Election 2016

If Your Case Against Immigration Is 'You're Going To Have Taco Trucks on Every Corner,' You Lose, Amigo

Like his candidate, Latino Donald Trump spokesman just doesn't get America, food, or entrepreneurship.



Like war, a political campaign is a series of brief, clarifying moments larded up with endless stretches of boredom and waiting. There was a lightning strike last night on MSNBC, when the founder of the group Latinos For Trump defended the Republican presidential nominee's anti-immigration policies and anti-Mexican animus last night on MSNBC.

"My culture is a very dominant culture," said Marco Guiterrez. "If you don't do something about it, you're going to have taco trucks on every corner."

If your best argument against immigration is an overabundance of food trucks, well, to quote Willy Wonka, "YOU GET NOTHING! YOU LOSE! GOOD DAY, SIR!"

To the extent that Guiterrez is speaking for Donald Trump, he shares his boss-man's near-complete lack of understanding about food, America, and entrepreneurship. And, we might add, the overwhelmingly positive feelings that most Americans have toward immigrants. Indeed, one of the great mysteries of this election cycle is how illegal immigration, especially from Mexico, ever was mistaken for a pressing concern. As it happens, over three-quarters of Americans believe current illegals should be given a path to full citizenship (63 percent) or to legal status (15 percent), while only 18 percent think they should be identified and deported. FFS, 52 percent of REPUBLICANS believe illegal immigrants should be given a path to citizenship after meeting certain requirements. Except for the Obama administration, which has deported a record number of immigrants, Hillary Clinton, who was "missing in action on immigration," and a small group of conservatives—including the nativists at National Review, who attacked Donald Trump for being soft on legal and illegal immigration—immigration isn't a problem.

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What Trump and Guiterrez don't seem to appreciate is that people like immigration because it brings new possibilities into the country. Latino or Mexican culture isn't any more "dominant" than past immigrant cultures. The clearest markers of a culture are language and food. It turns out that Spanish-speaking immigrant households are learning English in precisely the same generational pattern that held for Jews, Italians, Poles, and previous newcomers. Eighty percent of third-generation folks from Spanish speaking households speak English as their dominantlanguage while 0 percent speak Spanish, says Pew Research. As for food, today's Mexican food is as American as apple pie, pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs, sushi, and chop suey. As Gustavo Arrellano argued in a June 2012 Reason magazine cover story, it might even be more American.

Precisely who, other than direct competitors with bricks-and-mortar restaurants, doesn't like food trucks? That's not simply because, as we've documented endlessly here at Reason over the years, they are bringing tasty and delightful food to underserved areas from Los Angeles to downtown Washington, D.C. It's because the food-truck revolution, every bit as much as Uber or Airbnb or Tesla or any other hipper and more cutting-edge business, exemplifies something primal in America's cultural DNA. They are small businesses first and foremost, typically run on shoestring budgets, sweat equity, and family-based micro-loans. They experiment and mongrelize and are desperate to please customers. They are mobile and fast-changing, they take risks and they live with booms or busts. Forget the Okies driving pickup trucks across the barren plains in the Dust Bowl era or even the garlic-and-bagel eaters disembarking at Ellis Island in the late 19th- and early-20th centuries. These days, if you want to see not just the American Dream made flesh, but the American future incarnated, head down to wherever food trucks congregate and take a bite of the best this goddamn country has to offer. Typically on some sort of once-weird bread or pasta or pastry—pizza dough, pita, tortilla, bao, whatever—and crammed with odd-ball meats, vegetables, and sauces.

As someone who is the grandchild of immigrants from old Europe who has lived all over the country (New York City, New Jersey, Philly, Buffalo, Los Angeles, Texas, small-town Ohio, D.C.), I can tell nativists that however much you fear immigrants, you don't want to live in a part of the country where they are few and far between. They take less welfare, they cause less crime, they start more businesses, they breathe new life into a tired body politic, and more. You will lose more than elections, amigos. You will lose out on being able to enjoy a vibrant America that will be different from the one you grew up in, yes, but also better and more future-oriented.

Watch Reason.tv's video with Roy Choi, one of the founding fathers of the food-truck revolution.