Trump's War Against the Immigrants & the Poor
Faith Leaders Take a Stand
Many spiritual traditions are supporting the rights of immigrants and the poor in our times. It is great to see our neighbors caring about the immigrants and the poor who live in their neighborhoods.
In Judaism the ethic of helping the immigrant is very clear. The Bible encourages us to help the stranger and the foreigner. It states so clearly: " Do not mistreat an alien or oppress them, for you were a stranger in the land of Egypt." (Exodus 22:21) (New International Bible). We are to have empathy because many of us have experienced being immigrants or have a family member who is an immigrant. The prophet Amos in the Old Testament goes even further. He criticizes the rich because they have oppressed the poor to the point that they were selling the poor for the price of the sandals on their feet. (Amos 2:6) In Christianity Jesus commands us to "love your neighbor as yourself." In Hinduism we say the Self is your Atman, soul or Higher Self. So we should love our neighbor as we love our own very soul. All these traditions agree that we have a responsibility to help those in need. Not one spiritual text declares that we should oppress the poor and the immigrants. As people of faith we need to stand up for those individuals. In the Bhagavat Purana Krishna helped his friend, Sudama, who was poor, achieve a better life. Krishna is a great role model in what we should do to lift the burden of the poor in society.
Trump has been involved in making those two communities suffer even more. The Poor People's Campaign protested the actions of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) who changed the definition of the poverty line to reduce the number of the poor in this country. Melissa Boteach states that this change shows "how out of touch Trump is with the lives of working class people." He wants to make it harder for these low-income individuals to qualify for government programs designed to help them.
The truth is many families struggle to provide the basics. Housing costs have gone up dramatically for many individuals. The number of homeless in Hennepin County in Minnesota has dramatically increased in the last ten years because of the housing costs. The vacancy rate is low, so the costs of renting an apartment has gone up dramatically. Many families with two incomes are homeless because of housing costs. The lack of affordable housing is one part of the problem. Wages have not increased in line with housing costs. Many others live pay check to pay check with little savings for emergencies.
Trump's other attack on the poor is changing eligibility for food stamps. Many states automatically renew benefits for certain individuals in certain programs to cut down on administrative costs and help poor people survive. Trump wants people to apply separately which will discourage some people from applying. Republicans want to "make sure you don't own your own home or have a bank account with enough money for car repair." Of course there is the cost of insurance involved with up keep of a car. Many low income people actually take public transit, walk or use bikes to get around. The truth is you do have to prove your income to receive food stamps, which I personally know to be true. In the past I have applied for them and there are a number of documents you have to produce to prove your income, your rental costs, utility costs and assets. They think rich are applying for them. If that is the case, they would have to prove their income like the rest of us. They certainly would not receive them because of all which is involved with proving your income. The Agricultural Department has admitted that hunger will increase under the new rules.
The big corporations received a big tax break this year. What happened was they did not increase most people's wages or salaries. The shareholders benefited from this action the most. A study was done to see if giving them tax breaks for bringing new development helped society. The conclusion is that doing that did not help the general public. Most of these corporations were going to do the development any way and did not really need government funds to do it. Wages did not go up for workers either. What helps the most is when wages go up because people have more disposable income. They spend money at businesses and often more jobs are created because there is more need for more goods and services. So increasing the minimum wage would help the economy more than giving corporate tax breaks. CEO's make a median income of $12 million compared with the wage of the average worker of $40,000. Very big difference between the extremes. In Europe the gap is way less than in the United States between the highest wage earner and the lowest.
Trump's policies on refugees and immigrants are actually hurting our country economically. When less immigrants are allowed into the United States, there are less workers to take jobs in many areas of the country. Farms lacked workers to harvest the crops because less migrants, immigrants and refugees were allowed into the country.
The University of Notre Dame study stated that "20 years after arrival, an adult refugee has contributed an average of $21,000 more in taxes than the total costs of governmental expenditures on their behalf." Immigrants and refugees bring in tax money used for social security. They are keeping this fund solvent. Immigrants and refugees create most of the new jobs. When you deport them, it costs society in all these ways: less jobs and less tax money in the treasury. Deporting people costs money and drains the wealth of the country in the process.
The conditions in the ICE detention centers are terrible. Francisco Edwin Galicia is a United States citizen who was wrongly held even with documents which proved his citizenship. He is suing the government, how that he is released, for his treatment at the center. He lost 20 lbs because they were not feeding him. He was in there 23 days. He elaborates: "There were up to 70 people in a room. They wouldn't let us brush our teeth or go to the bathroom. There were people who were very sick inside, and it's really inhumane. The way were treated." Conditions were so bad he almost self deported.
There was a case of a nine year old United States citizen who has taken directly by ICE from her school without no parent nearby. She had a United States passport in her possession. They demanded that her brother sign a paper "saying that his sister was really his cousin." He was threatened with jail time for human trafficking. Which was totally false. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing the Customs & Border Protection (CBP) for stopping two women who spoke Spanish in a Montana town. Both are American citizens.
International students are having problems getting work authorization to start jobs in the United States. Many of the applications are taking more than 90 days. Some of these students have had to return to their countries because of the uncertainty of the situation.
Since Trump has been in office, more immigrants have been physically attacked. In one case a Guyanese Muslim woman was attacked at JFK airport in New York City by a man who claimed he could do this now that Trump is in office. Security was summoned and he was arrested and charged with assault. A number of other immigrants have gone through the same thing this woman went through since Trump has been in office. The number of these attacks have dramatically increased since he took office.
A Hindu priest was attacked in Queens, New York recently by a man who said during the attack, "Not in my neighborhood." He used an umbrella to attack the priest who ended up at the hospital. The priest forgave the man who authorities believe is mentally ill. He was released without bail. Not sure if the man had to be supervised or receive treatment, so that he does not do this in the future. A mentally ill person can be very much in the realm of reality when they attack people. Many of them go between different states of consciousness. I worked with mentally ill people and that was a common experience I dealt with on a daily basis. Hate can happen in all people, no matter their mental condition.
Keep in mind that many Guyanese came to the United States during the time of the Guyana Civil War. When the Brits left Guyana, there was a power vacuum. Hindu priests and swamis were threatened verbally and physically. You had to be a Christian to hold a job or even go to school. When a Hindu President came into power, every one had all these freedoms. Recently the opposition party got back into power. Priests, swamis and common folk were threatened in the same way again as what happened in the Guyana Civil War. So you see there has been trauma involved here and other immigrants have these problems of dealing with past events and trauma. Many live with the trauma of war when they come to this country. They flee from governments which cause physical harm to their citizens. Women are fleeing domestic violence. Immigrants also live with the reality of being deported even when they are legal residents or naturalized citizens.
Trump's war is based on his ideas of white supremacy, but many United States citizens are supporting immigrants and the poor. Their faith compels them to do so. As people of faith we must do what we can to stand up for spiritual values. In the next election we can show up to vote. This will show that we want a better country which upholds the rights of all people. We are a nation of immigrants. Speak up when your neighbor needs your help. I urge you to use your right to vote to stop Trump's war on the poor and immigrants. We can do better and make a more perfect union which upholds the Constitution of the United States which declares that we all are created equal and should have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
JAI SHRI IMMIGRANTS! JAI SHRI JUSTICE! JAI SHRI LOVE!