Cleaning up the Mess Part 2 – Immigration
Immigrants built our nation; they contribute enormously to our economic successes. They are young, hard working, entrepreneurial, talented and immensely grateful for the opportunities to live in the US. They bring great value to our nation ranging from our nation’s farms to Silicon Valley.
President Trump has made his tough stance on legal immigration and undocumented immigrants the hallmark of his administration from his first speech calling Mexican immigrants rapists and murders, through the caged and separated children at the border to the most recent refusal to acknowledge citizenship for the children born abroad to naturalized citizen American service persons and diplomats who are serving their nation overseas. His get tough at the border policies have for the most part been failing, and the numbers of people being detained at the Southern US border have been increasing to their highest levels since 2000 on his watch.
Presidents Bush and Obama sought to enact immigration reforms without success due in part to the hard right elements in the Republican Party. Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Schumer tried in vain to reach compromises with the Trump Administration, but were stymied by the President’s advisor Steven Miller and the same hard right elements of the Republican Party. President Reagan was the last President to successfully negotiate the many obstacles to immigration reform back in 1986; his successes are now characterized as amnesty by the very same hard right elements in the nation’s Capitol.
Leading Senate Republicans from past reform efforts such as John McCain and Jeff Flake are no longer serving, and Senator Lindsey Graham appears to have drunk to the dregs from ample servings of Trump’s Kool Aid. Representative Will Hurd and many others of the more reasonable House members have left or are leaving. It will be tough to find the leadership elements for a new bi-partisan legislative consensus in the Senate or the House.
Path to citizenship
There are about 11 million undocumented living in the shadows, working primarily at a variety of low wage jobs that do not bring them to the attention of ICE. They need a path to permanent legal residency and eventually citizenship.
The Trump Administration has cut the numbers of refugees being legally admitted to the US from about 70,000 annually to about 25,000 annually. Most come from countries with severe civil unrest such as Iran, Iraq, Burma and Somalia. About 3 million Americans have been accepted as refugees since 1980. Trump’s cap can be lifted administratively and restored to its earlier level and his bar on accepting refugees from the war torn nations of the Middle East can also be lifted administratively.
Immigrants seeking to adjust their status (i.e. becoming a legal permanent resident) can be denied if the immigration service decides they will become a public charge. Historically that meant getting federal cash assistance such as SSI or TANF or institutional long term care paid for by the federal government. The Trump Administration has expanded the definition to include receipt of Medicaid, Food Stamps, Public Housing assistance and nutrition services. This does not apply to naturalization. This is a federal rule change and can be reversed administratively.
The Trump Administration defines secure borders as building a 30 foot high steel slat wall, painted black and with sharp spikes on top on the Southern border. Many in Congress favor securing borders through electronic surveillance and other high tech solutions that they believe would be far more effective than the fraught symbolism of a “medieval wall”. To date no new wall has been built, but existing deteriorating border fencing has been replaced. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-46824649 Trump has redirected $6 billion from the Department of Defense and other agencies to pay for his wall. A new President could simply halt this waste of redirected funds and return them to their original Congressionally authorized purposes. The next President could request an augmentation in funding for far more effective border surveillance, more immigration judges and more enforcement personnel on the ground.
Aid to three Central America nations
Most migrants being detained at our Southern Border are coming from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala; many are families seeking asylum from extreme violence in their home countries. All are impoverished nations with high levels of income inequality, where the US has frequently intervened to overturn their choices of government. Honduras is the center for narco gang violence; El Salvador has had a prolonged and extremely bloody civil war followed by widespread gang violence, and in Guatemala, the army has for many years been engaged in a wholesale practice of “desparecidos” among the indigenous Mayan people living in the country’s impoverished highlands, and this too is augmented by gang violence. The Trump Administration has cut aid to all three countries based on the President’s belief that their governments should be doing more to reduce the exodus of their citizens to “El Norte”. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-trump/as-promised-trump-slashes-aid-to-central-america-over-migrants-idUSKCN1TI2C7 The next President could work with Central American countries to promote sound economic development, reduce violence and increase personal security, and to reduce the unprecedented levels of Central American family migration.
Prepared by: Lucien Wulsin