If pundits are right, Donald Trump became president partly because he spoke frankly about immigration to the working people. Wednesday the leader of Denver’s best-known labor union for working people had a reply about scapegoating.
Ron Ruggiero, president of Service Employees International Union Local 105, was one of a handful of Colorado leaders who spoke to the Capitol press corps in a forum coordinated by ColoradoPolitics.com and moderated by Joe St. George of Fox 31. You will see more of those excellent conversations—on transportation, energy, the environment and taxation—on our website and from other news outlets in the days before the legislative session begins next week.
Ruggiero characterized the economic issue around immigration as political sleight of hand to distract people from what really breaks an economy. In his view, it ain’t undocumented workers.
“There’s absolutely no question immigrants strengthen our economy,” he said. “They contribute more in sales and Social Security taxes than they will ever receive back, and they contribute to a vibrant, diverse community here in Colorado.”
Ruggiero seemed to deliver the message to the doorstep of the New York real estate billionaire who will be president in two and a half weeks.
“Instead of succumbing to the fear and hate, we need to ask ourselves a few questions across this country and in Colorado,” he told the press. “Was it immigrants who made the decision to close factories across this country and lose millions of good jobs? Was it immigrants who made the decision to gamble recklessly on Wall Street that crashed our economy in 2008, which led to millions of lost jobs and millions of foreclosed homes?
“Is it immigrants making the decision now to raise rents across Denver metro and parts of Colorado sometimes by hundreds of dollars a month often with hardly any notice at all?”
Trump made the issue a significant part of his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention last summer.
“Decades of record immigration have produced lower wages and higher unemployment for our citizens, especially for African-American and Latino workers,” he said.
Ruggiero urged reporters and the pubic to look at the bigger picture and possible motives for blaming immigrants for suppressing wages. He said unions, Democrats and some Republicans have worked for comprehensive immigration reform, which could address wage inequality for people he said are now “living in the shadows.”
“This is scapegoating rhetoric to distract people from what’s really going on and the real culprits to our broken economy,” he said. “Their hope is that we won’t see the real things they’ve done to damage our economy.”
A Pew Research Center report in November indicated Colorado has about 200,000 undocumented immigrants, about 3.8 percent of the state’s population. Colorado had an estimated 220,000 undocumented residents in 2008, but has rebounded from the 180,000 researchers projected in 2012.