In the past few weeks, Donald Trump's zig-zags on his immigration positions have been dizzying for the public. Because of his unconventional presidential campaign style, he has managed, thus far, to avoid the usual scrutiny and analysis that all candidates normally face. For us in the Latino and immigrant community, his speech in Arizona represents more of the same as we have directly felt the impact of his words for over a year.
With the election nearing, it is about time to look beyond the rhetoric and unravel the truth behind his declarations. In particular, now that Trump has reaffirmed his extreme nativist position on immigration, we have to examine seriously and thoroughly his "10-point plan." Correlating his statements with reality takes a concerted effort, so let us tackle his points one-by-one.
Before delving into each point, it is important to highlight the overall contribution of immigrants to this country. In fact, studies have shown that immigrants contribute over $700 billion to the U.S. economy each year. In 2011, it amounted to $743 billion in total wage, salary, and business proprietor income. In addition, according to the Brookings Institute, immigrants are 30 percent more likely to start a small business and three times more likely to file a patent.
Furthermore, contrary to Trump's assertions and portrayals of immigrants, both documented and undocumented as criminals, there is ample evidence that demonstrates otherwise. In fact, according to the New Yorker's Eyal Press in his recent article, studies by Harvard sociologist, Robert Sampson, have shown that incidences of crime decrease in neighborhoods with an influx of immigrants. These studies have reported that immigrants contribute to the revitalization of neighborhoods, thereby advancing economic growth and development. Also, immigrant communities are marked by their drive to improve the wellbeing of their families with immigrants focused on economic advancement and educational achievements for their children.
With this context in mind, let us explore the Trump plan.
1. Complete the border wall.
Building a wall in the fashion that Donald Trump envisions along the entire 1,989 miles of the U.S.-Mexican border is not only costly but also highly unrealistic. The Washington Post estimated the cost of an actual physical barrier across the border at more than $25 billion. And, as the BBC reported in its recent story, the plan will mean extension into remote areas, as well as incursion into private lands. These elements will add considerably to the overall expense and only highlight the impracticality of his proposed wall.
It is also worth mentioning, as noted by reporter Todd Miller in his piece, that a significant portion of the border is already covered by remote cameras, drones, watchtowers as well as other forms of human surveillance.
Finally, the central issue is who will pay for the wall. Trump is insisting that he will make Mexico pay for it. But, as verified earlier this month during his visit to Mexico City, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto continues to assert that Mexico will not pay for the wall.
Considering these factors, the wall cannot be seen as a serious policy consideration. The facts demonstrate that it is purely a political ploy and attempt to pander to Trump's base. After all, it is a powerful hallmark of his campaign that aims to create a culture of division, based on dominance and hate.
2. End "catch-and-release."
In his speech in Arizona, Trump made very clear that 11 million undocumented immigrants would not have a path to legalization. He added that he would institute immediate and swift deportations. His proposal would end due process for people apprehended by U.S. immigration authorities. Beyond the legal ramifications of his actions, deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants living and working in this country would cost an estimated $400 to $600 billion, and harm our economy by reducing our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by nearly $1.6 trillion over the next two decades.
The hateful rhetoric and unending focus on immigrants also has deterred us from the truth that over the years, undocumented workers have contributed up to $300 billion, or nearly 10 percent, of the $2.7 trillion Social Security Trust Fund. Also, granting legal status to undocumented immigrants would cause the U.S. GDP to increase by $1.1 trillion and increase tax revenue by $144 billion over 10 years.
Aside from the substantial economic implications, the deportation of people will tear apart families, separating U.S.-born members from others. The cases of the brave women in the Berks County, Pennsylvania detention facility make evident the cruelty and illegality of his proposal.
And Trump's proposed "touchback" principle, in which undocumented immigrants would need to return to their home country as a condition to regularize their immigration status is not realistic. Current immigration laws do not support reentry for undocumented workers. Families would be separated indefinitely without hope of return or a viable future.
These hardline, inhumane policies will signal a sharp departure from our fundamental principles as a nation of immigrants. We will no longer represent a country of freedom, prosperity and justice for all.
3. Hire 5,000 new Border Patrol agents and create a Deportation Task Force.
As part of Trump's proposal to banish all undocumented people, he pledges to create a new deportation task force by hiring 5,000 new border agents. This increased militarization at the border is completely pointless and misdirected.
Immigrants, by all available evidence, are less likely to commit crimes, with one study finding less-educated immigrant men from Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador are three to five times less likely to be incarcerated than less-educated native-born men.
Instead of investing in key sectors of our economy and promoting innovation, Trump will focus on the border. It would be far better to invest in our schools, infrastructure, affordable housing, and workforce development.
The border is more secure than ever. In 2012, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol already had a budget of over $11 billion, overseeing a jurisdiction that stretches 100 miles from the border, covering 200 million Americans, and has over 300 video surveillance systems and a dozen drones at its disposal. Trump's plan is more expansive and calls for greater coverage which invariably will be more costly and divert funding from other critical programs.
4. Block funding for "sanctuary cities."
This proposal only caters to the anti-immigrant impulses of Trump's constituency and does not contribute to improving public safety. As the ACLU and others have made clear, "There are NO 'Sanctuary' zones free from immigration enforcement." The attempt to draft local police as ICE officials disregards over 350 cities and counties whose elected officials and police have chosen to limit interaction between federal immigration agencies and local law enforcement in order to build trust and cooperation with immigrant communities. It is a necessary measure to help ensure that immigrant communities view local law enforcement as a partner in combating crime -- not as agents out to deport people from their community and tear families apart.
Politicians who want to end community trust agreements are disregarding local police chiefs and sheriffs who know best how to keep their communities safe. Let us not glorify self-proclaimed "law-and-order" candidates, such as Joe Arpaio, who are capitalizing on fear of immigrants as criminals. There are ample studies to demonstrate that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes. Instead of scapegoating immigrants, it is time to focus on combating criminality where it actually exists and improving the economic and social well-being of all Americans.
5. Rescind Obama's executive orders.
Trump reiterated his opposition to President Obama's Executive Orders on immigration - DAPA, and proposed expansions to DACA, which are currently tied up in federal courts. His proposed plan will take aim at both. Once again, Trump made clear that he would rescind these actions, thereby threating the future of an estimated 5 million undocumented individually who would benefit from these deferred action policies.
Not surprisingly, Trump did not mention that these executive actions would boost economic output by an estimated 0.4 to 0.9 percent over ten years, corresponding to increases in GDP of $90 billion to $210 billion in 2024.
By targeting DAPA and DACA, Trump demonstrates once again not only his hardline approach to immigration but his complete disregard for the real economic and social implications of his policies.
6. Suspend visas from certain countries.
Trump's proposed plan also targets immigration quotas and visa processes. In his speech, he called for greater screening of refugees and a suspension of granting visas in certain locations.
In addition, he also noted that he would institute "ideological certification" for all incoming immigrants.
What Trump left out in his speech is that immigrants are a vital force in our society contributing to our economic, social and cultural growth. Furthermore, the acceptance of refugees is not only a key tenet of our international humanitarian obligation as a party to global treaties as well as pledges to safeguard those fleeing from war, famine, and other disasters.
Beyond our international responsibilities, Trump failed to mention that refugees are currently being screened, under the most stringent of vetting processes, in accordance with the U.S. State Department's guidelines. "Extreme vetting" which Trump calls for is already in place and being undertaken.
Finally, the suspension and reduction in the issuance of visas will not generate greater security for this country. The biased assumption that criminals and those seeking to inflict harm on us will only come from developing countries creates greater vulnerability in our security. It does not account for the fact that Europeans and several other developed nations have easier access to this country through the Visa Waiver Program.
7. Ensure countries take back immigrants the United States deports.
Trump's demands that other countries take back U.S. deportees is impractical. After all, these countries cannot be treated as if they were sitting governors of U.S. states or former big-city mayors. Without a clear effort to improve this nation's immigration system and the necessary diplomatic skill, it is highly doubtful that Trump could achieve better or faster results than current U.S efforts with the 23 nations reported to not yet accept U.S. deportees.
8. Complete the biometric entry-exit visa tracking system.
Yet another unfeasible proposal made by Trump is to complete an entry-exit biometric visa system. Currently, almost all non-US citizens (including Legal Permanent Residents) are already processed on entry through the US-VISIT program, managed by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Biometric Identity Management (OBIM), which verifies their identities (narrow exceptions include diplomatic personnel, children under 14 and adults over 79).
Implementation on the exit side is not yet complete and proves to be a complicated, as well as costly, measure without demonstrable proof that it will ensure our security as a nation. Once again, Trump's proposal will be seen as a symbol of hostility and isolationism from the rest of the world.
9. Continued expenditure on "e-verify."
Another element of Trump's plan is to focus more investment into the e-verify program. To date, the e-verify system to confirm work eligibility has been riddled with problems including both false denials and failing to catch legally ineligible workers. Rather than focusing efforts on creating a pathway to legalization and reforms that would benefit so many, Trump is focused on unworkable programs that do not have tangible benefits.
10. Reform legal immigration.
Trump proposes to create a commission to find ways to reduce legal immigration, based on the pretext that immigration is at an all-time high. In fact, the proportion of the U.S. population that are immigrants reached 13.3 percent in 2014, which falls below the high of 14.8 percent in 1890. And net migration with Mexico in recent years actually became negative, meaning more Mexicans are returning to Mexico than entering the U.S.
Above all, Trump's proposed plan must be viewed as a gross failure to accurately and appropriately address the real issues plaguing the current immigration system. It is a system in desperate need of an overhaul. Without reform, this country is losing the opportunity to reap dividends from immigration that would spur economic growth, innovation, and contribute to the social and cultural development of this nation.
In sum, Trump's plan does not offer any practical, workable solutions to improve our current immigration system. Instead, with his rhetoric and relentless focus on the alleged criminality of immigrants, he continues to contribute to a dangerous, and divisive atmosphere that portrays immigrants as the new enemy. As a community, we have already witnessed the impact of this extreme anti-Latino, anti-immigrant rhetoric in our neighborhoods. Hate crimes, racial profiling, and bullying against children, have increased in Latino and immigrant communities. Rather than focusing on actual issues and providing substantive solutions, Trump deviates from reality and appears unwilling to offer real solutions. In the end, we are losing time and with this proposed plan, we are losing all hope of a better future for our nation.