By Basil Wilson for Carib News
Trump has turned the tiger loose. The Immigration and customs Enforcement, otherwise known as ICE, has embarked on escapades of deportation sweeps. In the Queens area, New York City, there were reports of ICE agents swooping down on Home Depot in search of undocumented workers. It is anticipated that new executive orders will be issued by the Trump administration, and that will begin a new reign of terror on immigrants.
The militarianization of American life began long before the age of Trump. Something peculiar is occurring in contemporary American society which distinguishes it from the rest of the democratic world. From 1880 to 1980 the American prison population increased over the 100 year period by approximately 280,000 prisoners. But from 1980 to the present, we have witnessed an exponential increase in America’s prisons. At this juncture, there are approximately 1.4 million Americans in prison and another 700,000 in jails serving short sentences or awaiting trial. When one includes Americans on probation and on parole, the total figure of Americans under the custody of law enforcement amounts to over 7 million people.
The Sentencing Project based in Washington, D.C. published in 2013 that the United States led the world in citizens imprisoned per 100,000. In the United States there were 716 per 100,000. In the Russian Federation, a demi-totalitarian society, the figure was 475 per 100,000. In democratic civilized countries like Denmark and Sweden, the figures per 100,000 respectively were 73 and 67.
This penchant for praetorianism was not just confined to American citizens. A gargantuan machinery to deal with the influx of undocumented workers was created to compliment the prison complex. There is some evidence that the NAFTA free trade agreement that sought to integrate the economics of Canada, Mexico and the United States initially had a distinctive impact on Mexican agricultural workers who could not compete with the more efficient American produced agricultural goods. As a result of their loss of livelihood, increasing numbers of Mexican agricultural workers crossed the contiguous border with America in search of economic survival.
The 2016 Report of the Department of Homeland Security vividly showed trends in the cycle of deportations from 2008 to 2016 which incorporates the presidency of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. In 2008, ICE and Border Patrol deported 369, 221 aliens. Those numbers remained fairly constant until 2014 when the numbers based on a newly initiated policy began to decline. In 2009, 389,834 aliens were deported, 392,862 in 2010, 396,906 in 2011, 409,849 in 2012 and 39,644 in 2013.
After being designated the Deporter-in-Chief by Hispanic interest groups, President Obama modified his deportation policy and made it less shattering on family life. There is no question that mass deportation has had a debilitating impact on the family life of immigrants.
The Department of Homeland Security began following a policy of prioritizing violent criminals. In addition, the Dreamers – children brought to America at an early age, through an Executive Order, were given permission to work and protected from the long arm of ICE. In 2014, 313,943 aliens were deported. In 2015 that figure declined to 235,419 and in 2016, 249,258.
In terms of the Southern Border in recent years, the demographics have changed. There are more Central Americans fleeing violence who are attempting to cross the border without proper papers. Many families and unaccompanied children have sought not to cross illegally but to apply for asylum on humanitarian grounds. Legislation passed by the United States Congress during the George W. Bush presidency explicitly stated that unaccompanied minors were entitled to a hearing by the Immigration Court.
During the Presidential campaign, Donald Trump in a vulgar manner began the scapegoating of Mexicans, Muslims and immigrants in general. Initially, he expressed the determination of deporting 11 million undocumented families who were sojourned in America. That rhetoric was somewhat modified when he began to emphasize that he would deport violent criminals and gang members. Now that he is the President of the United States, Trump has made it clear that he will augment the capacity of ICE and clear the country of illegal immigrants, irrespective of the asundering on families. Many immigrant families will include members with green cards, citizens and some members who are not documented. The Trump administration is oblivious to this complexity.
The gestapo tactics that have been unleashed will have dire consequences on families, particularly American born citizens whose parents are not legitimate residents but who have worked indefatigably to keep kith and kin together.
America has the right to protect its borders but the hysteria trumpeted by Trump is a concocted existential crisis. Immigrant labor at the labor intensive spectrum of the economy and immigrants who work in the high-tech sectors of the American economy play an important role in the growth of the American economy.
The American economy is functioning at nigh full employment with unemployment at 4.8 percent of the labor force. Immigrants who work in the high-tech sectors have contributed to the ethos of innovation and have contributed to making the United States more competitive in the global marketplace.
The United States presently suffers from a mismatch in terms of its labor force. There is a shortage of highly skilled workers. Immigrant workers fill the void in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Many of the workers employed in advance industry with graduate degrees and doctorates are disproportionately immigrants. They have strengthened America’s human capital. The brain drain in skilled personnel is enriching to America. This brain drain has impeded the development of developing countries and the Caribbean is a case in point.
The workers in the labor intensive segments of the American economy also play a pivotal role. They work in the service industry, in construction, in landscaping and work in areas in which the indigenous population spurns those kinds of jobs.
The war on immigrants will impact America’s economic growth. A much better public policy would be to pass a bi-partisan immigration bill and settle the army of undocumented workers who have committed no crimes and are our neighbors and members of our communities. The dragon approach is unbecoming of a democratic society. Rather than making America great, Trump is hell bent on making America a pariah nation lacking in a humane approach to its immigration challenges.