Congressman Danny K. Davis Remarks on Two Proposed Executive Orders by President Trump on Immigration


February 2, 2017

The reports make clear that the Trump administration is preparing to continue its propaganda war scape-goating the more than 41 million foreign-born people living in the United States, some 30 million of whom are naturalized citizens, permanent residents and legal residents and eleven million undocumented. 

Just as the America First movement of the 1930s and 40s, which dreaded the consequences of a looming second world war, was inexorably drawn to find someone, in that case the Jewish people, to blame for the desperation they felt about the direction of the country, President Trump’s call for America First has targeted immigrants and refugees as a cause of our economic insecurity.

The memoranda echo candidate Trump’s undocumented “alternate facts” about the impact of immigrants on jobs and the budget.  Candidate Trump offered no substantiation for his claims that immigrant workers (documented or undocumented) contribute to unemployment among workers who are U.S. citizens or that  immigrants end up receiving U.S. social services and eating up federal resources.  These memoranda offer no data and cite no studies either.

The “Executive Order on Protecting Taxpayer Resources by Ensuring Our Immigration Laws Promote Accountability and Responsibility” background states: “Our country’s immigration laws are designed to protect American taxpayers and promote immigrant self-sufficiency. Yet households headed by aliens are much more likely than those headed by citizens to use Federal-means-tested public benefits.”

A controversial and widely debunked 2013 Heritage Foundation study by Robert Rector and Jason Richwine first made that same claim by using very dubious statistical games with the definition of “households” as an economic category.  Richwine repeated his claims again in 2015 and 2016. Richwine became famous, or rather infamous, for his Harvard Ph.D. dissertation asserting that Latino immigrants to the United States, are, and will likely remain less intelligent than “native whites.”  The dissertation came in for scathing criticism for its manipulation of statistics, unscientific use racial and ethnic categories and his dependance on the disgraced and debunked work of Charles Murray The Bell Curve.  Richwine was forced to leave the Heritage Foundation under a cloud because of his dissertation but his equally flawed and refuted work on immigrants and the budget live on in zombie fashion in the world of “alternate facts.” 

Here are some facts from a CNN report about immigrants of the non-alternate variety:

Undocumented immigrants are already U.S. taxpayers. 

They paid an estimated $10.6 billion to state and local taxes in 2010, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP).

A 2013 CBO analysis of the bipartisan bill that would have created a path to legal status for many undocumented immigrants found that increasing legal immigration would increase government spending on refundable tax credits, Medicaid and health insurance subsidies, among other federal benefits. But it would also create even more tax revenue by way of income and payroll taxes. That could reduce deficits by $175 billion over the first 10 years and by at least $700 billion in the second decade.

Undocumented workers pay into Social Security

According to the Social Security Administration, unauthorized immigrants -- who are not eligible to receive Social Security benefits -- have paid an eye-popping $100 billion into the fund over the past decade.

"They are paying an estimated $15 billion a year into Social Security with no intention of ever collecting benefits," Stephen Goss, chief actuary of the SSA told CNNMoney. "Without the estimated 3.1 million undocumented immigrants paying into the system, Social Security would have entered persistent shortfall of tax revenue to cover payouts starting in 2009," he said.

Undocumented workers do not “drain the system”

Undocumented immigrants do not qualify for welfare, food stamps, Medicaid, and most other public benefits. Most of these programs require proof of legal immigration status and under the 1996 welfare law, even legal immigrants cannot receive these benefits until they have been in the United States for more than five years.

Immigrants do not take “American” jobs

The belief that immigrants take jobs that can otherwise be filled by hard-working Americans has been disputed by an overwhelming number of economic research studies and data.

Removing the approximately 8 million unauthorized workers in the United States would not automatically create 8 million job openings for unemployed Americans, said Daniel Griswold, director of the Cato Institute's Center for Trade Policy Studies, in his 2011 testimony before the House Judiciary Sub-committee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement.

The reason, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is two-fold. For one, removing millions of undocumented workers from the economy would also remove millions of entrepreneurs, consumers and taxpayers. The economy would actually lose jobs. Second, native-born workers and immigrant workers tend to possess different skills that often complement one another.

As the AFL-CIO says on its website "For far too long, our broken immigration system has allowed employers to drive down wages and working conditions in our country.  The brunt of the impact has been born by immigrant workers, who face the highest rates of wage theft, sexual harassment, and death and injury on the job."         

America has always been schizophrenic about immigrants.  We recognize we are a nation of immigrants and take pride in our immigrant history, yet we repeatedly fall prey to calls to vilify, revile and fear recent immigrants.  Calls which divide us when we most need to be united.  When will we ever learn, when will we ever learn?