Don’t let Trump and his wall divide us

January 9, 2019

A federal worker and member of AFGE fact-checked the boss’s Oval Office statement.

LIKE MANY of you, I listened to Donald Trump’s lies about a phony immigration crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border and the need for $5.7 billion to build a border wall. And like you, I was sickened by the racist lies and outright fearmongering.

If you, like me, are a federal worker, you were probably wondering whether you would hear from the man who is ultimately our boss about how we’re supposed to get by during the partial government he’s responsible for, or when it might end. You were sorely disappointed.

Trump as president, like Trump as candidate, used his speech to try to further divisions between native-born and migrant workers. “All Americans are hurt by uncontrolled, illegal migration,” Trump declared. “It strains public resources and drives down jobs and wages. Among those hardest hit are African Americans and Hispanic Americans.”

In 2017, 18.2 percent of the federal workforce was African American, and 8.8 percent was Latinx, according to the Office of Personnel Management. These Black and Brown federal workers are being hurt right now by Trump’s shutdown.

The wages and living standards of African Americans and Latinx lag behind because of centuries of racism, the lingering legacy of slavery and the reinvigoration of white supremacy. And the Black-white pay gap has only widened in recent years, with white workers making 26.7 percent more than Black workers in average hourly pay.

Then-candidate Donald Trump visits the Mexican border in Laredo, Texas
Then-candidate Donald Trump visits the Mexican border in Laredo, Texas

“[D]iscrimination...and growing earnings inequality in general” are the “primary factors at play,” according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Discrimination, not immigration.

After the racist lies, Trump turned to “war-on-drug” scare tactics. “Our Southern border is a pipeline for vast quantities of illegal drugs, including meth, heroin, cocaine and fentanyl. Every week, 300 of our citizens are killed by heroine alone,” Trump claimed.

By any measure, those deaths are tragic. But what Trump chose to ignore is the 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment from the Drug Enforcement Agency. Using Centers for Disease Control data, the report found that “Controlled Prescription Drugs...are still responsible for the most drug-involved overdose deaths and are the second most commonly abused substance in the United States.”

This was on page vi, in the executive summary, so Trump and his aides wouldn’t have needed to read very far to get to this fact.

The report says in 2016 that there were more than 40,000 deaths involving prescription drugs, including opioids, which comes out to 769 deaths per week!

But prescription drugs are legal, so let’s not piss off any potential donors. Let’s blame immigrants instead.

TRUMP WENT on to assert that the border wall would actually prevent the tens of thousands of migrant children brought into the U.S. from being used as pawns by “vicious coyotes and ruthless gangs.”

This statement blithely ignores the trauma Trump that inflicted on migrant children by separating them from their parents and jailing them in empty Walmarts-turned-concentration camps.

While papering over the crisis for migrant children that he helped to exacerbate, Trump also wants us to ignore how his tax cuts for the rich mean that we have a child poverty crisis in the U.S. According the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2016, around 13 million children under the age 18 of lived in poverty.

Migrants children fleeing poverty in Central and South America don’t cause U.S. children to go without. U.S. tax policies and low wages do.

Spending $5.7 billion on a border wall feeds no children.

I don’t know about you, but I threw up in my mouth a bit when Donald “grab them by the pussy” Trump tried to claim that building a border wall would assist migrant women who are being trafficked into the U.S. for labor and sex.

What hypocrisy!

I can tell you that when we had our spring 2018 mandatory training on combatting sexual harassment in federal workplaces, we were totally focused on the horrid examples being set by Trump and his White House sleaze balls.

Trump went to say that the “rise in unlawful migration [is] fueled by our very strong economy.”

Strong for whom? Maybe for Trump’s rich friends who own companies that contract with the U.S. government.

A study from the Institute for Policy Studies, titled “Taxpayers Subsidize Giant Corporate Pay Gaps,” “found that more than two-thirds of the top 50 government contractors and top 50 recipients of federal subsidies, receiving a total of $167 billion, currently pay their chief executive officer more than 100 times their median worker pay,” according to the Guardian.

But even strong economies leave federal workers behind. According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, federal workers earn 32 percent less than equivalent private-sector employees. So my 800,000 colleagues furloughed or working without pay during this Trump shutdown already had fewer resources and smaller savings to draw on.

As American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) President J. David Cox Sr. said in a December 11, 2018, statement, “Our members take home an average of around $500 each week. Any interruption in their pay will have a devastating impact on them, their families and their communities.”

TRUMP WON’T “end human suffering” by building a border wall. He will only militarize the border and bottle up that suffering in Mexico. Further, if Trump wins his racist border wall spending, it will only further divide U.S.-born workers — including federal workers — from our sister and brother workers from other nations.

The real border crisis is a basic lack of human respect coming from the Racist-in-Chief and his supporters.

On New Year's Day, 800,000 federal workers spent another day of uncertainty because of the shutdown, wondering if they were going to be to pay their bills in the coming weeks and months. On that same day, U.S. Border Patrol agents fired tear gas into Mexico at migrants trying to escape certain poverty and violence, gambling on an uncertain future in the U.S.

For those of us who went to Standing Rock during the struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline, the pictures of U.S. agents lobbing tear gas into another sovereign nation to further U.S. interests and profits looked all too familiar.

Instead of buying into Trump’s racist lies, federal workers should be streaming to the border to welcome migrants — some traveling thousands of miles to escape violent governments and economic hardships supported or created by U.S. policy — with aid and resources to help them make a new home.

We face a common enemy. We need the unity of U.S. and foreign-born workers to push back against the racist Trump wall and white supremacist agenda.

AFGE members in the Washington, D.C., area can start by turning out on January 9, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. for the “Rally to End the Federal Government Shutdown” at the Silver Spring Civic Building. And all labor should turn out at the D.C. AFL-CIO office on January 10, at 12 noon, to protest the shutdown.

Trump is attacking immigrant workers and U.S.-born federal workers. He has used executive orders to attack our right to collectively bargain and our wages.

But our #RedForFeds rally and AFGE legal efforts stopped the spring executive orders.

Trump is beatable. Now we need to mobilize our solidarity with migrant workers to stop this racist wall and put federal workers back to work.

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