Trying to pin down President Donald Trump’s stance on anything critical these days is like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall, but one thing has always seemed to be clear — POTUS’s hardline stance on cracking down on immigration out of fear of violence and taking over U.S. jobs. From that came the travel ban of visitors from seven Middle Eastern countries, none of which has cultivated terrorists who attacked the U.S., and the federal government adopting new strict rules at the behest of the president in the last couple of weeks that are intended to ramp up deportations of undocumented immigrants via Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Along with these aggressive pursuits came countless news stories and backlash — people detained at airports, longtime undocumented residents being deported, and protests where immigrants in unison did not show up to work across the country and right here in Ventura County. In the midst of chaos, conservative-minded citizens became divided over the appropriate tactics to handle undocumented immigration issues, from arguing that such immigrants are “illegal” and should be deported even if they committed no other crime while others are certain Trump would never actually deport civil undocumented immigrants due to the enormous impact such an endeavor would have on the economy. And the White House can’t even get it straight on whether to call the travel ban a Muslim ban or not.
Delving further into his stance on undocumented workers, on Tuesday, Feb. 28, prior to the president’s address to joint session of Congress, White House officials said that the president would be willing to work on reform, even considering a plan to allow these immigrants to live and work in the U.S. without threat of deportation. During his speech that night, however, he did not speak much about helping undocumented immigrants but more so pushed an agenda of advancing immigration policies focused on those who have jobs and money before they get here. So much for your tired and poor.
In the end, the facts remain of the utmost importance. According to a 2015 report by the Public Policy Institute of California, 69,000 undocumented immigrants were living in Ventura County in 2013, working in disproportionate numbers in the farming, construction, production, services/hospitality and transportation/materials moving industries. According to the report, while California has the second-highest statewide share of undocumented workers (9.4 percent) in the nation, after Nevada (10.2 percent), 80 percent or more of California residents surveyed by the institute have consistently shown support for a path to citizenship. Also, in September, in “The Truth About Undocumented Immigrants and Taxes” published by The Atlantic, Stephen Goss, chief actuary of the Social Security Administration, estimated that about 1.8 million immigrants were working with fake or stolen Social Security cards in 2010 and calculated that undocumented immigrants paid $13 billion into the retirement trust fund that year, and only got about $1 billion in benefits. According to a February 2016 report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States collectively paid $11.64 billion in state and local taxes per year.
Their earning potential is also significantly less than the average income of minimum-wage earners, at $15,080. For instance, according to the National Farm Worker Ministry, crop workers’ average income is between $10,000 and $12,499 for individuals. We should, however, keep in mind that United States Department of Homeland Security has seen a negative net illegal immigration to the U.S. since 2007, with more leaving than coming. And while Trump did bring to the joint session four people whose loved ones had died at the hands of criminally minded undocumented immigrants, if there is anything we have learned from Trump’s election, it is that the worst stereotype represented by one or a few does not fairly reflect all the attitudes and characteristics of every individual in the group.
With so much to consider and comprehend, with the president as unpredictable as ever, the real question is this: What exactly are we really afraid of?