Delving Into Trump’s Immigration Policy: The Real State of Affairs
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Photo: Jose Luis Magana

Delving Into Trump’s Immigration Policy: The Real State of Affairs


The vast majority of Americans will never forget Trump’s cruel separation of families at the border between May and June, neither will they forgive him for the very fact he is not a politician but a businessman. In 2016, however, when the results of the presidential elections were not yet clear, some people could be seen holding posters that read “The silent majority stands with Trump.” Today, they are silent no more. The nation can speak its mind with no judgment: after all, Trump is just the “cartoon president” with “it costs too much” mentality. Let’s dig deeper into his approach to immigration policy.

“America first”

From the very beginning, Trump made it clear that America should forget about its old policies and give way to “a new vision” that “will govern our land.” “From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first, America first,” he told the crowd at his inauguration, 20 January 2017. “Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs.”

“To do that, we’ve learned, the children must go into cages,” wrote The Star’s Vicky Mochamas on June 20, 2018, the day when President Trump signed an executive order which was intended to replace family separation by family detention.

2,342 children from Central America were removed from their families at the US border and placed in government facilities between May 5 and June 9, according to the Trump administration. The protests throughout the US and even beyond its borders have sufficiently expressed people’s feelings toward the situation: images of groups of children held behind chain-link fences stunned America and drew comparisons with Nazi Germany and Japanese-American internment camps. Most Americans, including 68 percent of independents, were opposed to the policy of separating migrant families at the border, according to a poll released on June 18.

However, everyone forgets about one important thing: those who tried to cross the border were aware of the consequences of their actions. On May 7, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration would adopt a “zero tolerance” policy toward anyone caught crossing into the US by Border Patrol. All border crossers would be referred to the Department of Justice, and everyone referred would be prosecuted for the misdemeanor of illegal entry. Moreover, more than a year before that, in March 2017, then-DHS Secretary John Kelly (now White House chief of staff) told CNN he was considering separating children from parents to deter illegal immigration.

“It’s certainly not our goal to separate children, but I do think it’s clear, it’s legitimate to warn people who come to the country unlawfully bringing children with them that they can’t expect that they’ll always be kept together,” Sessions said.

Intentional or not, family separation was the “inevitable consequence” of such a policy, says The Washington Post, a reality that was recognized by Homeland Security Secretary Kirsten Nielsen in May. Since children are not allowed in adult jails, they were housed elsewhere. “Operationally what that means is we will have to separate your family,” she told the NPR new service, and argued that the policy was “no different than what we do every day in every part of the United States when an adult of a family commits a crime”.

“That his Justice Department is separating children from their parents who are crossing the border illegally should not be all that surprising,” Amy Walter, a political analyst and the national editor of The Cook Political Report wrote. “As a candidate, Trump told NBC’s Chuck Todd that he would order the U.S. government to deport all immigrants who are in the country illegally.” Walter cited polling which shows that more than fifty percent of Trump supporters cited “getting things done,” “keeping promises,” or “putting America first” as their top reason for their support.

Immigrants after crossing the border near McAllen, Texas/Loren Elliott

In the past, families entering the country illegally “were rarely criminally prosecuted”, says Politifact. Many were released to await a court date for an immigration hearing, while others were housed in family detention centers before being sent to appear before an immigration court or deported. Well, cruel or not, such outcome of events was at least predictable. Trump’s “Put America First” program following economic nationalism and seeking to protect American workers and industries has reversed decades of U.S. immigration policy that called for countries to “Send me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.” “A new vision” in action.

“When it comes to the labor market, foreign-born Americans look a lot like native-born Americans”

In accordance with a report on international migration from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Paris-based club of the world’s affluent democracies, when it comes to immigration, the U.S. stands out in (at least) three big ways:

  1. It has allowed more illegal immigration than any other wealthy country.
  2. It does a better job of integrating its immigrants, even those who come here illegally, than almost any other wealthy country.
  3. Its overall immigration flows are now on the low side, measured as a percentage of population, among wealthy countries.

Immigrants and their U.S.-born children now number approximately 86.4 million people, or 27 percent of the overall U.S. population, according to the 2017 Current Population Survey.

In fiscal year 2018, the number of family units apprehended for trying to cross the border illegally increased significantly to 90,563, which is 27 percent higher than the number in 2017.

U.S. Border Patrol Southwest Border Apprehensions by Sector FY2018, Department of Homeland Security/

When it comes to the labor market, foreign-born Americans look a lot like native-born Americans,” said Economist Ernie Tedeschi who adjusted the American data for demographics last year and found that this wiped out all of the difference between immigrant and native-born employment rates. Immigrants in the US are more likely than native-born residents to be employed, and the US is one of only three advanced nations seeing positive advantages for foreign-born residents.

A 2013 report “Immigration and American worker” prepared by Center for Immigration Studies shows that an influx of large numbers of low-skill workers can depress the wages of comparable workers. “Illegal immigration continues to vex the public and policymakers. Illegal immigrants have clearly benefited by living and working in the United States. Many business owners and users of immigrant labor have also benefited by having access to their labor. But some native-born Americans have also lost, and these losers likely include a disproportionate number of the poorest Americans,” the study says.

As for high-skill immigrants, 2016 Testimony “The Impact of High-Skill Immigration on U.S. Workers” proposes “obvious and available” solutions for solving the problems with the H-1B, L-1, and OPT guestworker programs, which include:

  1. Raising the wage floors substantially. Guestworkers should not be hired because they are cheaper than Americans.
  2. Employers should make a bona fide effort to recruit and hire qualified American workers prior to hiring a guestworker.
  3. American workers should not be displaced by guestworkers.
  4. Employer compliance should be ensured through independent government audits.

“It was legal immigrants that made America great”

It’s almost unbelievable these were the words of Donald Trump two years ago. However, to date, the President is sure even legal immigrants are a security threat. The Trump administration is using the country’s vast and nearly opaque immigration bureaucracy to constrict the flow of foreign workers into the United States by throwing up new roadblocks to limit legal arrivals.

The government is denying more work visas, asking applicants to provide additional information and delaying approvals more frequently than just a year earlier. Hospitals, hotels, technology companies and other businesses say they are now struggling to fill jobs with the foreign workers they need. With foreign hires missing, the employees who remain are being forced to pick up the slack. Seasonal industries like hotels and landscaping are having to turn down customers or provide fewer services.

“The overall picture is one of extreme hostility with no distinction between the undocumented and those who are legally here,” said Joshua Hoyt, co-chair of the National Partnership for New Americans.

The past year and a half has seen a series of proposals – some threatened, others already realized – that make good on Trump’s pledge to sharply restrict immigration.

The low-skilled workers will be vital in fields like eldercare and child care, as well as construction and cleaning, said Ms Francine D. Blau, an economist at Cornell. “A lot of our labour-force growth comes from immigrants and their children,” Ms Blau said. “Without them, we’d suffer the problems associated with countries with an ageing population, like Japan.”

on the receipts at the River Pig Saloon are the words “immigrants make America great. They also cooked your food.” Portland, Oregon. June, 2018/Mike Benner

“There’s absolutely no research that supports the idea that cutting legal immigration is good for the economy,” said Mr Ethan Lewis, a Dartmouth economist.

Emiliano, a 57-year-old undocumented day laborer from Honduras, told Alexia Fernández Campbell from Vox that he knows many people assume he doesn’t pay his taxes. He doesn’t care just hoping one day it will help him get legal status.

When the reporter told him the chances don’t look good under the Trump administration, he shrugged.

“You have to have hope in something,” he said.

What do you think about all this mess?

Author: Christine Petrova