Although the government of Donald J. Trump assures us that his immigration policies are simply trying to stop undocumented immigration and protect our borders, the reality is that this administration, since the very beginning, has been engaged in an incessant attack on minorities and immigrants motivated more likely by the desire to “whiten” our society.
One only has to recall that one of Trump’s first actions was to impose the “Muslim ban” to keep people from Muslim countries from entering the United States. He cancelled DACA for Dreamers; eliminated TPS for Central Americans, Haitians, and individuals from other countries. One cannot also forget that he referred to these countries as “shitholes” while lamenting that the United States was not receiving immigrants from other nations like Norway, for example.
Although at the beginning of his administration the level of apprehensions at the border reached its lowest point, it was Trump’s own policies that generated the humanitarian chaos taking place at the border. For example, one of his first actions was ending the refugee/humanitarian parole processing program for minors from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala —known as the Central American Minors (CAM) program— that permitted these young people to apply for refuge in the United States while still in their countries of origin. That, of course, incited the arrival of more unaccompanied minors fleeing violence at our nation’s border. At the same time, entire families began to arrive and the Trump administration employed “family separation” as a mechanism of “deterrence.” I ask myself if they would have done the same if the families arriving had Anglo-Saxon roots.
With the arrival of the migrant caravans that Trump exploited for political purposes in the 2018 midterm elections, he redoubled his efforts to undermine asylum laws precisely for Central Americans. He has erected more and more obstacles with the goal of dissuading asylum-seekers so that they remain in Mexico or return to the countries they just fled in fear for their lives. His animosity was such that he even proposed eliminating the U.S. aid that non-governmental organizations in these countries receive in order to improve conditions so that they are no longer forced to abandon their nations for the United States.
The fact that Trump provoked a government shutdown of 35 days in order to press for funds for his border wall with Mexico, arguing that the caravans had been infiltrated by terrorists, also cannot be overlooked. The reality is that Canada is more of a liability for the United States than Mexico, since according to the U.S. State Department, our neighbor to the north has been home to violent extremists with ties to ISIS and Al Qaeda.
With this as the backdrop, last week Trump announced with much fanfare his “plan” for immigration reform, with the central component being a legal immigration process based on a “merit” system and not on family ties. That is how he is trying to end so-called “chain migration,” which is nothing more than the ability of U.S. citizens and permanent residents to apply for relatives to immigrate to the United States, just like his wife Melania Trump did for her parents.
The excuse that they want legal immigration from people with special skills disguises the discriminatory and exclusionary nature of this proposal and disregards the fact that the work immigrants do require skills that not everyone has. If you don’t believe me, go work in the fields and see how long you last. And the work of these migrants is just as important as that of any other professional. Even Trump, whose companies —according to press reports— have contracted with undocumented immigrant labor, would have to agree.
But this country has already been in the place that Trump wants to take it today. Prior immigration laws, like the law of 1924, established national origin quotas in order to reduce U.S. entry of migrants from Southern and Eastern Europe, and Asia, for example. This was reversed by the immigration law of 1965, which gave immigration preference to people with family ties, although it also set a cap on immigration from the Western Hemisphere.
Trump’s poorly-named immigration “plan” is so inadequate that it does not even include any relief for Dreamers or TPS beneficiaries, and totally ignores the 11 million undocumented immigrants who live here and contribute to this country’s economy in many ways.
In summary, these restrictionist immigration proposals are cyclical and now it is Trump’s turn. In his speech last week when he outlined his proposal, which is not even an official legislative bill and is opposed by both Democrats and Republicans —albeit for different reasons— and has no chance of advancing, Trump affirmed that if it is not approved now, it will be approved after the 2020 elections: “When we take back the House, keep the Senate and, of course, hold the presidency.”
Just one more reason to prevent the restrictionist immigration dreams of Trump, which are nightmares for immigrants and minorities, from becoming reality in 2020.