Spinning the media narrative: Dissecting developing Haiti’s immigration impact on the U.S.
WASHINGTON, January 14, 2017.: President Trump has taken a lot of, well crap, for allegedly describing Haiti and some African nations as “shithole countries” during a bipartisan White House meeting, as he and a handful of senators discussed immigration reform.
While the colorful language is doubtful, debunked and denied is the thought behind it off base? Probably not.
It’s not even unique.
Two of the President’s biggest detractors have previously uttered disparaging comments
In 2013, Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina senator offered a similar characterization of Latin American countries. He called them “hellholes” during a Senate hearing on immigration and securing the border:
“The people coming across the southern border live in hellholes. They don’t like that. They want to come here. Our problem is we can’t have everybody in the world who lives in a hellhole come into America. We’re just gonna have to create order out of chaos.
So you’ve got to do something on the southern border you don’t do on the northern border, but if you don’t agree that the difference is jobs, then we just don’t agree. There are 11 million people coming through the southern border because they come from countries where they can’t find work and life is miserable.”
In 2015, then President Obama called Libya a “shit show.” The comments were recorded in an interview with The Atlantic magazine. The conversation was on Obama’s foreign policy over his eight years in office. During one portion of the interview, Obama said described Libya as a “mess” to the interviewer but behind closed doors called the country a “shit show.”
All without political or media outrage:
Crying racism against the president
The President’s opponents cry racism where none exists. Senator Rand Paul has gone on the record as to the financial support of private citizen Donald J. Trump to fund medical envoys to Haiti.
Yet, when then V.P. Joe Biden exhibited “old white guy racism” by saying:
“In Delaware, the largest growth of population is Indian Americans, moving from India. You cannot go to a 7-11 or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I’m not joking.”
The media ignored the comment and a Biden spokesperson says ” The point Senator Biden was making is that there has been a vibrant Indian-American community in Delaware for decades.”
Then Hillary Clinton says half of Donald Trump’s supporters belong in a “basket of deplorables” characterized by “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic” views.
These are actual examples of politicians making racist statements against people living and working in America. People, not a country.
The point President Trump is making about Haiti
No one can deny a post-earthquake, Clinton foundation bypassed Haiti, is no paradise.
In April 2013, the International Monetary Fund World Economic Outlook Database listed Haiti as the 20th poorest nation on earth, and the #1 poorest nation in the Americas.
The Restavek Foundation report Statistics About Life in Haiti describes Haiti:
- Two out of every three Haitians live on less than $2.00 (US) per day, and nearly 25% live in extreme poverty on less than $1.25 (US) per day.
- Ten percent (10%) of the richest Haitians possess 70% of the nation’s total income.
- Half (50%) of the Haitians living in urban areas are unemployed.
- Although agriculture is an important division of Haiti’s economy, the country fails to produce enough food for its people. Haiti imports more than 50% for its population’s needs, and imports 80% of its staple item: rice.
- Ninety percent (90%) of farmers depend on rain for their harvest, since only 10% of the nation’s crops are irrigated.
- Half (50%) of all Haitian children do not attend school.
- Approximately 30% of children attending primary school will not make it to third grade, and 60% will drop out prior to reaching sixth grade.
- An incredible 90% of primary schools are non-public, meaning they’re managed by communities, religious organizations or non-governmental organizations.
- Haiti’s literacy rate is around 64% for males and 57% for females. By comparison, the average literacy rate for other developing nations in Latin America and the Caribbean is 92%.
- Close to one third (30%) of Haiti’s population is considered food insecure, meaning they lack reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.
- Infant mortality in Haiti was 55 per 1,000 births as of 2015. Additionally, an estimated 1 in 285 births results in the mother’s death, a ratio about 16 times higher than in the United States.
- One-third of women and children in Haiti are anemic.
- One-hundred thousand (100,000) children under five years of age suffer from acute malnutrition, while one in three children is stunted or irreversibly short for their age.
- Less than 50% of Haitian households have access to safe water, and only 25% percent benefit from adequate sanitation.
The vast majority of Haitians live on $1 or $2 per day and this obviously impacts their ability to purchase food, water, shelter or medical care. Malnutrition is a serious issue in Haiti, as is mortality among children.
