Donald Trump the candidate — when he wasn’t busy running on white nationalism — claimed to be a ‘business president’ with unique insights on how to boost the economy. “I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created,” he boasted.
Yet in the last year, Trump has presided over a sweeping deportation crackdown that has included businessmen, business owners, and entrepreneurs. He’s raised tensions among business owners, and the Dallas Federal Reserve Chief said Trump’s immigration policies are hurting the economy. In FY 2017, deportations were up 30 percent over 2016, and some business owners — trying to preempt the worst — are selling their enterprises, transferring to relatives, or closing.
Though he ran on a platform of only deporting “bad hombres”, the Trump Administration in practice has detained and deported untold numbers of mothers, fathers, neighbors, community members, and business owners who have no criminal record, pay taxes, own local businesses, and hire American workers. Here are the stories of three immigrant business owners who have been deported or face deportation:
- The owners of a Simbury nail salon, Zhe Long Huang and Xiang Jin Li are 20-year Connecticut residents and homeowners. They’ve been taxpayers since 1999, have no criminal history, and now are facing deportation with a requirement to purchase one-way tickets to China by February 16. Korean by ethnicity, they do not speak Chinese nor do their two U.S. citizen children. The couple have not decided whether their children — ages 15 and 5 — would come with them to China or be separated from them and stay with friends. At a rally of support, Simsbury First Selectman Eric Wellman said our national leaders’ talk about standing for family values and small local businesses are “disconnected from our national immigration policy.” State Sen. Paul Doyle characterized the imminent deportation as “a misguided interpretation of the law that we’re seeing in our own small part of the country.”
- A ‘pillar of the community,” Amer Adi — whose Ohio business was credited with revitalizing Youngstown’s downtown district, lived in America for 40 years. The father of four children and husband of a U.S. citizen wife was deported in January despite Congressional support that under another Administration might have allowed him to stay. (Marrying a U.S. citizen does not automatically mean that an undocumented immigrant can obtain legal status). The House Judiciary Committee approved a private bill by Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH) requesting a six-month stay of deportation, yet Amer Adi was arrested by ICE, locked in federal prison (where he launched a hunger strike), and deported back to Jordan. In his absence, his community has been forced to mourn a “hell of a man.”
- A successful Indiana restaurant owner, Roberto Beristain lived in the U.S. for 20 years with his U.S. citizen wife and three American children, but was arrested last year during an ICE check-in. After his attorneys filed numerous petitions but before either of his judges could rule, Beristain was abruptly deported to Mexico in a highly unusual middle-of-the-night move where ICE did not notify his attorney or family. Beristain’s case made national news in part because his wife was a Trump supporter who believed Trump’s pledge to only deport criminals. Now back in a land that is completely unfamiliar to him, Beristain says that his restaurant business is struggling while his children are suffering. “What crime was so huge that they’ve treated me like this?” he asked.
As many as 10 percent of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. own a business and started a quarter of all new U.S. businesses in 2011. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) found immigrants have higher business ownership rates than native-born Americans. For every 10,000 U.S. immigrants, 62 will start a business ― more than double the rate for U.S. born citizens.
Nearly 6 million workers are employed at over three million immigrant-owned businesses which generated $72.3 billion last year in business income. Forty percent of Fortune 500 firms were founded by immigrants or their children, and in 2010 they generated more than $1.7 trillion and employed 3.6 million people. Of 87 privately held companies with over $1 billion in value, 51 percent had immigrant founders.
Immigrants contribute more than $1.3 trillion dollars to the U.S. economy every year through taxation, consumption and business launches. More than 450 Republican, Democratic and Independent mayors and business leaders support immigration reform that would help create American jobs by empowering immigrant entrepreneurs.
Trump’s view that immigrants are bad for America runs counter not just to the best of American tradition and principles, but the economic facts as well as popular support. Sixty-two percent of Americans support maintaining current levels of immigration or increasing them, while 71 percent oppose mass deportations. Trump may claim to be a business president, but he clearly doesn’t understand anything about the economy — let alone American values, family unity, or morality — if he thinks that business and community leaders like Amer, Roberto, Zhe Long, and Xiang Jin make for deportation priorities.