Trump's Policies Create Fear and Uncertainty for San Antonio Immigrants

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In August alone, the Trump administration has dealt America's immigrant population one blow after another, carrying out organized raids on undocumented workers, demanding indefinite detention of migrant children and denying basic healthcare to migrants in detention.

The events have left many San Antonians frightened, disoriented and anxious about what's next. Although the administration's sweeping raids on several Mississippi employers occurred nearly a month ago, some worry they could signal a wider campaign of workplace roundups.

Those concerns are especially profound among the nearly 100,000 San Antonio Hispanic/Latinx residents who are non-citizens, experts say. 

"I think [the raids] create a lot of stress and trauma within [undocumented] people," said Renelinda Arana, a professor in the sociology department at Our Lady of the Lake University. "As a child, it's really traumatic to fear that your dad or your mom is going to go to work and not come back. A lot of people are experiencing the anxiety of not knowing what's going to happen — not just to them as individuals, but to their families."

Although the Alamo City avoided federal immigration raids accounted for July
, that doesn't mean they couldn't happen here in the future. San Antonio isn't a so-called "sanctuary city," and ICE authorities conduct operations here on a daily basis.

"There have always been raids in Texas," Arana said. "They're not what we would call 'mass deportations' like what we saw in Mississippi, but business as usual is happening."

On August 7, agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement raided several Mississippi companies in a coordinated sting. The federal agents detained about 680 immigrants who were suspected of working in the United States without legal documentation.

The overwhelming majority of the immigrants were Hispanic/Latinx
. By far, this raid has been classified as one of the most extensive since Trump assumed office, and the largest since the Swift Raids of December 2006, when agents apprehended 1,300 immigrants.

Immigrant-rights groups have questioned the nature of the Mississippi raids, speculating that they were initiated by Koch Foods as a form of retaliation against undocumented workers who sued the company for discrimination and sexual harassment in 2018. Additionally, these recent raids have left children — some of whom are just toddlers — without access to their parents.

It's important to keep the population of non-citizens in mind when considering how Trump's increasingly strict policies will affect San Antonio, since these non-citizens contribute to the city's socioeconomic infrastructure.

According to San Antonio’s Immigrant Community Data, undocumented immigrants in San Antonio earned $1.1 billion and contributed more than $100 million in state, local and federal taxes. On a national scale, undocumented immigrants contributed roughly $13 billion to Social Security funds in 2016 and $3 billion to Medicare — even though they're not eligible to receive any of the benefits.

What's more, around 30% of San Antonio entrepreneurs are immigrants, and many under the age of 25 are pursuing higher education in STEM-related fields. Unfortunately, many students are barred from opportunities because of their status as non-citizens.

Although Luis Anaya grew up in San Antonio and is now a graduate research assistant at UC Berkeley, he's dealt with many limitations because of his status as a non-citizen from El Salvador.

"I was at a disadvantage when applying to a lot of top research fellowships," Anaya explains. "I've lived here my whole life and I've paid taxes, which [these fellowships are] funded by. I've paid into those taxes, so why am I not allowed to apply? All of these things are social barriers ... At this point, it has nothing to do with merit, or how educated you are. It has to do with where you're from."

To point, one of Trump's more recent policies goes beyond targeting undocumented immigrants — it goes after legal green card or visa applicants judged to be a financial "burden" on taxpayers. If these applicants use housing vouchers, food subsidies, Medicaid or some parts of Medicare, they would be considered a "public charge," and therefore ineligible to adjust their status.

Beginning in October, the government's judgement will be based on a strict wealth test to determine whether or not these legal applicants possess the financial resources to support themselves.

The result of this policy, critics charge, is that immigrants from wealthier European countries will receive preferential treatment over immigrants fleeing violence and war. In San Antonio, approximately 4.7% of the foreign-born population likely came to the United States as refugees.

According to Edward Gonzales from San Antonio's Department of Human Services, the city is a "travel hub" for migrants, many of whom are refugees. In under 6 months, almost 30,000 individuals have passed through. The majority are traveling from war-torn countries such as Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

"We began assisting [migrants] in March of this year," Gonzales said. "We hadn't done this before ... From March until now, the numbers have definitely increased."

Immigrants of any background have been proven to play a critical role in supporting the socioeconomic infrastructure of the United States. In San Antonio's case, immigrants are key to maintaining the livelihood of the city.

As a result, Trump's increasingly strict approach to immigration reform would not only affect immigrants on an individual level, but it could permanently alter the very fabric of the city as a whole, OLLU's Arana warned.

"When we give immigrants the opportunity, they succeed. They do well," she said. "When we don't give them those opportunities — when they're discriminated against, either by people or the government — then we only end up hurting ourselves collectively."

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