Immigration: Trump trumps the truth

On Sunday, Donald Trump released, or unleashed, his “plan” to deal with immigration to the United States. It is hard to know where to start with this awful document, which is a compendium of unachievable, cruel proposals based on utterly false premises.

The United Nations recently released a study that shows that currently, there are 60 million refugees and displaced persons in the world. This number, which is rising rapidly, does not include economic migrants, though of course the two categories overlap. Huge numbers of refugees have gone to Europe fleeing instability in North Africa and the Middle East, with many drowning when their rickety boats founder. The war in Ukraine has created its own refugee crisis. In East Asia the problem of “boat people” has exploded.

European and Asian states have, for the most part, been able to think of no better way to deal with this humanitarian crisis than to slander and persecute the refugees and migrants. In Hungary, they are building a wall, a la Donald Trump. In the United Kingdom, there are plans to actually jail landlords who rent to undocumented immigrants. And then, of course, we have the migration from poorer countries of Latin America and the Caribbean to the United States including the “child migrant” crisis which caused such uproar last year.

What is driving this high level of population movements?

First, neoliberal policies of “free” trade and economic development are causing the disruption of means of survival in poor rural and urban communities throughout the world. The search by extractive industries such as mining for new areas to exploit is driving rural populations off their land. Seizure of vast quantities of farmland by transnational agribusiness and its conversion from producing food crops for local and regional markets to producing cash crops for export (and corporate profit) does the same. In some areas, the development of tourism threatens to displace farming and fishing populations, such as the Garifuna people of Honduras. The governments of the powerful and wealthy countries, including the United States, Canada, the European Union, Australia and others, fully back up this corporate onslaught through controlling the rules of trade and economic development, and through institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and World Trade organization.

Passage of the monster trade agreements now being considered by the world’s governments – the Transpacific Partnership (TPP), the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) promise to greatly exacerbate this situation.

Secondly, instability and personal insecurity related to these expansive plans of international monopoly capital literally have people fleeing for their lives. The efforts to expand the European Union into the former Soviet republic of Ukraine, in which NATO has acted as the enforcer, has triggered the bloody civil war in that country. The NATO intervention to overthrow former President Gaddafi of Libya has created a massive wave of instability that not only has affected Libya but all its neighbors as well, as Islamist extremist fighters have used Libya as their base to foment warfare in a half dozen countries. In the Western Hemisphere, U.S. support for the unconstitutional removal of President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras in 2009 has created a massive and ongoing crisis of corruption and violence as living standards plummet and people feel they have no choice but to take the risk of setting out on the incredibly dangerous trip north.

Global warming and desertification undermine the ability of farmers and fishermen to survive in poorer parts of the world, and therefore play into migration directly, or create instability as people clash over resources. This is part of the problem in Syria and other Middle Eastern countries, as well as in the Sudanic belt in Northern Africa. It is also a prominent feature of the situation in Central America, where drought is driving Guatemalan farmers to desperation, and into the migrant stream.

There are other causal factors. Inequality is increasing in poorer countries; this is prominently the case in Mexico. A number of poorer countries are linked to the wider world economy by being given the role of providing the wealthier countries with natural resources such as oil, natural gas and gold; the prices of all of these things are prone to instability. Current drops in oil prices are wreaking havoc.

You do not hear Donald Trump or any of the other Republican presidential candidates or political talk about these things, because it would spoil their whole false narrative. Corporate capitalism and especially some of its most destructive components, including agribusiness, the extractive industries and the “military industrial complex”, would have to be put in the dock, and not poor farmers and young children from homelands pauperized by corporate globalization. In fact, it is rare to hear even Democratic Party candidates say much about these macroeconomic and geopolitical factors that drive mass immigration, but at least so far the Democratic presidential candidates don’t propose cruelly repressive plans like Trump’s idiocies.

Trump wants to deport all undocumented immigrants plus their U.S. citizen children. He would like to trash the 14th amendment of the Constitution to render the children of undocumented parents living in the United States essentially stateless, the same thing the government of the Dominican Republic is trying to do to people of Haitian descent in that country. He wants to build a 1,900 mile wall along the U.S. Mexican border, even though anybody who has actually seen that border can tell you this is an impossible task, and that even accomplishing half of it would be incredibly expensive. No problem, he will pay the expenses of this crackpot plan by seizing funds that Mexican immigrants in the United States send to help their relatives in Mexico and hold those funds hostage until the Mexican government is somehow forced to pay for the wall. He would cancel the initiatives of President Obama to give some relief to honest undocumented workers.

He ignores the fact that the people crossing the border right now include more Central Americans than Mexicans, and that in fact the Mexican government has been helping the United States by cracking down on Central American migrants crossing into Mexico from Guatemala in their attempts to make it to the U.S. border.

His claims about harm undocumented immigrants do to the United States are nonsense. He accuses the government of Mexico of deliberately sending rapists and murderers into the United States, ignoring the fact that the rate of violent crime for immigrants is lower than for U.S. born citizens. In typical demagogic fashion, Trump picks on isolated cases of violent crime in which the suspect was an undocumented immigrant to slander an entire nation. He repeats the canard about how much money undocumented immigrants and their children “cost” the United States, ignoring the fact that all undocumented families pay real estate taxes (through their rent), sales taxes and others, and a great many find ways to pay federal and state income taxes, as well as payroll taxes to Social Security and Medicare as well. And the wealth that undocumented workers create, which is appropriated by unscrupulous employers, seems to escape his attention.

This is not serious stuff. Surely Mr. Trump knows that his proposals are completely impractical. So why does he say these things? I think his purpose is demagogic, to toss red meat to the most extreme reactionary sections of the Republican Party base and thus enhance his political career while spreading the poison of xenophobic racism around. His anti-immigrant venom has already had a legislative impact. And it serves the interests of the whole Republican party, the political right and the corporate ruling class. For although some Republican candidates have taken less extreme positions, none of them dare recognize the role of their own corporate allies in creating the present worldwide situation of turmoil of which migration to the United States is a small part.

So far all the Democrats propose legalization of the undocumented and, while that is being legislated, a continuation and even expansion of the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents) programs.

This is a clear distinction between the Republican and Democratic positions.

Photo: AFL-CIO website.



Emile Schepers
Emile Schepers

Emile Schepers is a veteran civil and immigrant rights activist. Born in South Africa, he has a doctorate in cultural anthropology from Northwestern University. He is active in the struggle for immigrant rights, in solidarity with the Cuban Revolution and a number of other issues. He writes from Northern Virginia.