This current administration has promised its followers that it will secure our borders and bring back jobs.
The administration seems intent on fulfilling these promises by issuing out tweets, memos, and orders with plans to build a wall, increase taxes, create more detention centers, raid communities, and seriously limit legal forms of immigration. To his followers, this seems like the right path to strengthen security and increase job growth regardless of the impact it will have on immigrants. Of course, there are those of us who understand, deeply, the emotional, physical, and mental toll these policies take on our communities. Yet, when we put aside the immeasurable damage that occurs when we tear apart families and deny civil liberties, the question remains as to whether these policies actually make fiscal sense.
On January 27, 2017, the administration issued a Muslim ban that denied entry to refugees, visa holders, and Lawful Permanent Residents from seven countries identified as potential terrorist affiliates because of their presumed association with Islam. Ignoring the argument of whether this is lawful, whether it goes against our country’s tenets, or whether the ban actually keeps us safe, we saw the potential ramifications of this ban almost immediately when Iran retaliated with similar regulations. Their reaction is an example of what other countries--not just the ones on the banned list--can decide to do in response to our half-baked policies. Countries can opt to retaliate against the U.S. by banning travel, which can impact business opportunities for people. They could further tax US products, or the people could create a movement to boycott U.S. products sold in their country. This is something Mexican citizens began to do in response to the ignorant and disrespectful commentary this administration has made about their people and government.
Further, the ban could have potential economic consequences within the U.S. as well.
Many of the travelers banned from entry would be international students-- students who contribute about $700 million to colleges and universities.
This money often helps subsidize the financial aid for U.S. based students. For domestic students, it is already difficult to afford college, imagine how much more unattainable it could be if these institutions lose such a rich revenue source.
On February 9, the Ninth Circuit Court issued a decision to uphold the suspension of the ban. At first, the administration threatened to sue the judicial branch (publishing a tweet threatening to “see [them] in court”), but the likely next step will be that this administration issues a new executive order that attempts to avoid the problems this first order created. And while some members of this administration falsely claim that the president’s authority on immigration is beyond question, the truth is that if a new order is issued and it’s just another thinly-disguised attempt to ban certain religions from entering the country, it may face the same backlash of protests and litigation. Currently the ban is suspended, but the courts continue to move forward to determine the legality of the ban itself.
Yet, even if a ban is not legally permitted, one action the administration can do is direct the Department of Homeland Security to begin raids within immigrant communities. Again, putting aside the emotional harm raids cause our community, especially to our young children, are raids even cost effective?
To answer that, we can look to Postville. The Postville Raid occurred in Postville, Iowa in May 2008. While immigrants were working at the meat packing plant, ICE raided their factory and arrested hundreds of workers, many of whom were charged and convicted of having fraudulent documents before being deported. This raid decimated the town economically. Postville was a small town dependent on the workers to keep their economy alive. The meatpackers paid rent, bought homes, shopped for groceries, patronized stores and restaurants in the area. Once the raid occurred, the economy suffered--not just Postville’s economy, but also the nearby town of Decorah, which housed the local Walmart that provided the locals with much of their basic necessities.
We may envision this administration conducting raids in large cities, where they allege crime continues to increase due to immigrants (that’s an alternative fact), but the likelihood is that raids will occur in small towns where immigrants are isolated and do not have easy access to legal help. Without the immigrant workers, those small towns may face the same fate as Postville. Those left behind will lose neighbors who paid for the local schools and other infrastructure through retail tax, property tax, even social security tax that they will likely never collect. Raids will lead to the loss of bread winners and heads of households. There could also be an increased need for social services for U.S. citizen children who lose their parents.
It is still unclear how and where the raids will take place, or on what scale, but we need only look at our history to see exactly the toll it will take on everyone.
More troubling is that this administration’s aggressive attacks towards immigrants has emboldened other politicians to put forwarded restrictive and dangerous immigration legislation. In early February, congressman Tom Cotton released a draft for a new immigration law that would severely limit the flow of legal immigration into the United States. It would decrease citizens’ abilities to petition for family members, eliminate the diversity visa program, which accounts for the largest flow of Black immigrants into the U.S., and strengthen the ability for companies to bring in a labor force that they can more easily control. The stance they are promoting is that this legislation will bring in “better” immigrants and strengthen the work conditions for U.S. citizens. But is this premise based on good math? Data shows that immigrants help our economy. While there is a slight negative impact to U.S. workers who do not hold high school diplomas, the vast majority of people benefit from immigrants. Immigrants participate in their local economy as consumers and workers. Many others start businesses and create jobs for other people. They provide services and patronize service based industries. Immigrants also complement other workers. An immigrant that starts a business will likely need an accountant, a lawyer, a wholesaler or manufacturer, they could potentially buy real estate and need services for those transactions. Even those that aren’t entrepreneurs buy goods and services from others that helps bolster our economy. Cotton’s legislation will create a chilling-effect on immigrants who are eager to innovate, work, and spend money in our country.
It is myopic to turn off the flow of immigrants into the U.S. when it is clear that we benefit from them financially. It is dangerous to encourage raids and bans based on a false belief that it will make us safer. Not only do policies like these put us in a perilous situation, but they also make us economically frail and will prove to be detrimental to all communities. It is clear that the only ones that benefit from these fear-based policies will be the private prisons that will detained those arrested by ICE, their investors, and any other person who is happy to see a decrease of brown faces in their midst.