UNICEF lists the following on its website as the top issues facing Haitian children suffering from highest rates of infant, under-five and maternal mortality in the Western hemisphere.
Diarrhea, respiratory infections, malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS are all leading causes of death. And there is the danger of thoses diseases being brought to the U.S. with immigrants.
- Some 60 percent of people, primarily in rural areas, lack access to basic health-care services.
- Numerous schools and hospitals have closed because teachers, social workers and health providers could not go to work for fear of violence.
- It is estimated that about 5.6 percent of people aged 15-49 years old in Haiti are living with HIV/AIDS. This includes about 19,000 children. Antiretroviral drugs are extremely scarce.
- As many as 2,000 children a year are trafficked to the Dominican Republic, often with their parents’ support.
- Only a little over half of primary school-age children are enrolled in school. Less than 2 percent of children finish secondary school.
- Approximately 1,000 children are working as messengers, spies and even soldiers for armed gangs in Port Au Prince.
People continue to struggle to survive in Haiti despite money being raised by both the Clinton Foundation and The Red Cross. Some estimates say that the Clinton Foundation (The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund is Lying to You) raised over $50 million, while the Red Cross raised over $500 million. The money may have been raised, but it has not made it to Haiti.
Statistics on Haitian Immigration in the U.S.
In 2015, 676,000 Haitian immigrants were in the U.S., an increase in the population of 670K persons from 1960 numbers. Many of these people are in the U.S. under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) that expires January 22 of this month. TPS provides work authorization and relief from deportation.
The Center for Immigration Studies Fact Sheet on Haitian Immigrants in the United States
- There are 310,000 U.S.-born Americans who have at least one parent born in Haiti.
- Our best estimate is that there are 75,000 to 125,000 illegal Haitian immigrants in the country. In 2000, the INS estimated there were 76,000 illegal Haitian immigrants.
- Of Haitian immigrants (ages 25 to 65) 22 percent have not graduated from high school and 18 percent have a college degree. This compares to 9 percent and 30 percent, respectively, for native-born Americans.
- The share of Haitian immigrants and their young children (under 18) living in poverty is 20 percent. For native-born Americans and their young children, it is 11.6 percent.
- The share of Haitian immigrants and their young children who lack health insurance is 29.5 percent. For native-born Americans and their children, it is 12.6 percent.
- Of households headed by Haitian immigrants 46 percent use at least one major welfare program. For households headed by native-born Americans, it is 20 percent.
According to the Migration Policy Institute article, Haitian Immigrants in the United States:
The median household income for Haitians in 2015 was lower than that of the overall foreign-born population but higher than for Caribbean immigrant households. Haitian immigrant households had a median income of $47,200 in 2015 dollars, compared to $51,500 for foreign-born households and $42,400 for Caribbean households. For comparison, the median income for households headed by the native-born was $56,500.
Haitians were about as likely to live in poverty as the overall immigrant population (18 percent compared to 17 percent) and the Caribbean foreign-born population (19 percent).
Haitian immigrants are also benefiting from “chain migration”:
In the fiscal year 2015, 17,000 Haitians obtained lawful permanent resident (LPR) status (also known as getting a green card), according to Department of Homeland Security data. Of those, 91 percent did so as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens or through other family-sponsored preferences (50 percent and 41 percent, respectively).
In August of 2017, President Trump’s senior policy adviser Stephen Miller decried the cost of low-skilled immigrant workers entering the country. Unchecked immigration he says is costing Americans jobs and wages.
“We’ve seen significant reductions in wages for blue-collar workers, massive displacement of African-American and Hispanic workers, as well as the displacement of immigrant workers from previous years who oftentimes compete directly against new arrivals who are being paid even less.”
There is plenty of argument among economists and politicians as to whether Miller is right or wrong. However, the Economic Politic Institute report on wage stagnation says that wages for low-wage worked fell five percent from 1979 to 2013 while high-wage workers rose forty-one percent.
Which leads one to ask if the ever-increasing number of immigrants entering the low-wage sector are anecdotally affecting American low-wage workers.
