Over the past month, real estate mogul Donald Trump has made quite a name for himself as a right-wing birther. Birtherism and nativism usually go hand in hand, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that Trump was recently caught railing on immigrants at a Tea Party rally in Florida this past weekend. Yet, Trump doesn’t have a problem with well-educated foreigners coming to the United States. He takes issue with the poor undocumented immigrants who “have never ever achieved anything”:
I am very strong on concise borders. We either have a country or we don’t. [...] I know many incredible people — from South America, from Europe, from Asia — they can’t get into the country. They went to the best colleges, they went to our colleges, they want to be here, they want to work, they want to create jobs. We don’t let them in. [...]
But sadly, if you’re a criminal, a sex offender, a rapist, a murderer, or quite frankly, somebody who has never ever achieved anything — and you’re able to cross the border and stay in our country — in some case with benefits and never leave. What is going on?
The majority of undocumented immigrants aren’t criminals. Most of them, however, could not afford to go to “the best colleges.” And as the U.S. gets older and better educated, they make up the labor population that the U.S. most depends upon. It’s hard to imagine that Trump’s own success in the real estate and hotel business hasn’t been built in part on the backs of those undocumented immigrants. The construction and service industry that Trump has made billions off of is largely dependent on immigrant labor.
In 2006, before the housing bubble burst, at least 28 percent of all workers employed in construction and extraction occupations were foreign born. As of 2007, about 17 percent of undocumented immigrants worked in the leisure and hospitality industries. Ten percent of hotel workers and 12 percent of food-service workers are estimated to be undocumented immigrants. These are probably low-ball estimates since businesses are likely reluctant to draw attention to the fact that a significant portion of their workforce might lack proper documentation.
In fact, Trump has faced allegations in the past that he himself hired undocumented immigrants. That was almost twenty years ago, when the population of undocumented immigrants was three times smaller than it is today.
It’s not the first time Trump has weighed in on the immigration issue. Last year, he came out in support of Arizona’s immigration law, SB-1070. At the time, Trump claimed that he “wouldn’t mind” if police started stopping people on the street to make sure they’re in the U.S. legally. “Arizona is really getting crime-ridden. There’s people coming over, there’s killings all over the place, there’s shootings all over the place,” reasoned Trump. (Crime is actually down in Arizona). He has also called for militarizing the border.
The Wonk Room