’s open door policy, but where enthusiasm has cooled even among Merkel’s centrist middle class support base. As the Syrian war trudges into its sixth year a comprehensive, a continent-wide policy has remained elusive and the apparent rise of terror threats have people hungry for answers. After the Berlin attack Merkel urged Germans not to be “paralyzed by fear,” but polls showed that her party has lost up to a quarter of its support since 2015.

A rephrased National Geographic cover story. The original title read “The New Europeans: How Waves of Immigrants Are Reshaping a Continent.”

Europe’s far-right has shot to prominence as the influx of refugees have tested the continent’s commitment to open borders and globalization. The United Kingdom’s June referendum to leave the European Union serves as an obvious parallel, but similarities are also found in the growing acceptance of Austria’s Freedom Party, which was founded by former Nazis, and which lost last May’s presidential elections by a mere 0.6 percentage point margin. In France, observers expect the National Front party of Marine Le Pen — an anti-immigrant hardliner who visited Trump Tower earlier this month — to perform well in the upcoming presidential elections in April. Le Pen boasts more than a million followers on both Twitter and Facebook, more than any other French presidential candidate.

But terror attacks and other national tragedies have also boosted the profile of once unknown groups like the Dresden-based “Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West,” which has founded a number of international branches in the global effort to pressure governments into fighting against the Islamic “invasion.” into western borders.

The United States last year reported that it fulfilled its quota of 10,000 Syrian refugees, making up only a tiny percentage of the more than one million refugees registered in Europe, and the staggering five million refugees displaced in neighboring Middle Eastern countries like Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, where resources are far scarce. Trump, though received applause for his calls to limit immigration from “terror-prone regions,” as well as his promises to deport the 12,000 Syrian refugees currently living in the United States.

But European Trump supporters warn against being fooled by the numbers of refugees reported in the “leftist” media, pointing instead to refugees’ forged passports as a legal basis for the community’s expulsion.

Indeed, a new black market for forged documents has sprouted up along the route to Europe, though many holders of those fake Syrian passport are, in fact, Syrian nationals who in the rush of fleeing their homes, were unable to grab their official documents. Going home to an active war zone in order retrieve those papers would in most cases be excessively perilous or impossible.

But such nuances often get lost in the black hole of social media, and observers, including Trump, are betting that the stakes will rise even higher after his Jan. 20 inauguration.

“For many years our country has been divided, angry and untrusting,” tweeted Trump on Sunday. “Many say it will never change, the hatred is too deep. IT WILL CHANGE!!!!”