How Has the Trump Era Negatively Impacted Latin Immigrants in the US?
The cheerful paintings of flowers on the tall metal posts on the Tijuana side of the border fence between the U.S. and Mexico belie the sadness of the Mexican families who have gathered there to exchange whispers, tears, and jokes with relatives on the San Diego side. Many have been separated from their family members for years. Some were deported to Mexico after having lived in the United States for decades without authorization, leaving behind children, spouses, siblings, and parents. Others never left Mexico, but have made their way to the fence to see relatives in the United States. With its prison–like ambience and Orwellian name—Friendship Park—this site is one of the very few places where families separated by immigration rules can have even fleeting contact with their loved ones, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Elsewhere, the tall metal barrier is heavily patrolled.
These are among the key findings from a new nationally representative, bilingual telephone survey of 1,501 Hispanic adults, conducted by cellular and landline telephone from July 26 to Sept. 9, 2018, by SSRS for Pew Research Center. The survey’s margin of error for the full sample is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence interval. Latinos’ downbeat assessments extend to their own economic situations. Asked about their personal finances, only a third rate their situation as excellent or good, down from 40% who said the same in 2015. And when it comes to the next generation, the share who say their children will be better off financially than they are has declined from 72% to 54% over the same three-year period. These signs of waning economic confidence contrast with government data showing Latino unemployment at historic lows and Latino household incomes increasing faster than for other groups. Beyond economic considerations, a majority (54%) of Hispanics say it has become more difficult in recent years to be Hispanic in the U.S. This feeling is even more pervasive among foreign-born Hispanics (64%) than among the U.S. born (44%). And nearly four-in-ten Hispanics say they have experienced at least one of four offensive incidents in the past year because of their Hispanic background, although about as many note that someone has expressed support for them because they are Hispanic. For the 38% of Hispanics who say they have experienced an incident, these comprise: experiencing discrimination or unfair treatment because of their Hispanic background, being criticized for speaking Spanish in public, being told to go back to their home country, or being called offensive names. Immigrant Hispanics are more likely than U.S.-born Hispanics to report they have experienced most of these incidents. Individual experiences of discrimination notwithstanding, the survey finds Hispanics are overwhelmingly proud of their heritage (97%). Strong majorities also express pride in being American (84%). Asked if they could do it again today, 70% of Hispanics born in another country or in Puerto Rico said that they would migrate, or leave Puerto Rico, for the U.S. They also continue to see the U.S. as a better place to get ahead (85%) and a better place to raise children (73%) than their countries of origin or Puerto Rico. The nation’s Latino population stands at nearly 59 million and is one of the youngest and fastest-growing groups in the U.S. Its composition is also changing as the foreign-born share has fallen and U.S. births now drive growth. Overall about one-third of all Latinos are foreign born. Among the about 19 million Latino immigrants, some 8 million are unauthorized immigrants.
Recently, the Trump administration executed a mass-deportation of many illegal immigrants back to Mexico. With tensions already heightened between Mexico and the U.S., this angered the Mexican government. Throughout Trump’s campaign, he ignorantly stated that Mexico would be paying for a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border. However, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has continuously stated that Mexico would not pay for such an extravagant measure. Further, Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray has said that he will vigorously fight the deportations of undocumented immigrants back to Mexico, as well as refuse to accept any non-Mexicans sent across the border (Agren and Stanglin). Videgaray has also said that the treatment of Mexican migrants in the United States will top Mexico’s agenda when President Nieto meets with the U.S. Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security. This announcement came shortly after Trump’s administration unveiled its tough new guidelines for enforcing immigration laws (Agren and Stanglin). The Trump Administration’s new guidelines are an example of the bullying that was prevalent during his campaign, and that is continuing well into his presidency. The Mexican government has even suggested it will go to the United Nations to defend the rights of its migrants (Agren and Stanglin). Trump gained popularity because of his so-called tough-on-crime platform, however, he incessantly forces his political ideals on the world, straining U.S.-World relations. Mexico is an important ally, but Trump’s unfair proposals are further damaging an important relationship, as well as potentially hurting the American economy. Although the Department of Homeland Security has said the new directives focus on criminals and those who pose a threat to the U.S., they expand the authority of federal agents to deport most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States (Agren and Stanglin).According to The Guardian, between the years 2005 and 2008, refugee claims from Mexico nearly tripled. This made Mexico the number one source country for claims, with more than 9,400 claims filed by Mexicans in 2008. However, only 11% were accepted (The Guardian). The previously Conservative Canadian government embraced the visa as a means of border control. However, the Canadian government was pressured by Mexico to end the policy after the number of asylum seekers plummeted in 2015. Justin Trudeau, the current Canadian prime minister agreed to get rid of the visa in exchange for Mexico expanding its imports of Canadian beef (The Guardian). In an interview, Justin Trudeau stated that this move would make it easier for Canada’s Mexican friends to visit while helping grow Canada’s local economies and strengthen their communities. During the time the visa lift was announced, no one believed that Trump stood a real chance of winning the presidency against Hillary Clinton, the popular democratic candidate especially after his vows to build the wall along the shared border of the U.S. and Mexico. Although Canada lifted the visa requirement for Mexican travelers without anticipating Trump’s presidency, it came at a time when Mexican migrants needed it the most. Canada has proven itself to be a leader and a friend in a difficult time for immigrants worldwide.
In any event, Latin America’s lack of strategic importance for the United States is not likely to change under Trump’s presidency given the number of pressing foreign policy issues currently facing the White House in other parts of the world. This will only change if an unprecedented situation that could endanger U.S. security takes place in the region. President Trump rarely referenced Latin America during his campaign, outside of using NAFTA as his main punching bag when debating against multilateral free trade agreements and focusing on illegal immigration coming from the US-Mexico border.
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