QC Model UN Presents:
Immigration and the Reality of the American Dream
Author: Malaika Var
The Trump administration has significantly changed the way immigration has been previously perceived in the United States. At the 2020 Republican National Convention, Trump gave the impression that he was tough on illegal immigration, but was pro-legal immigration. However, this statement proves to be immensely inaccurate. Reports indicate that by 2021, Trump plans on cutting legal immigration by 49%. Reducing legal immigration will mostly harm refugees, employers, and those who wish to reside in the U.S. with their spouse, children, or parents. Trump’s cult following has blindly accepted Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric. He has managed to convince the vast majority of his supporters that immigrants are replacing native-born Americans in the workforce. For some, their fear of immigration stem from the inaccurate belief that immigrants are supposedly “stealing” jobs and other benefits away from them. This belief has become the center of the hateful anti-immigration policies surging ever since Trump was elected president.
In previous years, before Trump came into power, immigrants were thought of in a positive light; they were believed to be critical for the function of our economy and were seen as great contributors to the growth of the economy. Though this fact still remains true, this does not stop the narrow-minded ignorance from many Americans who want to pinpoint their failures to the successes of immigrants. The rising hatred for immigration has also affected how many perceive the horrid detention centers at the southern border of the United States. Trump has made no effort to condemn the mistreatment of immigrants in these facilities and instead praised the detention facilities for being “beautifully run.” His immigration policy is aimed at protecting American workers and “putting Americans first.” Trump’s plan for tightened foreign workers visa requirements that will restrict the number of legal immigrants in the United States, in addition to his condoning of the conditions at the southern border, further contribute to the horrifying reality that immigrants often face that go unnoticed. The once, land of the free has become the land of the imprisoned and unfulfilled American Dreams of the many.
The horrifying conditions of the detention centers at the Mexican-American border (which should more accurately be described as concentration camps) have proved that Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric goes as low as separating children from their families for extended periods of time, cramping up more people in a room than it was designed to hold, and even unlawfully detaining American citizens. More than 50,000 people are being held in ICE facilities while more than 11,000 children are in the custody of HHS (who can hold unaccompanied children for up to 45 days). Just in the 2019 fiscal year, immigration authorities have apprehended more than 76,020 unaccompanied minors either at or near the Mexican-American border. Detained immigrants are forced into overcrowded metal cages. Additionally, due to overcrowding and the refusal of customs and border portals to administer free vaccines to immigrants, reports have found slum-like conditions in these facilities. Consequently, these facilities run rampant with filth and diseases such as the flu and smallpox. The lack of medical attention given to immigrants has resulted in only further amplifying the astonishing number of deaths that have occurred in these facilities. Videos have surfaced of immigrants sharing their personal experience within the detention centers. Many spoke of the lack of showers granted to them, the horrid sleeping conditions, and the restrictions from seeing or contacting their family members. What is even more disturbing is the number of women detained who confessed that they have undergone hysterectomies without their consent. An ICE whistleblower who served as a nurse at a private detention center recently came out in September to alarm the public of the severe mistreatment of women in these facilities. Often without their consent and knowledge, many migrant women were forced into surgeries that they did not need. Medical neglect of immigrants and in general, lack of basic human decency has progressed so far to the point where it genuinely feels like they are not even human. The pain and utter violence inflicted upon immigrants caged in detention centers only reinforces the hatred spurred by the Trump Administration and steers further away from the very same ideologies that this country claims to have been founded on.
Trump has responded to those criticizing the conditions of the detention centers by taking it to Twitter, as usual, and continuing to say that immigrants who were unhappy with the conditions of the detention centers should simply not come to the United States. He further condoned the ill-treatment of immigrants by complimenting and praising the way the detention centers were run. His belief that there is nothing wrong with how immigrants are being treated at the border has further contributed to the hateful anti-immigration rhetoric. It also proves that Trump is not anti-illegal immigration, he is also anti-immigration in general.
