Let it not be said that President Trump doesn’t try to deliver on his promises, even when the means of doing so are quite misguided.
Case in point, the president’s full-court press this week to cut legal immigration, backing a proposal to that effect by a couple of southern senators.
The president has long promised reform, and he desperately needs a win. He’s taken a beating on previous attempts to deliver to his core constituency, from quitting the Paris Climate Treaty to claims of making Mexico pay for his border wall, from banning transgender people from the military to trying to kill the Affordable Care Act without much of a plan on what to replace it with.
He’s chosen the wrong horse to saddle again.
Immigration policy has been crying for reform for years and years, and to be fair, the problems are not Trump’s creation. They’ve been kicked down the road by several previous administrations, many past Congressional sessions, and both parties have failed miserably.
Legal immigration isn’t the problem. Illegal immigration is. From border control to employment varification to creating a workable and affordable application and vetting system, there is plenty to do, if we could just avoid the distractions and political gamesmanship long enough.
Don’t hold your breath on that, folks.
This is not to say that the legal immigration system couldn’t benefit from some tweaking. The current Senate bill, though, is no thought-out adjustment, it’s a bull in a china shop, and not a brilliant bull at that.
Even with Trump’s cheerleading, the bill doesn’t seem to have much traction in the Senate, which clearly doesn’t covet another fruitless battle just now. In photos, even the bill’s sponsors seem to have that “what were we thinking?” deer in the headlights look on their faces.
Pleased don’t be fooled by the rhetoric here. Trump may couch the bill as “compassion,” but the goal is clear in the details, to Make America White Again. If passed, it is projected to slash immigration by 41 percent in its first year, 50 percent by its 10th. Based on current green card numbers, that would cut our country’s population by a half a million legal residents a year.
Why would anyone want to do that?
We need an influx of young families, workers, students, skillsets, ideas. It helps to keep our country vital. We should be actively recruiting the best and brightest from around the world, not trying to make immigration harder and even more slow and complicated for them.
One element of the bill that is on the right track, is to prioritize merit, although I’m not sure our idea of “merit” is the same as the president’s.
The National Review reports that the Trump Organization turned down 94 percent of American job applicants to his private clubs including Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, instead filing for dozens of H-2B foreign labor visas to bring in foreign workers. Earlier, he and his contractor were also sued by a union for allegedly bringing in 200 undocumented workers for demolition to make way for his Trump Towers, to avoid paying welfare and pension benefits.
Merit seems to be defined as the willingness to do whatever a wealthy corporation needs at the moment, cheaper than skilled American workers, and then be quietly disposed of on the first boat out.
Senators Perdue and Cotton propose to eliminate the current process for obtaining legal residency - “green cards” - and replace it with a skills-based point system for temporary employment visas. Trump has argued that immigrants compete with native-born Americans for jobs, though most economists say that restricting the number of immigrants would actually slow the economy’s potential to expand.
A lot of Storm Lake businesses, it seems, struggle to fill entry level and labor jobs even with an influx of immigrants and offers of hiring bonuses. Who exactly is standing in line, being prevented from getting a hog-cutting job because of immigration?
Even if we define “merit” as proven workplace skills, we’d be missing the boat here, I think.
Recruit promise - people may not have the training they need yet, especially if they are from disadvantaged countries. What we want is the potential for achievement, what in sports is called “coachability.” Smart, inventive, hard working people. The kind that once helped settle the west , build industry. We sought those kind of people out and brought them from Axis countries to the U.S. after World War II, and they helped revolutionize science, industry, medicine and defense. They didn’t compete with Americans, they helped create jobs for them.
We shouldn’t be hung up on letting in only people who speak English, either, senators. English we can teach. The potential and personal attributes we’re talking about, in a lot of cases, can’t.
Also, the idea that our immigrants are “unskilled” is misinformed. According to a 2015 Pew Center report, 41 percent of immigrants arriving in the U.S. in the past five years have college degrees, much higher than the rate for non-immigrant workers in the U.S. We’ve seen people who were doctors, professors or mid-level leaders in their own counties coming to Storm Lake and working unskilled labor jobs because that’s all they could find. We’re not making use of their potential.
The current bill would also cut the number of refugees to the U.S. in half (this is “compassion?”). Yeah, we need to vet people carefully for the sake of public safety, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore the troubled peoples of the world or assume they have nothing to contribute, because they are poor.
The bill would also eliminate the preference for extended family members to come to the U.S., which is not necessarily a bad thing, unless they are needed for a family’s survival here.
Ultimate priority should always be for spouses and minor children. We achieve nothing if we break apart families.
This hodgepodge of legislation rambles on to slash grants for “sanctuary cities” that refuse to help authorities deport their residents. This is also poorly thought-out legislation. Withholding money for schools or parks or clean water doesn’t hurt the decision-makers, it hurts the citizens who had nothing to do with those policies.
We don’t need federal sanctions, or for that matter sanctuary cities. We need workable policy for enforcing the laws and respecting human rights in the process, applied wisely so local leaders don’t have to rebel against their own government.
No question, our immigration system is broken. Modernize it, improve it, but don’t trample it to pieces like so much Tiffany glass in the china shop.