Facing criticism for his failure to respond competently to the COVID-19 crisis and concerned about his declining re-election prospects, President Trump this week returned to his xenophobic comfort zone and issued an attention grabbing immigration proclamation.
At a time when immigrants are reminding us of their essential contributions – including keeping food on Americans’ tables and risking their lives as frontline healthcare workers – Trump’s proclamation is a transparent ploy. He wants to deflect from his disastrous handling of the worst crisis of our lifetime; he and his top White House aide, Stephen Miller, are exploiting the crisis to fundamentally restructure legal immigration by executive fiat; and the final policy contains exceptions and loopholes that reflect the cronyism and self-dealing that the Trump family is infamous for. Arguably the biggest winner is Jared Kushner, whose family will continue to profit from the exempted green card category for wealthy investors.
Below are three of the key takeaways in assessing Trump’s immigration proclamation:
- The Distractor-in-Chief: Trump’s politically motivated attempt to deflect from his COVID-19 mismanagement. As Frank Sharry assessed of Trump given in the current moment, “He’s panicking. What does he do? What he always does. He divides to distract. He blames immigrants, most of whom are people of color. He strains to deflect from his abject failure…” Others across the political spectrum have similar takes – see here and here for round-ups. As Reps. Lofgren and Nadler stated, “Trump’s executive order is simply meant to divide and distract us from his tragic failure to effectively combat the spread of COVID-19 in the United States. He should be uniting us as a country as we continue to battle the deadly disease, not trying to shift blame and scapegoat immigrants.”
2. An end run around Congress, using the pandemic as cover. As a DHS Watch analysis this week details, through the stroke of a pen and without a single act of Congress, Trump’s proclamation fundamentally changes decades-long immigration laws and procedures established by Congress. The new policy both slashes immigration levels and restructures immigration law away from the ability of U.S. citizens to sponsor family members. As Forbes columnist Stuart Anderson writes in a piece titled, “New Trump Immigration Order Does What Congress Rejected In 2018,” the proclamation contains “nearly identical provisions on legal immigration to those of a White House-designed bill the U.S. Senate rejected on February 15, 2018” by a vote of 60-39 against – the lowest vote total of several immigration votes that week.
3. The Jared Kushner exception. Ur Jaddou, Director of DHS Watch and former USCIS Chief Counsel, notes, “The proclamation alters every single preference in the immigration system, some much more than others, with one clear exception – green cards for wealthy investors – a program that appears to benefit the President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, through his family’s company and which has been the subject of SEC investigation.” Elie Mystal of The Nation writes, “Trump is doing the only thing he knows how to do: He’s using the same old con of blaming immigrants for his own incompetence and failure, while not actually ‘banning immigration’ for fear of pissing off his businessman buddies or further tanking an economy already teetering on the brink of ruin.”