A trend is starting in California that could soon impact the rest of America: crops are rotting due to a severe lack of workers in the field. As a result, it is expected that the price of fruits and vegetables will increase dramatically in the coming months, as migrant workers flee their jobs under the fear of deportation.
Migrant workers are experiencing a severe crackdown from the government due to the policies enacted by Trump, but PEW Research has also revealed that less migrant workers from Mexico (a majority of the farm labor in California) have been coming into the country, and more have been leaving since 2014. Field work might be the first industry to really feel an impact of immigrant crackdown under Obama and Trump, but it certainly won’t be the only industry. This is only one instance where the importance of immigrant workers really shines, but there are many others.
In Silicon Valley, for example, those with green card working visas might be feeling the pressure of losing their jobs or potentially not getting their visas renewed in the coming years. The restaurant industry, as well, will be seeing an impact as more immigrant workers are arrested and brought into ICE jails. In general, immigration is one of the biggest concerns facing American businesses with this new administration. We saw a sampling of the impact that immigrants have back in February, when protesters took part in “A Day Without Immigrants.”
In an article by ABC News, writer Avianne Tan interviewed Daniel Costa, the director of immigration law and policy research at the Economic Policy Institute: “If all immigrants were just to disappear from the U.S. workforce tomorrow, that would have a tremendous negative impact on the economy, […] Immigrants are overrepresented in a lot of occupations in both low- and high-skilled jobs. You’d feel an impact and loss in many, many different occupations and industries, from construction and landscape to finance and IT.”
Without immigrants in the American workforce, the entire United States suffers. Unfortunately, we could be well on our way to finding out just how severe that impact could be on our economy.
Besides job vacancies, how else would the deportations of immigrants affect the US economy? Research shows that — unlike commonly held misconceptions about working immigrants — this demographic of workers contributes a large amount to our economy outside of their labor. Here is some information about the importance of migrant workers and how their loss would be devastating to the entire American populace.
Revenue and Jobs
One of the most commonly held misconceptions is that immigrant workers are paid under the table or are allowed to not pay taxes while working in the United States. This couldn’t be farther from the truth, as migrant workers contribute billions of dollars annually in taxes.
As noted by the New American Economy, according to their research of data from the Census Bureau, immigrants contributed about $223 billion dollar in federal taxes and $104.6 billion dollars in state taxes in 2014 alone. As New American Economy explains, “A notable portion of the income earned by immigrants each year funnels directly back to our government in the form of tax revenues. In some states, immigrants contribute more than one out of every four tax dollars paid by local residents each year—making them invaluable to the health and success of taxpayer-funded services like public schools and police departments.”
One can only imagine how devastating it would be to suddenly lose the tax paying support of immigrants in the US. It could easily cripple the public sector and create massive cuts to funding for schools, public services, and government work.
The New American Economy also notes that the largest demographic paying taxes is Asian and Pacific Islanders, closely followed by Hispanic immigrants. Mexico and the “wall” is one of Trump’s biggest proposals, and if he were allowed to go through with his plan, the impact could be absolutely devastating.
Family Fear and Public Concerns
But outside of the economy, how else could this crackdown on immigrants affect the United States? Economically, it would be devastating, but on a more societal level, what can we expect to see?
Considering many immigrants have children in the US, or were raised here for much longer than their home country, the fear and lack of knowledge about deportation could lead many of them into hiding for the time being. This could result in leaving their jobs, or finding ways to move to sanctuary cities, thus causing other cities to struggle with filling those jobs and making up for the lost tax revenue.
Additionally, it can be a public health risk, as immigrants will avoid seeking medical help for treatable conditions, and could potentially (and unknowingly) spread dangerous diseases. For families with children, those diseases can be especially dangerous.
Already, immigrant families are struggling under the added stress of deportation. In March, 2017, “The Atlantic” covered how some families were scrabbling to find a way to protect their children, just in case the parents were taken away by surprise. As a result, 11-year-old (or younger) natural born citizens were faced with extremely difficult and terrifying circumstances. The psychological effects are becoming increasingly apparent, as one school counselor explained: “[she saw among students] increased tardiness or absences from school. Difficulty concentrating. Getting in fights at school.”
When stress affects children at such a young age, it can have detrimental effects to their behavior and education. As the American Academy of Pediatrics explains, “toxic stress” can damage children’s short and long-term health, as well as impede their learning abilities. For this generation of immigrant children, they could face a more difficult and unhealthy future simply due to the stress they’re experiencing right now.
Our Future at Stake
In many ways, if Trump’s plans to deport and crackdown on illegal immigration were to play out as intended, America as we know it would collapse. So much of our society is dependent on migrant labors from around the world, and we have them to thank for cultivating a billion dollar economic boost and their contributions to the workforce and various industries.
When America cracks down on immigration, it creates extensive stress on the community and poses numerous risks to the health of immigrants and those in their community. Additionally, the fear and stress they experience bleeds into their work, as can be seen in California with the rotting crops and lack of workers.
In the end, we can pretend that this attack on immigrants is about jobs and the economy, or we can see it for what it is: a xenophobic, racist attack on innocent families trying their best to survive in a better environment. If Trump’s America is free of immigrants, then nobody will want to be there.
By Katie McBeth