Donald Trump’s tax bill, and mine: A DACA recipient reflects on who pays what in America

Donald Trump’s tax bill, and mine: A DACA recipient reflects on who pays what in America

 People carrying signs protesting President Trump’s decision to repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy in Lower Manhattan. – New York, New York – September 5, 2017 (Shutterstock)

By Ricardo Aca, NY Daily News

On Sunday, I learned that President Trump only paid $750 dollars in federal income taxes during the year he was running for president.

That same year, I worked in a restaurant in a Trump building. I paid more than him in federal income taxes.

I was shocked when I read the New York Times’s Trump tax returns story. I knew that Trump often exaggerates and lies. But $750 in federal income tax for someone who for decades has presented himself as a successful business mogul, with myriad buildings and properties in New York and across the country? And $0 in federal income taxes for 10 of the prior 15 years? Outrageous.

In 2016, while Trump was talking about his endless billions on the campaign trail and evading taxes, I was struggling to maintain three jobs, one as a server at a pizza restaurant, one as a photography assistant at LaGuardia Community College, and a third at a Japanese restaurant inside one of Trump’s buildings.

That year, I earned just over $30,000 and paid $865 dollars in federal income tax, when you account for rebates. That amount may not seem like much to you, but it was a lot for me, as I was working to support my immigrant family and to be able to get back to school at Baruch College. Apparently, it was a lot for Trump, too, given that I paid more than him that year.

Since he launched his presidential campaign in 2015, Trump has falsely spread narratives about immigrants, claiming that we are here to steal jobs and benefits from U.S. citizens, but the reality is that we contribute more than what we receive. Once he assumed office, he weaponized those attacks, by seeking to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that protects hundreds of thousands of immigrant youth like me, trying to end Temporary Protected Status for hundreds of thousands more, and adopting policies to tear families apart at the border and throughout the country.

Meanwhile, undocumented immigrants like me and my family contribute through income taxes and other taxes. Undocumented immigrants in New York alone paid $1.1 billion in state and local taxes in 2016, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute. We also contribute billions to Social Security, even though it’s uncertain if we will ever receive payments from the program.

Six months into a global pandemic, thanks to Trump and Congressional Republicans, hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants across the state are struggling and still left out of any federal relief. Sadly, New York State hasn’t stepped up to provide help, either. Our loved ones have toiled on the front lines of this crisis as essential workers, and many have died. Meanwhile, our community has also been hit disproportionately by job and income loss during the crisis. But despite those contributions, hundreds of thousands of immigrant New Yorkers have been excluded from unemployment benefits and cash relief.

It is deeply frustrating that while our communities here in New York and across the country continue to suffer from the pandemic, there are billionaires and tycoons like Trump who are skirting their tax obligations and, during the pandemic, receiving enormous bailouts. Meanwhile, our community members are struggling to feed their families, checking the schedules of food pantries near them every day and standing in long lines so their children have enough to eat.

As we watch tonight’s debate, it is very clear who has been contributing to the system, despite the injustices we face, and who is taking advantage of the system to pad his pockets. While Trump keeps trying to use divisive rhetoric to distract the American public from his self-enrichment agenda, immigrants like me and my family are not confused. We know that he’s only in it for himself, regardless of whom he harms along the way.

Aca is an immigrant New Yorker and DACA beneficiary. He is a member of Make the Road Action.

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