Trump Time Capsule #8: Illegal Immigrants Are Treated Better Than Veterans

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.
Donald Trump yesterday at the Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally in Washington (Jonathan Ernst / Reuters). Based on comparison with photos from other angles, the hair beneath Trump’s ear is part of his own dangling coif, rather than belonging to someone standing behind him.

Daily Trump #8, May 29, 2016, Illegal immigrants have it too easy

Yesterday at the Rolling Thunder mass motorcycle rally here in Washington  — which I could hear while at The Atlantic’s offices half a mile away, but didn’t attend — Donald Trump said, “illegal immigrants are taken better care of than our veterans.”

This is not true, and no one who has thought about it for more than one second could imagine otherwise.

  • A wide range of preferences and programs are designed to favor military veterans, as an incentive to ongoing recruitment and as recognition of past service. For instance: nearly 30% of the total federal workforce, and as many as half of new federal employees, are veterans. By definition, the proportion of known illegal immigrants in the federal workforce would approach zero.
  • Well over a million veterans and their families have attended college with GI Bill-type benefits enacted since 9/11. For most scholarship or aid programs of any kind, proof of citizenship or legal residency is required.
  • The VA hospital system has had numerous, serious, well-publicized problems. On the other hand it exists (unlike some notional Illegal Immigrants Hospital System), and before the recent scandals it was often studied and cited as a model of progressive medical practices. Many millions of veterans receive medical care through the VA. Illegal immigrants are not eligible for Medicaid, Medicare, treatment under Obamacare exchanges, or most private insurance coverage and generally rely on emergency rooms or cash-up-front treatment centers.
  • Veterans can go to their congressional representatives or the press for redress of grievances. Illegal immigrants by definition have a very limited range of rights, and few ways to assert them.

I would go on, but it’s kind of an insult to public intelligence to treat this as a serious claim. (“Donald Trump said yesterday that two was a larger number than five. Let’s examine why this is not true….”)

It was a pure statement of grievance, fitting Trump’s skillful-but-dangerous pattern of expertly reading, and then pandering to, the audience in his immediate range and in position to cheer in response.

As always, the point of these updates is not to dissuade any current Trump supporters or to suggest that the accuracy of Trump’s claims is the basis of his appeal. Rather the purpose is time-capsule chronicling of what is known about this person, at a time when the Republican party is lining up behind him and he might become president.


For proper respect for veterans and casualties of war on Memorial Day, and for much greater care about creating veterans and casualties in the future, I offer my thoughts here and here.