tags: Press Releases

On immigration, the United States continues to stumble over the same stone of prejudice

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Washington, DC – Below is a column by Maribel Hastings from America’s Voice en Español translated to English from Spanish. It ran in several Spanish-language media outlets earlier this week:

While the virtual Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump redoubles his anti-immigrant rhetoric and sells his plan of mass deportations, several articles and opinion columns emphasize the damage that Trump’s migration fantasy would have on the U.S. economy.

The consequences would also be felt on civil rights, security, and at a humanitarian level. But if anything attracts the attention of people in the U.S. it’s the matters that affect their pocketbooks and the economy, and the effect Trump’s plan for mass deportations would have on various industries is devastating.

For example Tarek Hassan, an economics professor at Boston University, told the Miami Herald, “If you were to deport half a million people from Florida and remove them from the Floridian economy that would undoubtedly create a recession in the state.”

The article adds, “experts believe that the labor pool for Florida’s agriculture sector and its lucrative tourism industry would suffer. Construction projects – ranging from high-end and commercial builds to smaller undertakings like roof repairs – would become both more expensive and slower to complete.”

What’s sad is that, in recent history, many states have implemented laws where the only objective is to detain and remove undocumented people, motivated by anti-immigrant waves that, since Trump appeared on the political scene, have become constant. Some examples prior to Trump are SB 1070 in Arizona and HB 56 in Alabama, and post-Trump SB 4 in Texas and SB 1718 in Florida. And more states are emulating them.

Their common denominator is that they are responding to the demagoguery of politicians who are not looking for sensible and balanced solutions to the immigration issue, but only exploiting it toward electoral ends. But they also share the terrible effects they have had on the economies of those states when the crops rot because there is no workforce to harvest and process them; when construction projects stall; when the hotel or the healthcare industry loses workers. That’s not even counting the impact on physical health, education, and mental health, not just for undocumented people but also their relatives who are citizens or permanent residents.

And that’s not even talking about the potential violation of civil rights, because how do you determine at a glance who is undocumented and who is not, in states and cities where the Hispanic population predominates or is significant.

Now imagine what a large-scale, national operation would look like. 

Zeke Hernández, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and author of the book The Truth About Immigration, wrote an opinion column in The Hill marking the 100th anniversary of the May 26, 1924 signing of the National Origins Act by Republican President Calvin Coolidge.

This law had a significant impact on U.S. demographics for the 40 years it was in place, upon restricting immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe — people who were perceived as “less white” than those from Northern Europe, and excluding immigration from Asia.

And this is the model that Trump’s principal advisor on immigration, Stephen Miller, has wanted to imitate.

Hernández wrote, “almost nobody talks about two things. One is the self-harm the restrictions caused to America: significant job losses, obliterating innovation by American scientists and companies, lowering investment across our communities and giving rise to the border problems we still experience to this day. The second thing we’re overlooking is that we face the real risk of repeating the same blunder. Forces identical to those that led to the 1924 law are at play.”

But, he concluded, “unlike in the past, we now have solid evidence that immigrants are net positive contributors to everything that makes for a prosperous society.” 

When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Immigration Act of 1965, which replaced the 1924 immigration law, he said, “We can now believe that it (the 1924 law) will never again shadow the gate to the American Nation with the twin barriers of prejudice and privilege.”

But Trump, with his plan for purges, detention camps, mass deportations, ideological tests for visa applicants, and so many other aberrations, uses prejudice and extremism as his North star — like others have before him. On immigration issues, the United States continues to stumble over the same stone of prejudice.

The original Spanish version is here.