White House aide Stephen Miller, an arch restrictionist, is about to release rules that would make it almost impossible for legal immigrants to obtain green cards, citizenship, extend their visas, or even obtain visas in the first place if they or their American family members so much as qualify for a whole slew of public benefits.
As I note in my Week column, under the guise of protecting American taxpayers from "welfare-mooching" immigrants, Miller is making a diabolical use of administrative powers to restrict legal immigration to only the tippy top. He is also doing an end-run around Congress which pointedly refused to accept Trump's DACA fix when he attached to it his poison pill to cut legal immigration by nearly 40 percent.
The perversity of this [Miller's scheme] cannot be overstated.
An immigrant would be barred from upgrading his status if he married, say, an American woman on Social Security disability till he crossed the 250 percent earning threshold. Or consider, a real-life example of a Haitian green-card holder who works 80 hours a week as a nursing assistant but has a severely disabled American daughter who receives public assistance. His citizenship petition may not have a prayer. In effect, Miller's plan would penalize immigrants not because they are needy but because they have Americans in their lives who are.
What's particularly unfair about this is that it's not like legal immigrants get any reprieve from taxes. With very, very few exceptions, they pay all the taxes that Americans do and then some (if you count all the fees that they and their employers have to constantly cough up to get and keep their visas). Denying them a shot at citizenship would mean creating a permanently disenfranchised class that can be taxed but will be barred from basic assistance (in addition to all the federal means-tested benefits), and won't be allowed to vote, eviscerating America's bedrock commitment to no taxation without representation.
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But while I'm at it, let me point out that the restrictionist right had long maintained that it wasn't motivated by nativist concerns and its beef wasn't with legal immigration, just illegal immigration. That few on the right have pushed back against Trump's near daily assaults on legal immigration reveal that claim to be a complete lie. In fact, the right has only egged him on. Just last night, Laura Ingraham ranted on air, "The America we know and love doesn't exist anymore. Massive demographic changes have been foisted on the American people, and they are changes that none of us ever voted for, and most of us don't like … this is related to both illegal and legal immigration." [Emphasis mine.]
Referring to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Latina social democrat who won New York's congressional primary, Ingraham said, "Let's face it, they [immigrants] are not too big on Adam Smith and the Federalist Papers."
Ingraham is, of course, right about Ocasio-Cortez. However, the fact of the matter is that she, Trump, and Miller, aren't too big on Adam Smith, either—or for that matter The Federalist Papers, or else they wouldn't show so much contempt for the checks-and-balances that the founders enshrined. They wouldn't know the Wealth of Nations from Das Kapital if Jesus himself appeared on her show and read it to them. Indeed, Trump's entire mercantilist-restrictionist agenda is a giant middle finger to Smith's carefully articulated case for free trade and free immigration in the Wealth of Nations. Trump's stupid attack on America's "trade deficit" or what Smith called, "the strong Jealousy with regard to the balance of trade," is exactly what his magnum opus was debunking.
The reality is that Trump's scheme to enrich American workers by limiting trade and immigration is more in line with Marx, given that Marx was perhaps the only major political economist of any political persuasion post-Smith to bad mouth immigration.
Marx regarded England's decision to absorb the "surplus" Irishmen being driven out of their country during the Great Famine not as a benefit but a ploy by the English bourgeoisie to "force down wages and lower the material and moral position of the English working class." Trump and Miller's protestations that Third World immigration will "immiserate" the American worker has its genesis in Marxist thought. And their efforts to do an end-run around Congress to implement their anti-immigration agenda are a slap on the face of the Founders.
So if Ingraham wants to restore respect for Smith and the Founders of this country, she may want to begin by holding Trump and Miller accountable for their anti-American machinations. Then she should put down her copy of Das Kapital and crack open the Wealth of Nations and The Federalist Papers.
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