If you had concluded that the United States could not possibly look worse in the eyes of the world than it already has the past 11 months of the reign of Trump, you thought wrong. Today the United States fell even one more notch lower in the global community, with Trump’s ringing inquiry, “Why do we have people from all these shithole countries coming here?” Donald Trump simply dropped this gem into a bipartisan meeting of senators seeking a compromise on immigration that would both codify protections for Dreamers and increase border security.
This is merely one of many such remarks. Trump ended protective status for 250,000 Salvadorans this week. He wants whites only, and makes no bones about it, telling the Washington Post, we need to “bring more people from countries like Norway” rather than Africa and Haiti. Back in December Trump informed us that immigrants from Haiti “all have AIDS,” and that after Nigerian immigrants saw the U.S., they’d never “go back to their huts.”
This is the world the sitting president lives in, one of racist tropes and brutal cliches. And he’s got people defending this blatant racism with whitewashing and oversimplification. Washington Post:
“Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people,” spokesman Raj Shah said in a statement issued after The Washington Post first reported Trump’s remarks. “. . .Like other nations that have merit-based immigration, President Trump is fighting for permanent solutions that make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation.”
What is truly tragic about this discussion is that we have been here before and done this already and it didn’t work. During the Great Depression one out of three Mexicans was repatriated and it fixed nothing. This is one of the ugliest chapters in our history. Washington Post:
There’s been a wealth of research on how much immigrants add to an economy, but not as much about what happens if you forcibly subtract them.
In the United States, the clearest parallel may well be the mass repatriation of Mexicans during the Great Depression. It was an era of desperation, hyperbole and racist hysteria. Politicians of the time should sound familiar, a few hilarious archaisms aside. In his 1931 annual report, Commissioner General of Immigration Harry Hull bemoaned the “hardships inflicted upon the American citizen” by “exposure to competition in employment opportunities of the bootlegged aliens.”
Compare that to this racist clap trap posted by the Trump administration a few months ago.
According to an official statement of immigration principles posted in October: “Decades of low-skilled immigration has suppressed wages, fueled unemployment and strained federal resources.” The report also outlines strategies for deporting those who are in the U.S. illegally or who “abuse” their visas.
Trump is dying to stop immigration and to deport lots of people. But what happened when deportation was done during the Depression? Was the land of milk and honey restored?
Economists Jongkwan Lee, of the Korea Development Institute, Vasil Yasenov, a postdoctoral scholar at the Goldman School of Public Policy in the University of California at Berkeley, and Giovanni Peri, economics chair at the University of California at Davis, looked at decades of detailed data to see if the higher wages and lower unemployment promised by opponents of immigration had materialized.
If anything, the opposite occurred.
Like TPS beneficiaries, many Mexicans (defined by the authors as people born in Mexico and their children) had established themselves in their communities. Researchers found cities that sent away more Mexicans saw worsening unemployment and slower wage growth after repatriation, even when adjusting for effects such as extreme drought and localized New Deal policies.
It didn’t work during the Depression and it won’t work now.
In their full analysis, which ranged from 1930 to 1950, the researchers found that — despite politicians’ promises at the outset — no broad group of American workers benefited from the massive, coerced repatriation of one out of every three Mexicans.
It’s telling. This period in history should have made the perfect argument for the administration’s virtual wall anti-immigration policy. Native-born workers were crossing the country in desperate search of jobs. The unemployment rate peaked above 25 percent. And yet, there’s no evidence that in the end, U.S. workers benefited from tossing out hundreds of thousands of men and women who they saw as their labor market rivals.
In fact, there are indications that they suffered the worse for it.
Donald Trump claims to have fancy degrees in business from prestigious schools, but he doesn’t understand the basics.
Understanding repatriation’s consequences in terms of the economy’s headline number or gross domestic product is a matter of simple math. At its core, GDP is the result of multiplying an economy’s population by each resident’s production of goods and services.
When you expel workers, like Mexicans during the Depression or Salvadorans today, you reduce the population side of the equation. But it gets worse, because you also reduce the production side as employers struggle to replace the workers, suppliers and buyers they just lost.
And if you’re reducing both sides of that GDP multiplication equation, you’re necessarily going to multiply the resulting drag on economic growth. Which is the opposite of what Trump officials are promising with their immigration overhaul.
So Trump’s immigration and deportation plans are a losing picture which cannot possibly succeed and which guarantee human misery. But you knew that.