Donald Trump is sworn in as president on January 20, 2017 surrounded by his family. Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia.
A year into Donald Trump’s presidency, New Yorkers can’t seem to agree on whether the presidency is a nightmare or a cause for celebration.
“Unbelievable, he couldn’t do better,” said Tony Alaio, from Brooklyn. “The stock market’s up 26,000, women’s unemployment is at a 27-year high, black unemployment at a 17-year high, we have a conservative in the Supreme Court.”
But New York City is considered a haven for the left, so you don’t have to travel far to get a different opinion.
“He’s a dictator, because he puts hate in people,” said Lilly Rivers, a Puerto Rican native who has lived in Staten Island for more than 40 years. “He’s a piece of shit, he belongs to jail. If I find him I’m gonna put a piece of masking tape on his boca. (mouth) He’s got a cancer in the mouth.”
While many New Yorkers believe Trump’s way of communicating is wrong, his supporters see his lack of tact as pure candor. They even supported him in the thick of the so-called “shithole” controversy.
“So he has a big mouth, but he says what’s on his mind,” said Marsha Hodgson of Staten Island. “I’m happy, Trump’s trying to do something that’s better than what we’ve had for decades and I actually believe in him now.”
But Will Davis, 25, also of Staten Island, said Trump supporters are a bigger problem than Trump.
“As long as they (Trump’s supporters) keep feeding into his bullshit we’re gonna be stuck dealing with him,” said Davis.
For the first time in American history, U.S. politics has been dictated by a president’s appetite to tweet. From asserting his “very stable genius” remark as a counter reply to recent doubts raised about his sanity, to bragging about how big his “nuclear button” was compared to that of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, Trump seems to keep coming up with ways to both entertain and frustrate Americans, one tweet at a time.
“I don’t think this guy’s fit for the office of the presidency,” said Rachid Barry, a West African living in East Florida. “I believe maybe four to five people left his administration in a year, that already shows that something’s not right.”
Others blame the media.
“The problem’s the media who’s divisive,” said Alaio. “They have their own global agenda, not in the interest of the American people.”
Some New Yorkers have had enough and denounce both parties.
“I think it’s an embarrassment,” said Brian Tanner of Manhattan, “And the reaction of the public on the Republican side is even more an embarrassment, their lack of back bone or spine to stand up to Trump. I’m also disappointed that no one on the left has emerged as a clear counterweight to everything he says. It seems kind of wishy washy and everyone’s disgusted, but there’s no real representation of an alternative.”
With 10 more months to go before the midterm elections, New Yorkers will each take a side in the battle, fighting or endorsing those tweets, and everything that lies beneath them.
The year has been a year fraught with political turmoil for much of the United States, with major changes on the horizon for many families and communities across the country. What better place to uncover and tell those stories than the epicenter of American policymaking? This year’s Reporting the Nation/Reporting New York students trekked to our nation’s capital to do it. Join us in our Washington, D.C., journeys as we confront the issues facing America’s most vulnerable communities, from sex trafficking to healthcare to the opioid crisis. Read our stories here.
A DACA rally in San Francisco. Photo by Pax Ahimsa Gethen, used under Creative Commons.
A panel of Latino leaders met yesterday at New York University’s Law School to discuss their governance in the age of Trump after the president announced the rescinding of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) bill on Sept. 5.
Withdrawal from this policy would put almost 800,000 undocumented young adults at risk of deportation, one of them being Peter Hernandez, who feels like the Latino community hasn’t done enough for him and the hundreds of thousands of DREAMers alike.
“I wish they could convince and advocate more for us and talk more to the Republican senators – tell and share our stories with them so they can know what kind of people we are,” Hernandez said. “We are not bad people and we’re just here so we can make a life for ourselves and we’re doing everything right.”
The bill, which was enacted in 2012 by an executive order during President Obama’s last term, is an immigration policy that allows minors like Hernandez, who initially entered the U.S. illegally, an opportunity to receive legal delayed action from deportation as well as eligibility for a work permit for a period of two years, with option for renewal.
The Oaxaca native moved to Texas with his mother, father and sister at the age of seven. His father began working as a landscaper and his mother sold items at the local flea market. Hernandez applied for the DACA program after he graduated from college, the year it went into law.
“The things I think students are most concerned about (in Latino representation) is that some of the folks who are in charge are the same ones that were in charge when I was college and at some point the different civil rights communities need to make space for other (racial communities),” said Myrna Perez, a member of the panel, hosted by the Brennan Center for Justice and an adjunct faculty at both Columbia and NYU law schools. “People are upset that there is not room for them to grow, not that there isn’t space.”
Perez, along with her colleagues, believe that the journey to representation in the Latino community is going to be an incremental one but that even the small victories should be feted.
