NEW YORK – It’s been a bad week for immigrants. All of them. Documented or undocumented. First, it was President Donald Trump slamming illegal immigrants, by terming those deported, or in the process of being so, as “animals.” Not to be left behind, the White House denounced legal immigrants, saying they are a “burden” on the resources of tax paying Americans.
During a roundtable with California leaders, to discuss the state’s ‘sanctuary’ policy, which limit local law enforcement cooperation with federal deportation efforts, Trump said, according to HuffPost: “We’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals.”
To be fair to Trump, he was referring to the notorious, vicious street gang MS-13. But his comments surely shamed and humiliated those who are not part of the gang.
Hardly had the storm died down on Trump’s comments, the White House too released a statement that came down hard on legal immigrants, apparently trying to counter allegations that its immigration policies are inhumane.
The White House said the US is choking on the 10.7 million legal immigrants and refugees allowed in over the past 10 years that are in addition to the 11.3 million illegals here, reported the Washington Examiner.
“Our expansive humanitarian-based, family-based, and lottery-based immigration system fails to consider the needs of American workers and taxpayers, who have been burdened by decades of low-skilled immigration that has suppressed wages, fueled unemployment, and strained federal resources,” said the White House.
It cited Census data to show that current US immigration policy admits large numbers of individuals who struggle to become financially independent and instead rely on a vast array of government benefits paid for by taxpayers. For instance, “roughly half of all immigrant-headed households use one or more welfare program,” said the white House statement.
Under former President Barack Obama, the number of “lawful permanent residents,” totaled 1,761,927 from fiscal 2008 to 2017, which is “a population of foreign nationals that is larger than the entire population of Philadelphia.” That number, by the way, excludes those who are designated “temporary protected status,” about 442,000, the White House hastened to add.
The White House said, “the U.S. has permanently resettled over 10 million immigrants (10,743,014) since 2008 — this includes nearly half a million foreign nationals (478,325) who were admitted as visa lottery winners, and over 7 million foreign nationals (7,756,985) who were admitted on the basis of family ties.”
What is the Trump Administration really trying to prove by citing these numbers, and by clubbing all legal immigrants who came under the categories they cited, as choking the system? Are they taking an elitist line that people whose background and resume doesn’t include a few Bentleys in the family, attended the Indian Institute of Technology or the Indian Institute of Management not welcome to this country? Are only skilled, highly talented people going to be allowed in this country?
If the Trump Administration really wants to change the way immigration numbers evolve, they should get immigration reforms underway. That’s the only way it can put into place skills-and-merit-based immigration system, like what Canada has; reduce the family-based immigration system, which needless to say, brings in a lot more unskilled people into the country with a Green Card in hand. And perhaps, eliminate Green Cards doled out through the lottery system.
But without any effort at immigration reforms in his first term as President, it really serves no purpose for Trump and his officials to point out how many legal immigrants have come into this country in the last 10 years. They need to acknowledge too that legal immigration is also the backbone of this country’s progress and prosperity.
The Trump Administration is fast losing support of their party too, when it comes to immigration reforms.
The Atlantic reported that a small but vocal group of congressional Republicans, spearheaded by Representatives Jeff Denham and David Valadao of California, and Will Hurd of Texas, has been pushing the party’s leadership in the House to act on immigration – either to address the issue comprehensively or, more recently, to protect some 700,000 undocumented immigrants who find themselves in legal limbo.
They have now decided to bring closure to the issue of DACA, and force House votes on proposals that would offer a path to citizenship for immigrants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. These Republicans have launched what’s known as a discharge petition to go around the GOP leadership and compel a floor debate on DACA proposals.
The Atlantic reported that parliamentary procedure requires signatures from 218 members, a majority of the House. If every Democrat signs the petition, just 25 Republicans are needed to reach the necessary threshold. In little more than a week, 20 GOP lawmakers have already signed on.
This kind of movement to force Trump to take action, or not to take action, as the case may be, is gaining momentum.
A bipartisan group of 130 US lawmakers from both the Republican and the Democratic parties urged the Trump Administration, in a letter released this week, to continue granting work permits to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B non-immigrant workers, reported Yahoo! News.
The bipartisan effort wants to stop Trump’s earlier decision to revoke the Obama-era rule that allows spouses of H-1B visa holders to work legally in the US. If enacted, it’s likely to have a devastating impact on over 70,000 H-4 visa holders, about 90% of whom are from India.
The larger question is: when will the much touted comprehensive immigration reforms be initiated? Or will it only be a constant barrage of insults hurled at immigrants?
(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)