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If Immigration Comes Up at Tonight’s Debate…

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Xenophobia remains Donald Trump’s political comfort food. It’s his signature policy issue. He ran on it in 2016 and 2018. It’s a major topic in his 2020 rally speeches. So while immigration is not on the formal agenda tonight, don’t be surprised if he brings it up. In case he does, here is our take on the key issues.

  • Taxes: Trump’s undocumented workers paid more in taxes than he did. Sandra Diaz, who was undocumented when working for Trump, tweeted out a picture of her W2 from her years working at Trump’s Bedminster property. After the NY Times story broke on Sunday, she wrote: “I paid more taxes in a month or two than he paid in a year.” The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) estimates in a 2017 report that undocumented immigrants pay $11.7 billion annually in taxes. 
  • Family Separation: One of the darkest chapters of this or any presidency. The systematic separation of thousands of children from their parents, without a tracking system to ensure reunification, is one of the darkest chapters of this or any other presidency. To this day, some kids remain separated from their parents. The cruelty continues. At this very moment, hundreds of children are being expelled from the country without a fair chance to apply for asylum hearings.
  • Border Wall: it epitomizes a presidency built on racism, corruption, lies, scandal and incompetence. Despite Trump’s attempts to tout the wall as some sort of success, it’s in fact a massive indictment. A “60 Minutes” exposé this weekend revealed that Trump steered some $2 billion in border wall contracts to line the pockets of Tommy Fisher, a donor and a crony. Fisher built sections of the privately-funded border wall (the scheme that has led to indictments of Steve Bannon and others). Those sections of the border wall built by Fisher’s company are expected to crumble into the Rio Grande any day.
  • Citizenship for undocumented immigrants: a popular priority for a majority of Americans and Biden and an attack falling flat for Trump. The Trump campaign has spent millions in ads attacking Joe Biden for supporting a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. There’s only one problem: a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants is overwhelmingly popular. For example, NYT/Siena polling from last week found enormous public support for a path to citizenship in Georgia, Iowa, and Texas, averaging over 70% (see here). 
  • DACA/TPS: Popular programs for long-settled immigrants on ballot this November. The future of Dreamers in this country will be decided by this election. While Trump likes to dissemble by saying he loves the Dreamers, he has spent the past four years attempting to put them on a path to deportation. Meanwhile, following the disappointing Ramos TPS ruling this month, the election also will decide the fate of 300,000 immigrants with TPS. They have lived here for decades and, like Dreamers, are taxpayers and Americans in all but paperwork.
  • Essential workers, essential Americans: time for recognition and relief. The COVID-19 crisis has focused our attention on those who sacrifice and work to keep America safe, healthy and fed. From hospitals to farms, many undocumented immigrant workers are considered essential – and deportable. They have been excluded from COVID-19 relief and public health efforts, and along with other essential workers, most of whom are people of color, suffer infection and death disproportionately. These undocumented workers and their families should be recognized as the Americans they already are. 

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “If Trump brings up immigration tonight, just remember 2018. He nationalized the midterms election, ran on xenophobia, and it backfired. That’s because his relentless nativism has forced Americans to choose. We have, and the majority stand for an America that welcomes immigrants, puts Dreamers and TPS holders on a path to citizenship, legalizes the undocumented, rewards essential workers, and formally recognizes undocumented immigrants as fully enfrachised members of the American family.”