Two weeks in Trump’s America

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Pier 39 – San Francisco

Dario, a native Brazilian, was the first person I met when I landed in the United States two weeks ago. “I have been learning English for 1 month and been living in America for 4 months” he told me, as he drove me from SFO airport, through Oakland and up to Berkeley, where I will be studying for the next 6 months. We exchanged some broken English and I learnt about his 15-year-old son who recently enrolled in High School.

The second friendly face I met was my house mate, Manisha, Indian born, she emigrated with her family here 20 years ago. After graduating a year early from college she is now working hard at a San Francisco start-up. I often hear her on the phone to her parents switching between English and her native language with ease.

Ali, a local coffee shop owner, welcomed me with a beaming smile and a handshake when I bought a coffee before my first class on the following Monday. “I don’t know what is happening with Mr Trump, it’s concerning” he said, as he asked me about my studies, Brexit and told me I was always welcome in his café.

In the introduction meetings for other visiting student researchers I met people from all over the globe, Iran, Turkey, Germany, the Philippines and the Netherlands – to name just a few. We conversed in speculation about what Trump will do in his presidency, but felt assured that as we had arrived before the inauguration, we had lucked out.

I watched the inauguration on my first Friday in the US, I winced at Trump’s hypocritical message and wondered how long it took his speech writer to plagiarise lines from Avatar, Bane and Bee Movie. But I still held onto some level of optimism that he wouldn’t be able to do anything that disastrous – at least not right away.

I had always planned on attending the San Francisco Women’s March on the Saturday. Not necessarily to join in with the chants and voice my grievances, but I could tell it was going to be historic and I wanted to be a part of it.

The 15-minute queue just to get out of the Bart station confirmed my suspicions and by 5.30pm I was marching down the road, in the pouring rain, with 100,000 women, men and children. The various signs demonstrated the diverse reasons why people were there; reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, equal pay, immigrants’ rights.

Women's march San Francisco 21/1/2017

Women’s march San Francisco 21/1/2017

With over 2 million people marching in the US alone, I don’t think anyone went to sleep that night without feeling emboldened that there was a strong force against what Trump stood for and planned to initiate.

Yet, that feeling of optimism and unity took a knock the following Monday, when Trump signed an executive order to block federal funds being used to “provide or promote abortions”.

The five days following that first executive order have been tumultuous. Protests have taken place nearly every day, particularly in neighbouring Oakland, and everyone you speak to has no idea what’s coming next.

When the news broke on Friday that Trump’s latest executive order, banning all refugees for 120 days and immigrants from 7 Muslim majority countries for 90 days, had come into effect my mind immediately turned to the people I met when I first arrived.

Though they are all citizens, Trumps actions are surely enough to make any non-Anglo-Saxon feel unwelcome or uneasy.

America is a nation of immigrants and the often used term “melting pot” couldn’t be more accurate. According to Pew research, today 14% of Americans are foreign born, compared to 5% in 1965, in the last 50 years 59 million immigrants have arrived here and by 2055 the US will not have a single racial or ethnic majority.

When you’re in a country surrounded by people from all ethnicities, nationalities and creeds, it boggles the mind to see what Trump is doing. Despite his election win suggesting the majority of Americans would agree on his immigration stance, 57% say “having an increasing number of people of many different races, ethnic groups and nationalities makes the United States a better place to live”.

On Saturday I received an emergency email from UC Berkeley’s International Office. “For the near future, Berkeley International Office recommends minimizing international travel due to the changing nature of the new administration’s policies on visas and U.S. entry.” Signalling this could only be the beginning of what’s to come.

Over drinks with some fellow international students we discussed the email and what the next six months could have instore for us as visiting immigrants. One student from Turkey said, “At least he’s honest. At least we know what his game is.”

As a journalism student I can’t help but feel a pang of excitement for what I am witnessing and the opportunities before me. But as a human being, I am also scared and anxious for those who have already begun to feel the effects Trump’s Presidency.

