As a Democrat I should love Donald Trump. His style and self-absorbed attitude entertains a powerful faction of the far-right movement which creates problems for the conservative core. He is a one-man wrecking ball; targeting his attacks on any individual that opposes him which includes most of the 2016 Republican field. His rhetoric is sharp and overtly hyperbolic and his methods are intrusive and borderline comical. Trump has cornered the market on ridiculousness and amazingly this message is resonating at light speed with many in the Republican base. Trump hurts Republicans chances in 2016, which is welcomed by Democrats, but he is also reinforcing a false narrative about key issues.
Donald Trump’s opening hand is geared to exploit false perceptions around a polarizing group; unauthorized immigrants. The beautiful part of this strategy is the groundwork has already been laid. Republicans use fabrications and fear to unify their base against this specific red herring, turning out voters through emotional statements and illogical arguments. To demonstrate how demonstrative and polarizing this tactic is, here is a list of 10 factual statements around immigration that Republicans repeatedly get wrong:
- Unauthorized immigrants are not eligible for food stamps, housing, Medicaid, or any other form of federal welfare. Only US citizens are eligible for federal welfare benefits. However, unauthorized immigrants can take advantage of emergency room coverage, a law that was signed by Ronald Reagan.
- Undocumented workers pay taxes. Today there are 8.1 million undocumented workers in the US labor force comprising 5.1% of all workers. The vast majority of these workers pay taxes to US entitlement systems through their employer that will never be returned. The government estimates these payments equate to a $10-15 billion dollar annual windfall. In addition, unauthorized immigrants pay sales, gas, and property taxes (through rentals).
- Of all major demographics in the United States, unauthorized immigrants are the LEAST likely to commit a violent crime. Donald Trump’s recent grandstanding, suggesting unauthorized immigrants are rapists and murderers, is more fiction than fact. The vast majority of incarcerations are due to immigration law infractions. Such infractions could easily be reversed through immigration reform.
- Over the last 10 years the US experienced no increase in unauthorized immigrant population. Undocumented worker population is tied directly to job availability. Since peaking in 2007, the United States’ unauthorized immigrant population has actually declined. The recession crippled the low-skilled labor workforce, which drove many undocumented workers back to their native countries.
- Only half of unauthorized immigrants cross the United States southern border. With continuing demands for border security, many Americans do not understand that the southern border is only half the cause. In addition to incremental border security costs associated with the recent Senate Bill ($60 billion), maintaining the status quo makes better financial sense given current immigration trends.
Immigration reform is fully supported by the Mormon Church. President Uchtdorf currently sits on President Obama’s immigration policy team. He has been vocal about the Church’s desire to maintain undocumented families and reform our current system. Recently, on returning from a meeting with President Obama, he released this statement:
Our principle, I declared to the president, is that we love our neighbor, which means we love all people, in all places and at all times. One of the core values we stand for is families. The separation of families (in U.S. immigration policy) isn’t helping.
- Unauthorized immigrants currently fight for your freedom. The military recruits 5,000 non-citizen soldiers of which many are unauthorized immigrants. Historically, the United States military recruited unauthorized immigrants to fight in every war. One of the first soldiers to die in Iraq, Lance Corporal Jose Gutierrez, was an unauthorized immigrant from Guatemala who was killed in a tank battle in March 2003.
- Undocumented workers play a significant role in keeping labor costs low, controlling inflation, and growing the economy. Undocumented workers make up 26% of the farming industry, 17% of the ground maintenance industry, 14% of the construction industry, and 11% of the service industry. Whenever conservatives debate cost-analysis of unauthorized immigrants the positive impact is ignored. Even Donald Trump understands the need for low labor costs as the Washington Post recently reported undocumented workers are currently building his latest mega-hotel at the Old Post Office Pavilion.
Ronald Reagan was a strong supporter of immigration reform and passed the largest amnesty program in the history of the United States. On Nov. 6, 1986, while signing the Immigration Reform and Control Act into law, Reagan released these remarks:
We have consistently supported a legalization program which is both generous to the alien and fair to the countless thousands of people throughout the world who seek legally to come to America. The legalization provisions in this act will go far to improve the lives of a class of individuals who now must hide in the shadows, without access to many of the benefits of a free and open society. Very soon many of these men and women will be able to step into the sunlight and, ultimately, if they choose, they may become Americans.
It should also be noted that Reagan maintained this position throughout his life.
- Unauthorized immigrants do not vote. This has been a popular claim from right-wing conspiracists when creating a voter suppression narrative. The suggestion that unauthorized immigrants will risk deportation and fraudulently vote in US elections is a fact-less claim fueled by misleading anecdotal examples.
I am not sure how long Republican’s honeymoon with Donald Trump will last. But what is certain is Trump’s narrative about immigration will continue to mislead and polarize the uninformed. As Americans we need to strongly challenge such misleading talking points instead of passively accepting the propaganda of the Retrumplican Party.