It’s more than a little ironic that a guy as hardline on immigration as Donald Trump has been surrounded by immigrants his entire life, starting from the very beginning.
“My mother was born in Scotland, in the Hebrides, in Stornoway, so that’s serious Scotland. And she was a great woman,” Trump said in a 2010 documentary. “Whenever anything was on about, ceremonial about the Queen she could sit at the television and just watch it. She had great respect for the Queen and for everything (she) represents”
In 1930, an 18-year-old Mary MacLeod sailed for America from Glasgow on the S.S. Transylvania, according to a copy of the ship’s passenger list on Ancestry.com. MacLeod arrived in New York and married Fred Trump, the son of German immigrants himself.
“My grandfather Frederick Trump came to the United States in 1885. He joined the great gold rush and instead of gold he decided to open up some hotels in Alaska. He did fantastically well. He loved this country, likewise my father and now me,” Trump said in a taped message for a German-American pride parade a few years ago.
But on the campaign trail, Trump sounds more like a nativist than the son and grandson of immigrants.
Trump told a meeting of conservative activists last year that the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants would never vote Republican.
“You’d better be smart and you’d better be tough,” Trump said. “They’re taking your jobs, and you’d better be careful.”
It’s tough rhetoric that comes with a twist. Trump’s current wife is an immigrant herself.
Melania Trump moved to New York about 20 years ago. The Slovenian born model now has her own jewelry and caviar-cream skincare lines. She married Trump in 2005 in a fairytale wedding that included a wedding gown reported to cost $100,000. And the next year, she became a citizen — a decade after arriving in America.
“She went through a long process to become a citizen. It was very tough,” Trump told CNN recently, adding that Melania agrees with his immigration position. “When she got it, she was very proud of it. She came from Europe, and she was very, very proud of it. And she thinks it’s a beautiful process when it works.”
And of course, Trump’s first wife, Ivana, was an immigrant too. Born in Czechoslovakia, she married an Austrian ski instructor in order to get a foreign passport to leave the communist country, her divorce lawyer has said.
A few years later, she “went to my aunt and uncle in Canada,” she has said.
She and Trump married in 1977, but she didn’t become an American citizen for another 11 years.
Trump has said he supports legal immigration, but on the stump he seems to show little interest in the dreams of modern day immigrants. His immigration plan calls for foreign workers abroad to take a back seat to the domestically unemployed.
“You have a border, you have a country, and if you don’t have a border what are we?” Trump asked before answering himself. “Just a — just a nothing. A nothing.”
Trump hasn’t been shy about celebrating his immigrant roots. He served as the grand marshal of the annual German-American Steuben Parade in New York City. And he’s reminisced about that day and how far his family had come from its European heritage.
Remembering the 1999 parade, Trump said, “We passed Trump Towers, 69 stories. I looked up and I said, ‘This is a long way from Kallstadt,'” referring to the town in Germany where his grandfather was from.
But on the campaign trail, Trump is singing a very different immigrant song.
“We’re building a wall. It’s going to be a wall that is not — nobody’s going through my wall,” Trump has said. “Trump builds walls. I build walls.”