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The great immigration game

European Union 2013 - European Parliament ---------------------------------------- Pietro Naj-Oleari: European Parliament, Information General Directoratem, Web Communication Unit, Picture Editor. Phone: +32479721559/+32.2.28 40 633 E-mail: pietro.naj-oleari@europarl.europa.eu

© European Union 2013 – European Parliament
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Pietro Naj-Oleari:

Here in part two of my Despatch Box mini-series I aim to demystify the scaremongering and ludicrous claims surrounding EU immigration.

It’s as if everyone has developed Tourettes syndrome and immigration is used as an excuse for just about everything. ‘I have no money’; ‘its the immigrants’. ‘I don’t have a job’; ‘its the immigrants’. ‘There is traffic on the motorway’; ‘its the immigrants’. So let’s get a few things straight on immigration and the current debate in which it is engulfed.

For part one, which explores the EU and the NHS, the environment, the economy and sovereignty, please click here.


First and foremost, a study entitled ‘the Fiscal Impact of Immigration to the UK‘ found that, ‘European migrants made a net contribution of £20bn to UK public finances between 2000 and 2011’.

We can also see that EU migrants claim far less in benefits than UK nationals, ‘In 2014, 4.9 million (92.6%) working age benefit claimants were British while only 131,000 (2.5%) were EU nationals’. Similarly, a study carried out by UCL said immigrants ‘were less likely to claim benefits and live in social housing than people born in Britain’.

Immigrants who arrived after 1999 were 45% less likely to receive state benefits or tax credits than UK natives. They were also 3% less likely to live in social housing. Those from the European Economic Area (EEA – the EU plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) had made a particularly positive contribution in the decade up to 2011, contributing 34% more in taxes than they received in benefits.

Immigrants from outside the EEA contributed 2% more in taxes than they received in the same period, the report showed. Over the same period, British people paid 11% less in tax than they received.

The report also showed that in 2011, 32% of recent EEA immigrants and 43% of non-EEA immigrants had university degrees, compared with 21% of the British adult population.

Last but not least, within the NHS 10% of doctors and 4% of nurses are from the EU and many more from outside the EU. From personal experience of both my mum and dad being treated by the NHS I know just how important this immigration is to keeping it functioning.

Why the immigration fury?

Well, the public and much of the media seems to have conflated and misunderstood the whole idea behind the ‘free movement of people’.

This applies to the 28 EU member states, in other words, you have to be a part of the European Union to gain the free access of movement. Therefore, people living outside those 28 states cannot just freely move to the UK as they please – evidenced by the UK government’s decision to turn away the 3,000 unaccompanied children who were alone in Europe without a home.

This is where the confusion seems to lie and the positioning of blame is very wrong. The current ‘migrant crisis’ we see is not to do with EU migrants putting a ‘drain’ on our services or the ‘Romanians coming over here and taking our jobs’. It has much more to do with the mass devastation that we see spread across the world, particularly the Middle East, by war.

People are fleeing the crisis in search of a better life, not because they want to kill us or take our jobs or ruin our ‘nationality’. The ‘security threat’ of ‘uncontrolled migration’ which ‘increases the threat of terrorism’ is also an absolute Houdini act from the media and Leave campaign.

The inter-service security networks we receive from being part of the EU are second to none, more noteworthy is the fact that recent terrorist attacks in the EU have been carried out by naturalised European citizens and not immigrants, citizens who feel alienated and left out by many policies.


If we are truly interested in reducing immigration figures then we must deal with the crux of the issue, instead of pinning the blame on the ‘undemocratic EU’ and the ‘bureaucracy of Brussels’.

It is far too easy to place the blame elsewhere and play the blame game. However, the issues we currently face in the EU have a huge amount to do with the financial crash of 2008 and ineffective foreign policies in the Middle East.

The financial crisis was perpetuated by an unregulated and irresponsible capitalist world and much of the unrest and displacement in the Middle East has to do with Western meddling in the area.

I am not saying that immigration does not need to be controlled but to leave the EU will solve none of our issues, it will simply mean that we brush them under the carpet and turn a blind eye.

