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Ralph Reiland

Ralph R. Reiland: Immigration battles & bookstore/bar

| Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018, 9:00 p.m.
In this Jan. 9, 2018, photo, President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with lawmakers on immigration policy in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington. Trump used profane language to disparage African nations in a meeting with lawmakers about a proposed bipartisan deal on immigration, according to two people briefed on an Oval Office meeting held Thursday, Jan. 11.
AP Photo/Evan Vucci
In this Jan. 9, 2018, photo, President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with lawmakers on immigration policy in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington. Trump used profane language to disparage African nations in a meeting with lawmakers about a proposed bipartisan deal on immigration, according to two people briefed on an Oval Office meeting held Thursday, Jan. 11.

Across from the bar, there's a table in the center of a room with a dozen or so titles for sale, stacked five to 10 books high. The books are displayed around a “WRITERS FROM (EXPLETIVE)HOLE COUNTRIES” sign, referring to Haiti and African countries that President Trump allegedly derided as not sending immigrants of acceptable quality to the U.S.

The book display is in Rough Draft Bar & Bookstore in upstate Kingston, N.Y., 90 miles from New York City. Says a Facebook post by the business, “Proudly selling books by writers from ‘(expletive)hole countries' since 2017.”

It's a good bet that book table will need to be expanded, with Mexican writers being strong candidates for a presence, given Trump's past remarks: “When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. ... They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems for us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists.”

Nevertheless, with Trump's mercurial personality and policy switches, no one can be sure of his eventual position on Mexican immigration.

On a Mexican holiday in May 2016, Trump, being supposedly inclusive while simultaneously promoting one of his Trump Tower tenants, tweeted a smiling picture of himself enjoying a super-sized taco bowl: “Happy #CincoDeMayo! The best taco bowls are made in Trump Tower Grill. I love Hispanics!”

Writers from countries that refugees are fleeing due to the impacts of climate change might also end up with a Rough Draft sales table, with desperate evacuees and expats derogatorily labeled by the White House as Al Gore flunkies.

Still, based on conflicting testimony from invitees to the White House immigration meeting, there's controversy about what offending word President Trump actually used, if any. Some say it was “(expletive)hole,” others say it was “(expletive)house,” and some say they heard neither word. Aside from the apparent need for hearing aids at White House meetings, there also appears to be a lack of awareness that it's the first syllable in the president's allegedly insulting depiction of poorer countries that's the problem, not the second.

A photo of the Rough Draft sign and book table was picked up and published by Business Insider, the New York Post and other outlets, generating thousands of web and Facebook hits, many supportive but some complaining that the attempt to be humorous came at the expense of people from those countries. “That was never our intent,” replied the bar/bookstore owners on Facebook, announcing they'd replaced the table sign with “ E Pluribus Unum ,” Latin for “Out of many, one,” referring to the union formed by the separate states.

The Rough Draft owners also posted on Facebook that they'll donate 100 percent of profits from the book table and 10 percent of total store sales from the previous weekend to the International Rescue Committee. Founded in 1933 at Albert Einstein's request, the IRC offers lifesaving assistance to uprooted refugees forced to flee war or disaster.

Ralph R. Reiland is associate professor of economics emeritus at Robert Morris University and a local restaurateur (rrreiland@aol.com).

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