Who could forget Donald Trump’s speech more than four years ago when he said: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you, they are sending people that have lots of problems, and they are bringing those problems with us. They are bringing drugs, they are bringing crime, they are rapists, and some, I assume, are good people.”
I remember hearing those words and, on the one hand, not believing what I heard. On the other, I felt so disgusted and offended by a person I didn’t know, one who went on to be president of this great nation. That was the beginning of a nightmare for most Latinos, people of color and many others.
After four years of the worst presidency I have seen, in the midst of Trump’s reelection campaign, The New York Times finally obtained Trump’s tax records — records Trump hid for so long knowing those documents would show the fraud and lies he has told all along.
Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes the year he won the presidency, and $750 the following year. For 10 of the last 15 years, he paid no federal incomes taxes. Did you hear that right? In 10 years — zero, nada, not one cent! I know hundreds of people that pay way more in taxes than the U.S president, including myself!
We are talking about the self-described billionaire; we are talking of the guy that owns hotels and golf clubs all over the world. The same guy who stands in front of thousands of poor people that dream to be wealthy like him, and the same guy that had the audacity to call many people of color thugs and criminals.
For years he has persecuted undocumented immigrants saying that they take jobs away from Americans and are a drain to our economy. In 2016, regarding immigration, he said “there’s no path to legalization unless undocumented immigrants leave. When they come back in, they can start paying taxes.”
The irony of it all is that millions of undocumented people already pay taxes, according to a 2017 analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. In Iowa, undocumented immigrants paid more than $36 million in state and local taxes in 2014, estimates show. Nationwide, an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants contributed about $11.7 billion in state and local taxes that year.
When it comes to the Dreamers and how much DACA recipients pay in taxes, the Center for American Progress released a report last year showing ways in which the nearly 700,000 DACA recipients contribute to this country. These Dreamers and their households annually pay a combined $5.7 billion in federal taxes and $3.1 billion in state and local taxes, the report shows.
To provide a local and state perspective I reached out to Erica Johnson, director of American Friends Service Committee in Iowa.
“Donald Trump’s brand is fear, lies and hate,” Johnson said. “He has stoked division by scapegoating immigrants. The fact is that immigrants are the lifeblood of our communities. They work hard, pay taxes, and offer what is best in our world — dignity, family, resiliency. We need honest leaders that recognize these contributions, honor people’s rights and offer a path to citizenship.”
Caleb Knutson, chair of the Iowa Commission of Latino Affairs, said, “Trump has completely ignored and tried to erase the contributions immigrant and migrant families contribute.”
“But no matter what he says, or how little taxes he pays,” Knutson said, “research shows us that communities that embrace these communities become stronger. These families bring with them the entrepreneurial spirit. As a father, whenever my elementary age children see Trump on TV, they ask how we could elect someone who loves to lie and bully people, They see and hear what he does — even they understand that his style isn’t acceptable. They know they wouldn’t be allowed to act like that in school or at home, so why do we tolerate it in the White House?”
Many who follow Trump may justify him by saying he is “smart” for “cheating” a complex tax system. It is difficult to help them see how, in my opinion, they are working poor who dream that their loyalty and perceived proximity to power will bring them the same ill-acquired wealth Trump said they could have. Those followers are in the same boat as everyone else but fail to see it.
The New York Times uncovered a story we suspected. History also brings back a good lesson immortalized by Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr: “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.”
Civilized society is contrary to all that Trump stands for.
Undocumented immigrants, on the other hand, show respect for the land that embraced them and with taxes continue to contribute to its prosperity.
The fact here is that President Trump insulted and used immigrants as a distraction. He has sown a deep hatred against undocumented community members claiming that they are a public burden. But the question here is, who is and has been the real public burden for the United States of America?
by Claudia Thrane
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