Brexit: the true facts on EU immigration

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Flickr/MPD01605

In the eyes of those who wish to see Britain escape the tyranny of the EU, and its unforgivable crime of enabling international trade and diplomacy for European states, the hot topic seemingly always rides in upon a wave of xenophobia. This is fuelled largely by unfounded claims over immigration, which this article will seek to dismiss.

They’re ‘clamouring at the gates’?

According to the Get Britain Out campaign, membership of the EU opens up British borders to 450million Europeans.

This ridiculous assertion is a simple manipulation of language, designed to give the impression that the entire population of the EU are just waiting at the border to steal our jobs and reap the treasure at the end of the rainbow – our benefits system.

Current figures estimate that the population of the EU is roughly 503 million. This includes infants, the elderly, the sick, and those who actually want to remain in their home country. So claims that Britain will be overrun by 90% of the EU’s Population is both naïve and laughably arrogant. It requires us to make the assumption that the only place in Europe that Europeans want to live (or at least 90% of Europeans) is Britain.

Yes, technically our borders are open to every EU citizen, but leaping to the conclusion that they’re all clamouring at the gate to get to Middleton, or Rochester, or any other areas with strong anti-immigration support defies rational thought, and such claims only serve to scaremonger.

They Took Our Jobs?

In my previous post on the Brexit I mentioned UKIPs claim that over 100,000 UK born citizens lost out to jobs this decade due to an influx of 700,000 Eastern Europeans.

What I’m struggling to understand is if 700,000 came over, why is it that only 1/7 of them ‘stole’ British jobs? What were the other 600,000 doing? And considering a job is something you get given, how did they ‘steal’ anything? This is one of many instances in which figures spouted by Brexit enthusiasts simply don’t add up.

The actual figure for EU-Born Citizens in the UK labour market is approximately 1.9 million working as both employees and self-employed business owners.

Now I’m not just telling you this to prove that UKIP can’t even scaremonger properly (honestly they’re not even good at being bigots), or to point out that this is 1.9 million hard working taxpayers that contribute to the maintenance of the country, instead of just being the ‘swarms’ of benefit leeching sponges that UKIP portray them as.

No, the reason I’m telling you about this 1.9 million is to show how it is directly proportionate to the estimated total number of UK nationals living in other EU countries, which is between 1.8-2.2 million at present.

We are not being overrun. The scales are actually quite balanced, and the majority of those who have gone to live in other EU states are of young-to-mid working age (25-44), so if ‘they’ took our jobs, then we’ve taken just as many from ‘them’.

Not to mention the 30,000 that are claiming benefits from the countries they’ve now moved to. What I would like to make clear here is that if moving to another country for work is to be seen as a crime, then we’re no more innocent than anyone else.

If the argument is that we need to create more jobs, and the solution is to restrict the free movement to other EU states in which such a high number have been able to find work, then how exactly will this help anything? The more that people shout about ‘job theft’ as a key issue in the Brexit campaign the sillier they look.

But what would Norway do?

Another claim frequently cited by Brexit enthusiasts is that we should emulate the models set forth by existing non-EU states, such as Switzerland and Norway, that are able to maintain trade agreements with the EU. However, both of these states have far higher levels of EU immigration in proportion to their population than the UK, and allow free movement across their borders for EU citizens.

In fact, it is written into their trade agreements with the EU that free movement is a necessity in order to retain access to the single market; tied in with technical barriers to trade, public procurement, agriculture, transport, civil aviation, and research through the use of a ‘guillotine clause’.

In essence, all of these agreements are co-dependant and the violation of one, for example through the imposition of immigration quotas, will result in the termination of the other six.

This is the EU simply showing that they will not allow non-member states to pick and choose which benefits they have access to. And in the unlikely event that Britain was given the opportunity to enforce such restrictions upon an exit, we would still need to keep a liberal policy for labour migration in order to remain competitive outside the EU. It wouldn’t be having your cake and eating it so much as it would be cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Put simply, whether you like it or not immigration happens and will very probably continue to happen regardless of whether or not we remain in the EU. If it does not, then our wallets will suffer as much as those who we turn away.

The only factor that will change if we leave is that we will reduce our influence in any future matters and the rest of the world may deem us to be much more xenophobic than previously believed.