A long, long time ago in 2012, there was a real estate developer named Donald J. Trump who lambasted
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney for losing the election with his "crazy" and "maniacal" talk of promising to create conditions so miserable for unauthorized immigrants that they would "self deport." What did Romney say that was so bad? That he would crackdown on employers who hired illegals. "It sounded as bad as it was," said the developer. "He lost all of the Latino vote … He lost the Asian vote. He lost everybody who is inspired to come into this country."
Fast forward four years, and the same developer realized that, actually, the problem with Romney's "crazy" and "maniacal" plan was that it was not crazy and maniacal enough. Stirring the racial pot, he found, could pull out just enough votes from the bottom of the barrel to win an election and become president. It might sink his party in the long run, but it would work for now.
And it did.
As soon as he entered the White House, Trump made not just self-deportation but actual deportation of every single one of the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in this country the singular objective of his administration (along with other atrocities like deterring fleeing migrants seeking legal asylum by illegally snatching their children from them). Raids—complete with SWAT teams and sometimes black helicopters—on 7-Elevens, farms, immigrant neighborhoods, and sensitive places followed.
No one was to be spared from his draconian dragnet—not even Dreamers or people who were brought to this country illegally as minors but have grown up here as Americans and know no other country. He had promised to protect these people during his campaign. "They don't have to worry," he said. It was a lie. He scrapped the Obama-era DACA program that offered them a reprieve from deportation and offered them temporary work permits and told Congress that if it wanted to protect them, it should pass a law. He told lawmakers—Republican and Democrat—on television in front of the whole world that he would sign whatever bill they sent his way without any conditions, and even offer political cover to Democrats in red districts where his party had stirred up voters against "amnesty."
But then a few days later, his evil nativist aide Steve Miller seemingly got to him and snuffed out whatever little humanity may have flickered from time to time in the president's breast. He started making all kinds of impossible, Sophie's Choice demands in exchange for giving Dreamers a reprieve (even as his attorney general quoted passages from the Bible to justify ripping babies from the breasts of mothers seeking asylum).
The Southern border might be turning into a scene straight from the Apocalypse, but everytime this president's draconian demands are met in exchange for protecting the Dreamers, he ups the ante and demands more—never mind that vast majorities of Republicans and Democrats support a clean fix for these folks. Just this morning, he declared that he would not sign the "moderate" Dreamer fix. What would this "moderate" bill do? Cato Institute's David Bier points out:
- On balance cut legal immigration by 1.8 million over two decades. (Even though it would increase the number of employment-based visas, it would scrap the diversity visa lottery program, slash family-based immigration, including for the siblings, married adult children, and parents of sponsors, and slash the annual asylum quota in half. Further, any unclaimed Dreamer green card quotas would just be scrapped, not handed to other categories.)
- Allow very few Dreamers to convert their renewable temporary visas into green cards or citizenship. Only those who maintain incomes above 125 percent of the poverty level would be eligible unless they were in school or taking care of a child. This means that those who opt for professions such as the priesthood, social work, and other jobs that pay very little would be disqualified, as would any Dreamer who had skipped removal orders or court hearings.
- Terminate 3 million applications for legal immigration that have already been submitted and are being processed, even though these people have been playing by the rules and waiting in line as restrictionists say they should. Oh, and it will also confiscate their fee.
- Make even the measly asylum quota arguably impossible to fill by raising the bar impossibly high. In order to prove that asylum seekers have a "credible fear" of being beaten and killed at home, they would have to meet a "more probable than not" test that their claims are true. The only way they could do it is if they carry all their papers and proof on them as they swim across rivers and climb mountains to get here, which very, very few would be able to do.
- Allocate about $24 billion for border enforcement spending including for Trump's useless wall, an unnecessary biometric system that would track everyone who leaves the country, including Americans, fast-track deportation of unaccompanied minors and much else.
There are some good elements in the bill, such as extending a path to citizenship (no matter how shitty) to legal Dreamers; those who have grown up in America to parents whose green cards have been stuck in a processing maize for decades so that they are reaching an age where they don't have a sponsor and can't stay with their parents. It would also repeal per-country limits on green cards that have extended wait times for foreign techies from India and China to up to 70 years, creating the legal Dreamer problem in the first place.
But all of this is just too rational and humane for this president who says he'll only sign some version of the Rep. Bob Goodlatte's (R-Va.) Securing America's Future Act, a nativist wet dream, as I've noted before. It has nearly all the bad elements of the "moderate bill" in exchange for far less.
It will offer only non-immigrant status on a renewable basis to a small slice of DACA recipients who can meet its onerous eligibility criteria. The bill excludes Dreamers who have already lost DACA. Oh, and those who were under 15 years of age and therefore never covered by DACA. And those who were over the age of 31 on June 2012. And those who entered after 2007. All in all, two-thirds of all Dreamers wouldn't qualify—not even if they are veterans.
But the real kicker is that Dreamers who do qualify would have to maintain income levels above 125 percent of the poverty line, or they would be subject to deportation, not just be disqualified from a green card as is the case with the moderate bill. In effect, the bill would criminalize poverty in this sweet land of liberty!
And to add insult to injury to legal immigrants, it would bar those who have green cards but not citizenship from bringing even their spouses and children here!
This is not immigration reform. It is an anti-immigration bill that would cut legal immigration by 40 percent at a time when America is facing a demographic slump of epic proportions with birth rates at their lowest level ever. Congress hasn't considered a bill this horrible since it passed the racist National Origins Act in 1924, which it then scrapped in 1965.
Yet this is the only thing that this president would sign. The good news is that no one thinks that either of these bills will pass, thanks to the implacable opposition of Democrats.
Donald Trump, however, is resolutely leading his party back to the early 20th century, a time of bald nativism and Know Nothingism. And he accomplished that giant leap back to the future in just four short years.
Talk about "crazy" and "maniacal."
Update: Trump has flipped and now says that he will support the "moderate" plan. In other words, the man who thought that employer crackdowns were too draconian to chase out unauthorized immigrants will only stop holding Dreamers hostage if legal immigration is slashed! By contrast, Mitt Romney wanted to staple greencards to the diplomas of foreign students graduating from American universities among other things to increase legal immigration.