Many of Trump’s supporters can argue that Trump is not anti-immigration, he is just pro-American workers; however this is not the case. His goal to protect American workers will be attempted by reforming requirements of governing the H-1B work visa program. The Trump administration’s goal to reform the H-1B program includes the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) tightening standards that require foreign workers to show specialized merit to establish their eligibility. Trump is also aiming to “improve America’s work visa programs to prioritize the highest skilled workers to protect American jobs” (Whitehouse.gov). As a result, the denial rate on the new H-1B petitions has increased from 6% in 2015 to about 30% in 2020. It was also reported in August of 2020 that under Trump’s immigration policy, even the most highly skilled individuals in the world cannot enter the United States. The message Trump is sending to the public is that American workers are threatened by immigrants. This includes foreign workers, asylum seekers, undocumented immigrants, and the likes. Anyone who is not a native-born American is essentially a threat in Trump’s eyes, and he has made sure that his cult following believes the same. However, his xenophobic belief is entirely false. Immigrants do not threaten American workers so therefore it is imperative that the Trump Administration stop spreading and enforcing this hateful narrative.
The truth is immigrants positively contribute to the economy in various ways. They work high rates and make up one-third of the workforce in certain industries; many jobs taken by immigrants are crucial to our economy. Reports from March 2018 show that immigrants with less than a four-year college degree make up 10% of all persons, but also make up 11% of U.S. workers. By securing positions in important occupations, immigrants play a critical role in our economy. Approximately 36% of farming, fishing, and forestry occupations are held by immigrants. Immigrants also made up 36% of the buildings, grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations, 29% of the textile and apparel manufacturing industry, 27% of the food manufacturing industry, 27% of the accommodation industry, 24% of the construction industry, and 24% of the administrative and support services industry (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities). High employment levels for less-educated immigrants indicate that the demand for low-skill workers still remains high. Another reason there is such a high demand for low-skilled labor is due to many native-born Americans refusing and being unwilling to take such positions. In other words, the jobs immigrants are “stealing” from native-borns are the same jobs they refuse to do. Ironically, this means that immigrants do not actually replace native-born American workers. In fact, they take on jobs in the labor force that are essential to the economy and that are not commonly taken by native-borns. Native-born Americans will not take on low-skilled labor work, mostly because they feel as if they are too good for it. It is quite interesting how they feel the opposite when immigrants come into the picture.
Additionally, immigrants contribute to the economy through paying taxes. There is a common misconception often applied by the Trump administration that undocumented immigrations do not pay their taxes; which is also a narrative blindly accepted by many of Trump’s supporters. However, on average, undocumented immigrants pay $11.64 billion in state and local taxes annually. An undocumented immigrant has about 8% of their income go to taxes. Furthermore, regardless of immigration status, immigrants will still manage to contribute approximately $80,000 more in taxes than in government services used in their entire lifetime. This essentially means that immigrants contribute more to the economy than they benefit from it. In other words, they receive less than they give.
The irony of the American Dream is that it is the ideology that has been ingrained in the minds of Americans since birth; the ideology that has led so many to the United States. It is the belief and notion that one person, regardless of who they are and their background, can reach success through enough hardwork and sacrifice. The United States has always prided itself in the possibility for anyone to achieve the American Dream. A country built and sustained by immigrants has turned its back on the same immigrants. Failure to protect and aid immigrants has caused further division and fear within the country. Immigrants detained at the southern border are stripped of fundamental human rights, only for wanting a better life in the country that promises so. The Trump administration’s spiteful rhetoric portrays immigrants as the enemy of the country; when in reality, their only wish is to achieve the American Dream. The United States, the self-proclaimed “land of the free”, has failed to offer that much. Denying immigrants their right to want a better life is hypocritical considering how this country was built. Regardless of the negative perspective Trump has placed on immigrants, this country will always be the home of immigrants.