Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

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On Aug. 31, Donald Trump delivered a mind-boggling speech on immigration, striking for its anger, its mendacity, its hostility, its cruelty and its frank bigotry. Trump has once again defied the expectations of longtime political observers with behavior that sets the bar for presidential candidates ever lower, that veers wildly outside the mainstream, that competes with history’s most dangerous dictators in its audaciousness.
Even as Republican strategists have advised a more welcoming attitude toward voters of color, Trump has cemented his party’s reputation as the home of racially resentful white people. He has virtually guaranteed that the Republican Party will struggle to attract Latino voters for the next generation.
So the matter of whether the GOP nominee can “pivot” to a style of campaigning that more closely resembles the conventional — and that doesn’t scare the socks off most reasonable voters — ought to now be settled: No, he cannot. This is, in the language of his Twitter handle, the real Donald Trump. He is hateful, bullying and vile. Period.
Moreover, Trump’s noxious views will likely set back the cause of comprehensive immigration reform even further. Since President George W. Bush tried to push forward a reasonable solution to the plight of 11 million or so undocumented immigrants living in the shadows, congressional Republicans have balked, afraid of a backlash from the far-right precincts that can determine GOP primary elections. Given the way that Trump’s bashing of Mexicans and Muslims has resonated with the ultra-right, mainstream Republicans are unlikely to sanction even a mention of immigration reform.
That’s despite the fact that most Americans disagree with Trump’s proposals. According to a July CBS/New York Times poll, 61 percent of Americans believe illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay and apply for citizenship. Fifty-seven percent oppose Trump’s “beautiful” wall.
But there is a deep partisan cleavage here. While 83 percent of Democrats oppose Trump’s wall, as well as 56 percent of independents, only 27 percent of Republicans do. According to a Bloomberg poll, 73 percent of Democrats oppose Trump’s plan for blanket deportations, but only 54 percent of Republicans do. It’s no wonder, then, that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., faced with opposition from the right-wing fringe, fled from his previous support for sensible policies to legalize the illegal immigrants already here.
That cowardice hurts not only the Republican Party, but also the country. Our refusal to pass comprehensive immigration reform has cut off opportunities for countless bright, hard-working young immigrants who’d like to go to college but can’t afford it because they don’t have the papers that would allow them to get scholarships and reduced tuition. Our failure to act has stifled countless illegal workers who would like to own homes and start businesses. They are Americans in virtually every way. It makes no sense to leave them in limbo.
But Trump has managed to persuade many working-class whites that illegal immigrants destroy neighborhoods, peddle drugs, murder innocents and drive down wages. They take well-paying jobs, he says, from citizens who deserve them. (To be fair, most of those claims aren’t original to Trump. They’ve been bandied about on the right for decades now.)
Much of that is simply not true. The population of criminals among illegal immigrants is lower than the percentage among native-born Americans, according to criminologists. As for the economic competition, there is no doubt that low-wage workers can be hurt by an influx of undocumented workers. The biggest burden falls on those without high school diplomas, who may see their wages fall by anywhere from 0.4 percent to 7 percent, research shows. That is certainly cause for worry.
But the answer to that is to make those undocumented workers legal, which would force their employers to pay them a higher wage. Too many employers get away with paying illegal workers less money and placing them in dangerous conditions.
If the solutions are all too obvious to most Americans, they represent a bridge to a treacherous new world order to many Trump supporters. And, for now, we are all held hostage to their prejudices and fears.
(Cynthia Tucker won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2007. She can be reached at cynthia@cynthiatucker.com.)
Photo: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump attends a church service, in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., September 3, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

A Week That Was Disastrous For Trump, Miraculous For Biden

Donald Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes the year he was elected president, according to a blockbuster report published by the New York Times on Sunday.

The Times report also found that Trump is millions of dollars in debt, incurred through a series of failed business ventures — a fact that runs counter to Trump's self-made image as a successful businessman. Trump has also used his financial failings to avoid paying taxes, the report found.

The president has resisted revealing his financial information since the start of his first presidential campaign, despite promising otherwise. "I would certainly show tax returns if it was necessary," Trump told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt in 2015. Yet for five years, the president has failed to produce the documents.The president paid $750 in federal income taxes in 2016, and paid another $750 in 2017, according to the report. And in 2014, Trump paid zero dollars in taxes.

Conservatives including Trump often suggest that undocumented immigrants take advantages of government services without contributing their fair share. Throughout his first term, Trump has repeatedly cast blame on immigrants and suggested they post an economic burden to U.S. taxpayers.

"Our current immigration system costs America's taxpayers many billions of dollars a year," Trump claimed in 2017 during his first presidential address to Congress.

That claim does not hold up to scrutiny. In reality, undocumented immigrants pay billions of dollars in taxes every year. In 1996, the Internal Revenue Service created a program for non-citizens who work in the U.S. to report their income. Non-citizens who do not have a Social Security Number — including undocumented immigrants — are able to file taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, or ITIN. According to the IRS, 4.4 million people paid taxes using an ITIN in 2015, totaling $23.6 billion in tax revenue.

This raises the question: why would undocumented immigrants pay U.S. taxes if they are unauthorized to live in the country? Immigrants often choose to pay taxes in order to demonstrate "good moral character" when applying for legal residence or citizenship, according to the National Immigration Law Center. Undocumented immigrants who fail to pay their taxes risk deportation.

"Immigrants, both documented and undocumented, paid an estimated $328 billion in state, federal, and local taxes in 2014 alone," Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor of immigration law practice at Cornell Law School, told the American Independent Foundation. "It is outrageous that the average undocumented immigrant in the United States pays more in federal income taxes than the President did in 2016."

This contrast is especially ironic given Trump's tendency to deride unauthorized immigrants as irresponsible lawbreakers. Trump has a tendency to respond to criticism with projection — when accused, he accuses others of the same thing.

"Yes, undocumented immigrants are helping fund the very system that detain and deport us," journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who is undocumented, tweeted in 2019.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.