Former Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump is markedly vocal on the failings of status quo immigration policies. Returning America to greatness, according to Trump, largely depends on constructing an enormous wall. What’s more, the project will be funded by the United States’ over-hundred-year ally and second largest continental trading partner.
To repay a moral debt accrued over decades of illegally sending millions of felonious immigrants across the Mexican-American border. Stemming illegal immigration apparently has no alternative.
But Trump is patently wrong; constructing a wall is completely pointless and severely prejudicial.
A lack of universal appall at his immigration reform proposals is not altogether shocking, however. Americans have a consistent appetite for jingoistic marginalization—not categorically towards all nationalities but only select demographics based on contemporary politics.
In the mid-nineteenth century, for example, millions of Irish immigrants suffered fierce discrimination and even outright persecution from American “Nativists.” In the early twentieth century, Chinese blue-collar workers and small business owners were victimized by laws and lawsuits that forced business closures, restricted land ownership, and eventually culminated in a complete ban on Chinese immigration. Both Japanese and Italian immigrants during World War Two were assumed to be enemies of the state and socially black-balled, ignoring the forcible interment of thousands of Japanese Americans following the Pearl Harbor attack.
Since the end of the twentieth century, in an era of celebrated social tolerance and equality, the trend of politically inspired discrimination continues. The average American is conditioned to safely assume a vast majority of immigrants from anywhere south of the border has entered the U.S. illegally. These immigrants, the narrative continues, contribute nothing to society except a spike in crime rates and a crippling burden on social welfare. Thus, even when data flatly discredits both this prejudicial stereotype and Trump’s frenzied advocacy of a “big beautiful wall,” as described to Stephen Colbert on The Late Show, most Americans remain fully ignorant.
Illegal immigrants crossed the southern American border at an annual rate of over 700,000 by the turn of the twenty-first century. But less than 150,000 undocumented immigrants cross the same border today. The Pew Research Center additionally reports that in stark contrast to 1995 immigration statistics that recorded 80% of Mexican immigrants entering illegally and 20% legally, the opposite is true today; less than 20% of Mexican immigrants are undocumented.
Furthermore, the estimated 3.5% of the United States’ population that consists of illegal immigrants has not only remained stagnant for the past two years, but steadily declined between 2006 and 2013. The largest number of estimated illegal immigrants was twelve million in the early 2000’s. But since that peak, the number has fallen to a status quo of 11.3 million.
If Trump wants to target a large and rapidly growing migrating demographic, his focus should shift to Indian immigrants. Indian immigration has doubled since the early 2000s. But even if a wall could stem Indian immigration, it would still be unnecessary since almost all Indian immigrants are legal.
Alternatively, if securing a vulnerable border is Trump’s true objective, his focus should shift to the Canadian border, an entrance into the United States for at least as many illegal immigrants, drugs, and miscellaneous security threats as crisscross the southern border. But of course tasteless slurs about Canadians resonate poorly with most Americans.
All of the aforementioned information leads to one conclusion: illegal immigration via the southern border will not ruin the United States of America. Thus, coercing an established ally into spending the equivalent of billions of dollars to build a 2,000-plus mile long wall along the US-Mexico border to fix for a problem that has been waning for almost a decade is thoroughly absurd.
Trump’s frequent misogynistic, insulting, and discriminatory commentaries are commonplace. But even if all of that rhetoric is omitted from Trump’s resume of flaws, his spurious justification for outrageous immigration reforms should sufficiently relieve his campaign of all public support. Seriously entertaining the candidacy of someone who mindlessly slurs based on clear statistical inaccuracies solidly qualifies as reprehensible.
Expecting informed opinions from a high-profile political candidate seems reasonable. But the only safe expectation from Trump is ignorant prejudice.
All immigration data from research by the Pew Research Center