Immigration hardliners are always quick to say their beef is with illegal immigration.But in all things, The Trump Era turns the subtext to text. From the jump, the Trump administration proposed cutting the number of legal immigrants the country will accept in half. Trump has unleashed ICE, with the immediate consequence that deportations of noncriminal immigrants-undocumented people who have not been convicted of a crime, and plenty of whom haven't been charged-skyrocketed in 2017 to double the previous year.
One of the great injustices of the "zero-tolerance" policy, beyond the barbaric separation of young children from their parents, was its flouting of asylum law. Under international law and treaties to which the U.S. is a signatory, people have a legal right to present themselves for asylum status--essentially, to claim they are refugees and have that claim adjudicated in court. The Trump administration flouted this by restricting the criteria for seeking asylum to exclude people fleeing gang and domestic violence-common claims among Central American migrants-and refusing them entry to border checkpoints, where they must present themselves under the law to claim asylum.
Of course, it's never been about how or why someone crosses the border. It's about keeping Certain People out, and removing Certain People who are already here, by any means necessary. In case you needed more proof, NBC News has an update on the effort:
The Trump administration is expected to issue a proposal in coming weeks that would make it harder for legal immigrants to become citizens or get green cards if they have ever used a range of popular public welfare programs, including Obamacare...The move, which would not need Congressional approval, is part of White House senior adviser Stephen Miller's plan to limit the number of migrants who obtain legal status in the U.S. each year.
Ah, yes, Stephen Miller, the Santa Monica Gargamel who fought like hell for the policy of tearing kids away from their mothers and tells Definitely True stories about throwing away $80 of sushi as a matter of principle. One can hardly wait to see what other gears are in motion on this plan to wage war on legal migration. (Immigration is that thing some might recognize as the defining and singularly unifying feature of the American experience. Except for Native Americans, who might now wish they'd limited immigration before the Stephen Millers came along.) The phrase "pulling up the ladder behind you" doesn't seem to do it justice.
But what exactly is involved here?
Details of the rulemaking proposal are still being finalized, but based on a recent draft seen last week and described to NBC News, immigrants living legally in the U.S. who have ever used or whose household members have ever used Obamacare, children's health insurance, food stamps and other benefits could be hindered from obtaining legal status in the U.S.
So even if it's just an immigrant's child who uses benefits-a child who may be an American citizen-the parent, a legal immigrant, can be penalized. Across the board, the policy could mean forcing people to choose between food and healthcare for their family or a future as a U.S. citizen. According to Stephen Miller, you can't have both. This is a willful (indefensible?) attempt to immiserate people and try to force them out of the country-just as the family separation policy put us in a contest of cruelty with Central American drug gangs.
This policy could impact 20 million immigrants or more, some of whom could be rejected despite earning 250 percent of the poverty level.
Many are like Louis Charles, a Haitian green-card holder seeking citizenship who, despite working up to 80 hours a week as a nursing assistant, has had to use public programs to support his disabled adult daughter.
Of course, this is all borne up in the modern conservative notion that you cannot both accept government assistance and contribute to society-a notion that never seems to extend to government programs like Medicare--though some Republicans want to cut that too--or farm subsidies.
But more than that, it reflects the Trump administration's commitment to keeping The Other out, and to do so in an exercise of performative cruelty that gets The Base going. That's why the administration is also moving to revoke "temporary protected status" for half a million people who came here fleeing chaos and oppression in their home countries-people like Louis Charles, who came after a catastrophic earthquake decimated Haiti-despite the fact that research suggests the move will actually lead to more illegal immigration. The Department of Homeland Security told the White House as much, but it won't matter. More people will come here in the end? Just deport them, too.
As if to round out the conception that this is all symbolic-a performance for the aging caucasians of the Trump Base who fear the changing demographics of America-there's some intriguing news on The Wall. The cornerstone of Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric might end up being strictly rhetorical-at least, according to The New York Times, if "feasibility" factors in at all:
The Trump administration could potentially waste billions of dollars on a border wall because it failed to fully account for factors like varying terrain and land ownership along the Southwest border, according to a new report.
The report, conducted by the Government Accountability Office, found that Customs and Border Protection, the agency responsible for construction of the wall, did not consider the cost of building along each segment of the border, which can vary depending on factors such as topography and land ownership.
The report also found that the agency selected locations for barriers without fully assessing where they were needed to prevent illegal border crossings.
Ah, they didn't factor in "terrain" when planning to build something. Classic mistake! Of course, the regime maintains The Wall Is Good and Needed:
“Walls have proven to be extremely effective at deterring illegal entries and the smuggling of illicit drugs into the United States,” she said. “The initial prioritization for developing barriers in each location or segment was based on an operational assessment of priorities including current risks and threats, which was followed by a resource analysis that factored in cost.”
This is unmitigated gobbledegook, except for the claims up top. No serious person believes The Wall will stop the flow of illegal drugs, which can easily travel via truck or air or tunnel. Many, including border patrol agents, don't see The Wall as especially key to slowing migration. It's a symbol, a big middle finger to The Outside, a monument to the enduring power of White America. That might be why Trump seems to think it may be the one campaign promise he'll pay for not keeping. That's surely the reason he now lies about it at every rally, telling the hooting and hollering faithful that construction has already begun. It hasn't, but it doesn't seem to matter. Nothing seems to matter in an authoritarian movement, except how it makes you feel.
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