His colleagues, wearing hard hats and safety vests, nodded their heads. They seemed to agree with the idea that it doesn’t make much of a difference if the next president is a Democrat or Republican. “[All presidents] break their promises, they all want to deport us,” said another worker, who declined to give his name. He was likely referring to the record number of deportations during President Obama’s administration. Their reactions are a sharp contrast to those of other undocumented groups, such as the generation of younger immigrants who grew up in the United States and view themselves as Americans. Those who received temporary deportation relief through Obama’s DACA program are particularly frightened about the likely scenario that Trump will revoke the protection and deport them. The construction workers I spoked to seemed more resigned, more cynical—yet also defiant—about their own situation. What about the wall, I asked them, do you really think Trump will build a wall?
“He can build a wall, but we’ll just build a tunnel,” said Magdaleno Santos, a Salvadorian man who arrived in the the United States illegally more than two decades ago, but adjusted his immigration status in the late 1990s.” If we leave, the entire country will fall apart. Have you looked around? Who do you think is building everything here? It’s the Latinos. American workers just want to walk around with a clipboard, sipping from their water bottles. They don’t want to do what we do.”
Earlier in the day, I had walked over to the makeshift offices where the contractors and subcontractors had set up shop. I chatted with Neal Fisher, the subcontractor overseeing electrical work on the retail complex. Is it true that he can’t find Americans to do this work? “That’s part of it. But if Bobby comes looking for a job, he’s going to want $24 an hour, and these guys will do the same work for $12.”