Trump Is Wrong: Immigrants Make America A Better, Stronger Country

by John Haltiwanger
REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk

Donald Trump's views on immigration are not only irrational and fallacious, they're offensive and inhumane.

He's made it abundantly clear how he feels about undocumented immigrants, labeling them "drug dealers," "rapists," "killers" and "murderers."

Trump argues they're "destroying" America, adopting the false but persistent conservative stance they're stealing people's jobs and draining the economy.

He would have you believe all undocumented immigrants are either drug-smugglers, Ebola-carriers, Mexicans, Muslims and/or terrorists.

Trump has misleadingly homogenized and stigmatized a diverse array of people who play a vital role in the US economy.

His stance toward immigrants is predicated upon the notion they're criminals, when evidence shows native-born citizens are far more likely to commit violent crimes or be incarcerated.

These views have led Trump to produce what are perhaps the most misguided set of proposed immigration policies in recent memory.

Trump's immigration plan, which was released Sunday, calls for the mass deportation of all undocumented immigrations, a massive wall to be built along the US-Mexico border and an end to birthright citzenship. What's more, he wants the Mexican government to pay for the wall.

This plan is based on a distorted perception of reality. Not to mention, it's completely unfeasible.

Trump's immigration plan is discriminatory and delusional.

There are currently around 41 million immigrants in the US, and it's estimated 11.2 million are undocumented. Trump creates the perception that number is growing but, as Pew Research Center highlights, it's actually been decreasing in recent years.

Moreover, while he seems to argue the majority of undocumented immigrants are from Mexico, that's actually inaccurate. As FiveThirtyEight notes:

The number of unauthorized immigrants from Mexico has been steadily declining since 2007, while a rising share are coming from Central America and Asia.

With that said, nothing about Trump's plan makes sense.

Firstly, it would be exorbitantly expensive to deport all 11.2 million undocumented immigrants (approximately $141.3 billion), and could do tremendous damage to the economy in multiple respects.

Furthermore, the Mexican government has already stated it would not provide the funds for Trump's wall. And his plan to end birthright citizenship is a violation of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

Trump's plan also targets legal immigrants, and would make it far more difficult for them to enter the United States, even if they're highly skilled.

Additionally, it would "increase standards for the admission of refugees and asylum-seekers to crack down on abuses."

This is both unnecessary and cold-hearted, as the standards in place are already difficult to live up to. Moreover, many of the people who fall into this category have fled oppressive regimes or life-threatening situations.

In spite of it's harsh nature and inherent shortcomings, it's evident many Republicans agree with Trump's approach to immigration.

A recent CBS News poll showed 65 percent of Republican primary voters think he is best suited to deal with undocumented immigration.

Fortunately, a recent survey from Pew Research Center shows a majority of Americans believe there should be a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants. In other words, most Americans don't agree with Trump on immigration, and his supporters would do well to wake up and join them.

Indeed, Donald Trump is fundamentally wrong about immigration. He's part of an unfortunate and counterproductive tradition of nativism that ignores history and hinders progress.

This nation has a proud immigrant tradition and wouldn't be the country it is today had millions not been drawn here by the promise of a better life.

Immigrants make America a better, stronger country.

America's economy survives and thrives because of immigrants.

Immigrants, both documented and undocumented, provide an important boost to the economy.

They often tackle low-skilled jobs many native-born Americans are unwilling to take, sustaining the health and vitality of the labor market in the process.

As the New York Times aptly explains:

Immigrants don't just increase the supply of labor... they simultaneously increase demand for it, using the wages they earn to rent apartments, eat food, get haircuts, buy cellphones. That means there are more jobs building apartments, selling food, giving haircuts and dispatching the trucks that move those phones. Immigrants increase the size of the overall population, which means they increase the size of the economy.

In other words, if Donald Trump's immigrant plan was implemented it would actually lead to a decrease in jobs.

Without undocumented workers, entire industries wouldn't function -- agriculture is a prime example.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, "about half of the hired workers employed in US crop agriculture were unauthorized." Deporting undocumented immigrants would cause a massive labor shortage.

Immigrants aren't just hard-workers, they're inherently entrepreneurial. According to the White House, more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or the offspring of immigrants.

Furthermore, in 2007, small businesses owned by immigrants employed around 4.7 million people, and it's estimated they collectively generate close to $776 billion in annual revenue.

Evidence also contradicts the argument immigrants are social leeches. In 2012 alone, it's estimated undocumented immigrants played close to $12 billion in state and local taxes.

But even though they pay taxes, they can't benefit from many public services -- Medicaid, food stamps, housing assistance -- without legal status.

Contrary to everything Trump claims, without immigrants, America's economy would suffer greatly.

There is strength in diversity.

Regardless of the economic benefits of immigration, many might still find it problematic undocumented immigrants broke the law in order to enter this country.

But in making this argument, people fail to recognize how outdated America's immigration system is and how difficult it is to come here legally.

This current framework forces people to go to extreme and dangerous measures to get into the country.

Instead of immediately deeming them criminals, maybe we should admire their bravery and fortitude. And we should view their tremendous efforts as reflective of the fact this broken system requires imminent reform.

It would be impractical for America to open its borders to everyone, that's far too radical and not a sensible solution. But Donald Trump's approach to immigration is the polar opposite, making it just as bad if not worse.

We need a more balanced approach that allows for an easier pathway to legal status for those already here. We need to support refugees and asylum seekers as often as possible. We need policies that help inspire the best and brightest from other countries to come here to study and work.

Trump's plan wouldn't allow for any of that, and it's an insult to the immigrant heritage of this country.

Studies show more diverse workforces drive economic growth and help foster innovation. If we want this country to reach its full potential, we should continue to find ways to foster diversity. Immigration is one of the surest means of accomplishing this.

Citations: Trump defends calling Mexicans rapists (MSNBC), Deace Show Podcast March 25 2015 (Steve Deace), Here are 12 other times Donald Trump vilified illegal immigrants (Washington Post), Donald Trump Speech At CPAC (Politico), Iowa Freedom Summit Donald Trump (CSPAN), IMMIGRATION REFORM THAT WILL MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN (Trump), Unauthorized Immigrant Totals Rise in 7 States Fall in 14 (Pew Research Center), The Facts on Immigration Today (CAP), Mexico No Donald Trump we wont pay for a border wall (CBS News), Immigration and the Economy (White House), Broad Public Support for Legal Status for Undocumented Immigrants (Pew Research Center), Donald Trumps immigration plan explained (Vox), The Mythical Connection Between Immigrants and Crime (WSJ), CBS News poll Donald Trump leads GOP field in 2016 presidential race (CBS News), Donald Trumps immigration tab 166 billion (Politico), Immigration Policy and Its Possible Effects on US Agriculture (USDA)