Donald Trump opened his campaign by attacking immigrants, saying “they’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”
Trump’s belittling caveat “And some, I assume, are good people” only rubbed salt in the wounds. Immigrants and refugees, documented or undocumented, are actually less likely to commit crimes than native born U.S. citizens.
Today, Trump signed executive orders that attempt to build walls between people and restrict immigration from specific countries. These policies are harmful and divert attention from the involvement of the United States in creating the problems that pressure people to leave their homes in neighboring countries.
Trump would have us believe that Mexicans are benefitting from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) at the expense of the U.S. while passing along social problems. In reality, this type of free trade agreement creates advantages for companies and investors while the poorest and most vulnerable people lose out on all sides.
The majority of immigrants crossing the border without documents in the last year are not Mexicans but Central Americans. Many of these immigrants are desperate to escape food insecurity and violence that have grown as a result of U.S. policy toward the region.
While Trump has made much of his promise to renegotiate NAFTA, he has said nothing about addressing the Central America Free Trade Agreement, and agribusiness companies are bullish about the prospects that Trump will leave it alone.
Trump has signaled that he will use U.S. power to protect big agribusiness by his appointment of grain trader Sonny Perdue as Secretary of Agriculture. The promotion of U.S. agribusiness over local farmers has contributed to Central American rural poverty in recent years, and a World Food Program study found strong links to food insecurity as a cause of migration.
To have the security to stay in their home countries or have the option to immigrate is a crucial human freedom. Immigrants have brought economic growth and creativity to the U.S., and they’ve bolstered the social security system. They have filled vital roles and created new jobs, rather than simply taking jobs.
Trump’s proposed wall – which will be partially a fence – will do nothing to solve problems in the U.S. Instead, it will separate immigrant families and create pressure cooker conditions in Central America that will spill out one way or another, with people taking more dangerous routes to migrate.
In Central America and Mexico, it will likely lead to greater conditions of misery and violence, while increasing fear and targeting large communities here in the U.S.