Immigration and its impact on the vanishing Middle Class
While the media is having a field day discussing the President’s alleged private opinion made public, people would be wise to look at the book, The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy, Peter Temin, Professor Emeritus of Economics at MIT.
Temin shows us one of the realities of an immigrant (often illegal) rich country. America is two different countries and those countries are vastly divergent.
- There are those American that live in what Temin calls the FTE sector (finance, technology, and electronics, America’s growth industries).
- These are Americans who have the benefits of a college education, good job access and enough money to be living beyond paycheck to paycheck.
- Temin says the 20% in the FTE sector grew up in active two-parent families, read books, travel and buy new cars.
- They recognize economic opportunity and take it.
But those FTE Americans do not visit the low-wage Americans where people have crushing debt, jobs without a future and they rely on crumbling public transportation which is getting more an more expensive every year.
The low-wage sector is mostly white however that does not stop politicians from repeating the lie that it is mostly blacks, followed by Latinos, that are the most disadvantaged in America. They do not seek a future, they want to survive the present.
The October 2016 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that since 1970s:
“…low-wage jobs have undergone marked growth as a portion of the U.S. labor market. These jobs include food service; housekeeping; low-level healthcare positions, such as nursing assistants; and low-level retail positions, such as cashiers. Women tend to be disproportionately represented in these occupations. Men are also found in low-wage jobs, and declines in unionization and the associated loss of the union wage premium in recent decades have particularly affected less educated men.”
Low-wage jobs went from being a starting job, or a transitional job, to being a lifelong struggle to maintain some standard of living.
Temin says that America is moving from the “economy of the richest in the world to that more like a developing nation.”
The end of the War on Poverty
Temin blames the change from President Johnson’s War on Poverty to Nixon’s War on Drugs that put a large number of mostly black low-wage Americans into prison. He also refers to the economic model of West Indian economist, W. Arthur Lewis, the only person of African descent to win a Nobel Prize in economics.
Lewis says that the difference between the high-wage and the low-wage sectors, or the dual economy is that the low-wage sector does not have much influence over public policy.
And that the high-income sector will keep the low-wage sector incomes low.
Lewis says the only path out of the low-wage sector in America is education, becoming increasingly difficult to obtain due to student debt burdens associated with higher education.
Lewis also points out that education is more than a college degree. It begins in early childhood and continues throughout life with parents active in their children’s educational development, from reading with them as children to paying attention to their educational development in school.
The solution to this is to return the middle class to it’s 50’s prosperity where the call was for a family in every home, a car in every driveway, and a chicken in every pot.
The Trump economy is one that, against most economics warning that lower taxes to the upper class will destroy the low-wage sector, seems to be doing exactly that.
Walmart’s response to tax reform shows it will alleviate poverty
Consider the average Walmart worker. Walmart has long been criticized for keeping wages and benefits low for its workers. The new tax law reduces Walmart’s rate to 21%, saving the company between one and two billion a year, instead of the six to seven billion they pay now.
In response, Walmart gave its hourly staff bonuses and they are raising starting pay from $10 to $11 an hour for ‘front-line’ employees. In 2016 the megastore had already raised their minimum to $10, even in states, like Texas, North Carolina, Missouri and Virginia, where the minimum wage is less than $8 per hour, in order to be competitive and attract employees.
The discount retailer is known for its lack of employee benefits is announcing new employee benefits. These include six-weeks paid parental leave for spouses and up to $5,000 for parents wanting to adopt.
Walmart’s response is more about a robust economy leading to lower unemployment rates – meaning they will now have to fight for the same employee who would take “any job.”
Walmart has reasons for its employee generosity that started before the Trump presidency. Four years ago, DEO Doug McMillon decided that company’s employees were undervalued. He saw that modest wages and understaffing was discouraging to the employees leading to non-positive experience for customers.
McMillon began lifting wages across the company, improving training and staffing, and working store-by-store attempting to change that.
If Trump Administration policies are having a positive effect in the increase in non-mandated minimum wages, increased benefits and competitiveness for employees, versus employees competing for jobs, native-born Americans, and immigrants, illegal or otherwise, will benefit.
And while America will continue to debate the fitness of the President, there is no debate over whether his economic policies are sound or not.