One of the people actively leading the charge for undocumented students like Hernandez is 21-year-old Jessica Calderon. The NYU student has been at the forefront of the fight for immigration advocacy, and now DACA.
As a first generation Peruvian-American, Calderon felt the need to fill a void in her community. The politics and Latin American studies major has worked for a slew of nonprofits here in New York City and at NYU Washington D.C. as a part of her study abroad program.
“Working with these DACA applicants last summer sort of changed my life, and after that, I knew I wanted to go into a profession where I can serve the immigrant community,” Calderon said after her months spent filling applications for roughly 20 DACA recipients.
For Calderon, it’s not the number of Latino leaders in power that is the issue in their community, but the ideology and policies that they set forth.
“A lot of times, the people that are representing us, the Latino ‘elites,’ are not representative of our entire community, the most vulnerable of our community,” Calderon said. “For example, a Marco Rubio is not representing a low-income, undocumented worker’s needs. It’s crazy that we believe we won the battle once we get (Latino members) into congress, but really we need to get (our community) to vote on the ideas towards progressive change.”
Just before going to work on a sunny Friday morning in March, Khan Pham, a 24-year-old native of Vietnam looked outside her living room window onto the street below.
“I love my neighborhood,” said Pham about her Hamilton Heights home at 141st street, a classic New York City pre-war building nestled in this bustling neighborhood. “Diversity is what makes this part of the city so vibrant. The rent is affordable and the food is amazing. It’s still a predominately Hispanic and African American neighborhood. I can’t imagine the negative impact a vast reduction in visas would have on this area of the city.”
In the aftermath of the various executive orders restricting immigration and statements from President Donald Trump denigrating visa programs such as the H-1B visa used by foreign workers, young international students like Pham, are rethinking their place in American.
Pham first moved to the city seven years ago to study and received a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and master’s in Public Policy from Baruch College. She currently works for the NGO, Amani Global Works, as a program and development intern. When Pham first moved to the U.S her plan was to find a way to work in the country, but now she is not that sure.
“Being international, I suddenly feel somehow less welcomed here,” said Khan. “I am honestly not sure I want to stay here and my partner and I are thinking about moving to another country together if things worsen under Trump’s presidency.”
Other young adults from abroad echoed Pham’s sentiments. Betty Lo, a 22-year-old recent college graduate from Taiwan is currently applying for the H-1B visa, an employment based visa for temporary workers. She is unsure of how Trump presidency will affect her status.
“Trump and his cabinet are in the process of reforming work visas,” said Lo. “It has me worried because I am in the process of applying for a work visa. So I’m pretty certain things will get even more complicated than it already is.”
There are 85,000 visas given each year and currently 900,000 visa holders in the United States. Where Trump stands on the H-1B is difficult to determine. Back in October 2015, Trump said he was in favor of people coming into this country legally, but in March 2016, his campaign released a statement saying that the H-1B program was “neither high-skilled nor immigration: these are temporary foreign workers…for the explicit purpose of substituting for American workers at lower pay. I remain totally committed to eliminating rampant, widespread H-1B abuse I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program, and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers for every visa and immigration program. No exceptions.”
The H-1B is one of the most common visa programs for foreign workers in the United States.
Nadeem Omar Shad a 23-year-old student at Columbia University, originally from the U.K. is discouraged.
“Once I get my degree, I will go back to the UK,” Shad said. “Trump has had a chilling effect on students’ from the UK in the sense that people feel discouraged to stay here and pursue an OPT, because they think employers will be less likely to hire them. But a lot of students say that after studying here for five, six years, they fee lbetter here than in their country of origin so it’s not a great situation to be in for a lot of us.”
According to the nonprofit Institute of International Education, about 1,043,839, international students were enrolled in U.S. universities in the 2015-2016 school year. The same year, 147,498 were doing Optional Practical Training (OPT), a visa that permits international student to stay and work in the country momentarily.
International students account for about 5 percent of all U.S. college students, and, as a group, contributed nearly $32.8 billion to the U.S. economy in 2015-2016, according to NAFSA.
“International students pay tuition, room and board to the university and sometimes rent local apartments/houses in the community,” said Jason Wynn the Assistant Director of International Student and Scholar Services at Georgia College and State University who has throughout the years helped and facilitated international students’ immigration and cultural acclimation needs. “This revenue is money that the local economy otherwise wouldn’t have.”
What worries students like Pham is the uncertainty behind Trump’s language.
“Trump specifically stated that changes are coming for H-1B visa,” said Pham. “Knowing his sentiments about foreigners, I don’t think he will make it easier for us to stay and work in the country. Most people don’t realize that international students not only stay because they have job opportunities here but also they create a new life in the country. They form relationships, grow to love certain places, learn the culture.”