Donald Trump gave his long-awaited address on immigration in Phoenix, Arizona shortly after his surprise meeting with President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico on August 31. Earlier in the week, Trump had signaled a policy change on immigration, with Trump initially softening his tone on deportations – only to return to his nativist self a few days later.
With any speech from Trump, there are the usual bombastic claims that need to be addressed.
- Undocumented immigrants cost the United States $113 billion a year.
Trump claimed that undocumented immigrants cost $113 billion a year. What Trump failed to mention in his address is that this number originates from an organization known as the Federation for American Immigration Reform, otherwise known as FAIR. This organization is known for using what could be considered a flawed methodology. For instance, they assume the cost of Medicare fraud, and yet knowingly admit that “only anecdotal information is available”. They also allocate more than half of their estimate to education and healthcare for children, neglecting that most are actually native-born U.S. citizens – not undocumented immigrants.
In reality, immigration drives economic growth, leading to new job creation and additional tax revenue. For every immigrant that migrates to the United States, 1.2 new jobs are created. Furthermore, Trump’s claim does not take into account the tax contributions of undocumented immigrants, totaling $11.64 billion nationally per year and over $33.4 million in Rhode Island.
- Reinstating Secure Communities and 287(g) will help identify criminal aliens that we don’t know about.
Trump praised the two Department of Homeland Security programs, vowing to reinstate them as president in order to deport undocumented immigrants that have been charged with serious crimes and misdemeanors. Although Trump didn’t express his wish to deport all those living in the United States without legal status, his proposal to reinstate these two dragnet enforcement programs will lead to deportations of those who are not criminal aliens. For instance, Secure Communities has deported non-priority immigrants, who have, in many cases, committed no crime at all. In fact, 22.7% of the people deported by ICE and Secure Communities in 2013 had no criminal conviction. Only 12% were actually convicted of a serious criminal offense. And many others were caught by the Secure Communities dragnet for minor traffic offenses, such as driving without a license – according to data from the University of Syracuse.
Trump’s proposal has been tried by several states in the past – including Arizona, Georgia and Rhode Island. Earlier this year, H7408 was introduced in the Rhode Island General Assembly, masqueraded as an e-verify bill – hiding the fact that the legislation contained two provisions that would re-instate Secure Communities and the 287(g) program in Rhode Island.
- The current administration policies on immigration are ‘weak and foolish’.
Trump’s speech echoed many of the same points as the Obama administration, and yet, calls those policies ‘weak and foolish’ – perhaps just as political theater.
The Obama administration has implemented a similar program to Secure Communities, known as the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP). The intent of PEP is to identify undocumented immigrants who are suspected of committing serious crimes in order to make a determination as to whether to deport them. The administration has also deported more than the past 19 Presidents combined. Is Trump calling his own policies ‘weak and foolish’?
Trump also showcased victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, but neglected to mention that the vast majority of undocumented immigrants are not criminals, but law-abiding workers that actually commit less crime than citizens, especially in regards to homicide.