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Politicians who put unequivocal faith in President Donald Trump are gambling with their personal, professional and political reputations as well as Oklahoma’s economic future, and it’s a bad bet.

Even if, by some national disaster, Trump were to win re-election after being impeached, bungling the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic and presiding over the worst economic crash in 90 years, history will not be kind to politicians who helped prop up an aspiring autocrat.

George Lang is the opinion writer for Free Press. (Brett Dickerson/Okla City Free Press)

Last week, Terry Neese released the first campaign ad in her quest to become the Republican nominee for Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District, one that displayed several photos taken with President Donald Trump and his son, Donald Trump Jr. In the ad, she trumpeted her Trumpian bona fides and politically strapped herself to what will likely go down as the most disastrous presidential administration in American history, or maybe the last one.

“I was honored when I was asked to be co-chair of President Trump’s Small Business Advisory Council, recruiting other small business leaders to support our great president,” Neese said in the campaign ad. “Because it’s hard-working people like us who elected him. So, if we’re going to build the wall, fight for our second-amendment and get our economy moving again, President Trump needs more of us to join the fight against the career politicians, the fake news and the liberal elite.”

Neese’s campaign signs are similarly unapologetic in their adulation, telling voters to “Protect Trump. Vote Neese.”

This congressional district does not need to protect Trump. It needs to be protected from him.

Despite the conventional wisdom that Trump’s policies help the red states that supported him in the 2016 election, Trump is as bad for Oklahoma as he is for the rest of the nation.

Oklahoma City’s enormous strides over the past three decades are not just driven by MAPS initiatives and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Much of that progress has come from the city’s growing immigrant population, but Trump has opened multiple fronts of attack on immigrants, documented or undocumented.


From George Lang, our lead opinion columnist

In August 2019, the Trump Administration reinterpreted the 2008 agreement between the U.S. and Vietnam regarding immigrants from that country, thus allowing deportation of those who arrived before 1995, when the U.S. and Vietnam resumed diplomatic relations. This includes immigrants who arrived after the fall of Saigon in 1975.

Nearly 7,000 Vietnamese families were sponsored by Oklahoma Citians that year, but 45 years later, Trump has made it possible to deport people who have spent their entire adult lives in this city, establishing businesses and contributing to the city’s culture and economic growth.

In addition, Trump issued a presidential proclamation on April 22 placing a 60-day moratorium on most new immigration. While this was ostensibly a measure to curtail the spread of coronavirus, this is unlikely to be walked back after the proclamation expires in June, even though the U.S. has the largest number of cases in the world and now poses a greater threat to other countries.

In this case, Trump is using COVID-19 to enact back-door restrictions on immigration.

Trump’s xenophobic policies also target Oklahoma’s colleges and universities. In April, acting Homeland Security secretary Chad Wolf told Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade that the Trump Administration is mulling new restrictions on Optional Practical Training (OPT), an immigration program in which foreign students are allowed to work for one year following graduation on their student visas.

…history will not be kind to politicians who helped prop up an aspiring autocrat.

Oklahoma’s universities depend heavily on foreign students, especially Oklahoma City University. By rolling back incentives like OPT and forcing students to return immediately to their home countries, Trump would hobble efforts by institutions like OCU to effectively recruit non-U.S. students, would decimate the schools’ finances and likely impact scholarship programs for all students.

Furthermore, the loss of these students would be disastrous for Oklahoma City’s efforts to develop a thriving biotech economy. If OPT were curtailed or eliminated entirely, foreign students would face more difficulty staying in the U.S. and working for Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF) or Oklahoma City’s growing for-profit biotech sector.

It would be tragic if Trump’s anti-immigrant policies were to result in missed opportunities to effectively treat or cure the next supervirus that destabilizes our lives, our health, our careers and our economy.

These policies directly impact all Oklahoma City residents, immigrant or otherwise, by unnecessarily attacking important economic growth areas in the city’s economy at a time when the city is presenting itself as a center of innovation.

Trump supporters like Neese who make blind obeisance to Trump a campaign promise are working against our future.

(This is part one of a two-part series. Friday’s column will focus on the political and ethical dangers of siding with Trump.)

Last Updated May 20, 2020, 5:10 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor