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.