Immigration Isn’t What’s Threatening My Ability to Thrive in America. Capitalism Is.
Starting this summer when the Trump administration put its “zero tolerance” pilot program regarding immigration to work along the Mexican border— effectively separating parents and legal guardians from minor children by the thousands in the course of only a couple of months in a policy move that can only be called cruel and inhumane— I watched the debates explode on social media.
It was not my friends saying troubling things, but their friends or relatives — who in smug tones decried that the people trickling into our country are taking away precious resources that “real” Americans so desperately need. There’s not enough for everyone, they asserted again and again, so you can’t care about the poor citizens of this nation and also about destitute people fleeing for their lives and attempting to seek refuge and a new life in the United States.
To all of that I emphatically say “bullshit.” And also — wow, the super elite has really pulled the wool over all your eyes! That is of course, if you actually believe that and aren’t just using the excuse as a paltry cover for your racism.
First off, we have the resources to help both those coming in from other countries and those of lesser means who already reside here. In the beginning of this year, Oxfam International released a report that was covered by Time Magazine that found that world’s billionaires — all 2,043 of them, (and almost all of whom are white cis men)—had enough wealth TO END EXTREME POVERTY IN THE WORLD BY SEVEN TIMES.
Let’s put it another way: less than 1% (or to be more exact, approximately .000027%) of the entire world population of 7.6 billion has the ability to alleviate all global poverty with their money— and they’d STILL be wealthy after that investment.
According to an article in Business Insider, the U.S. had 560 billionaires in it in 2017— more than any other nation in the world. They could help take care of us all and they’d still be living an extremely comfortable life the vast majority of us will never know.
And even for those billionaires who do not reside here? Well, the U.S. has a tax policy system that allows (and even invites) wealthy foreign investors to buy up buildings and land in our country and use it as nice little offshore tax haven for themselves — while many of our own citizens are starving or forced to live in the streets.
As noted by Forbes in 2016, “Under…[the] domiciliary regime, the U.S. does not tax U.S.-source income of non-U.S. persons (who do not have a substantial presence in the U.S.).” In fact, other than dividends and real estate income, foreign investors and business people “do not pay income tax on capital gains and bond interest.” It seems Trump and his ilk only think charity isn’t necessary for poor and struggling folks — but for the already rich? Bring it on! Those poor moneyed men…they need another private jet or yacht.
The GOP (and yes, many of their corporate-friendly Democratic counterparts in Congress) are very happy to have “open borders” when it comes to being a tax haven for non-citizens — even if that means driving up the cost of living for American residents and pushing many of us to or past the brink of poverty.
And this is about to get much worse.
Remember the Trump tax bill that passed earlier this year — the one that even supposedly moderate Republicans like Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Maine’s Susan Collins voted for and embraced as a win for their respective states and our nation? Well, it is going to be a boon to the super-wealthy while lower income and middle class folks are squeezed even tighter.
Under this new tax law, a foreign investor could now receive a 40% reduction in the U.S. income tax of his or her gains and income from their real estate investments, while taxes on U.S. real estate income will now be lowered to tax rates of 21% for corporations, both foreign or domestic. Of course, this will drive up our debt by at least another trillion dollars. But don’t worry, the Republicans already have a plan to offset these giveaways to the already-wealthy — cutting programs like Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security by hundreds of billions of dollars — which serves hundreds of millions of needy American citizens and residents annually.
But to bring this back to the immigration issue, want to know how much it costs to detain those coming in across the border and their children? For adults, it was close to $200 per individual per day. The Coast Guard was also trying to allocate $77 million to ICE, while the costs of adding about 15,000 new detention beds could be about $2 billion annually. And who or what is profiting and will continue to profit from this despicable set-up? Not the American people, but the private prison industrial complex. How convenient to have this policy so they can make money off sending kids to dog kennels. Perhaps I am wrong, but I think it would financially benefit our nation to allow people in, where they can become tax-paying residents (and perhaps even citizens) and American consumers, as well as a legitimate part of the labor force.
And before people jump in to say this policy is over so this post is moot: it’s not, not really. Trump has yet to reunite dozens to hundreds of families (different sources cite different numbers, but I’d veer toward the larger one knowing the ineptitude and dishonesty of this current administration), despite court order to do so. He’s actually even considering implementing a new family separation policy as I write this.
And the other battle cry I’ve heard from the side of those supporting Trump’s immigration stance is that people need to deal with their own issues in their own countries. But this ignores that the instability of those countries — including Honduras and El Salvador — are largely due to America enforcing its neo-liberal, interventionist policies on them.
Basically, immigrants seeking asylum in the nation that destabilized their home countries are suffering because capitalism, as am I. We both are maligned in this nation, whether we were born here or not — for our supposed “neediness” — even if that neediness was carefully cultivated by those in charge who then play with us like chess pawns asking us to see each other as the blame rather than them for orchestrating our downfalls.
I spent several years as an economics reporter for a distinguished financial news website that catered to Wall Street brokers and zealots of the free market. I spent many of my hours of every week combing through our tax policies and labor laws. I know how broken our system is, how deeply rigged, not just because I live it out in my daily life as someone surviving under the poverty level, but because I have had access to an education and profession that lets me see the driving force and mentality of those who control the switches. I’ve interviewed those libertarian think tank researchers and the men with their starched ties who gambled with our the housing mortgage loans and our retirement savings.
I’ve heard their sides of the story and seen how clearly it doesn’t even slightly comprehend the other realities in the fabric of our country’s culture. I have also interviewed scholars and academics and regular working citizens from other nations with more equitable tax codes and much more robust social safety nets. They are on the whole much happier and healthier…even as their countries have much less wealth overall than we have.
The irony is, those people who rant against immigrants as taking away what the most marginalized of Americans need? They are often the same ones who are quick to call me a leech for living in affordable housing and being on Medicaid. It doesn’t matter that I worked hard for years and paid into the system that I am now (barely) benefiting from or that I continue to work even as my body begins to fail from chronic illness. I’ve seen my share of starched white men in ivory towers and the hall of Capitol Hill phone it in, outsourcing the bulk of their expected labor to their underlings working for much smaller paychecks. I saw them cash it all in without a second thought, while barely being questioned or challenged.
As for me, I am a low income, disabled woman who has never adhered very well or consistently to the gender binary. I also grew up in an immigrant, Latinx and Asian neighborhood that thrived on exploiting many of my neighbors in sweatshops and watched firsthand as police harassed and harmed those I shared food and fun with over the years simply because of their skin color. As the daughter and niece of addicts, I suffered firsthand from the War on Drugs (though our family still didn’t suffer as much as most people of color dealing with similar situations) during the 1980s and 1990s. This was a war explicitly created and carried out in order impoverish and enslave poor people and people of color.
My place in this society has been repeatedly questioned and even scorned, and my assertions regularly undermined — even with my white privilege — and so I can only try to fathom how it might fare for those marginalized by race as well as class. So, this newfound concern for folks living on edge as a way to justify immigrant detention and deportation is disingenuous at best, and nefarious and deeply dangerous at worst.
Because it is not immigration that threatens my or anyone else’s ability to thrive in this country or our planet —but rather that of runaway capitalism. The problem isn’t that there are scarce resources and immigrants coming into our country would compete with American citizens over what little there is. The problem is we actually have plenty of resources — more than enough for us all in many ways — but the elite are hoarding a hugely disproportionate amount while the rest of us battle for the leftover scraps.
This needs to change.
If we really want a world where all of us can thrive and live with basic dignity, than we need nothing less than a massive redistribution of resources — monetary and otherwise.