The White House hypocrisy alarm is ringing after The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the parents of first lady Melania Trump have green cards and are close to becoming citizens, most likely through a family-based immigration channel that President Trump wants to close.
At some point, the president or his spokesmen will be asked why Trump's own family should benefit from a “chain migration” process that he calls “horrible” and harmful to “our economic and national security.” If Trump is serious about limiting family sponsorships for spouses and minor children, as he has proposed, shouldn't his kin practice what he preaches?
The answer will probably be a familiar one: The Trumps are following existing law and, although the president wants to change the law, his family is as entitled as any other to take advantage of the current system, in the meantime. It would be unfair to expect the Trumps to play by a different set of rules.
The president has used this kind of reasoning to spin out of uncomfortable questions in the past, when his actions have contradicted his policy prescriptions. This was Trump's exchange with CNN's Jake Tapper during a March 2016 presidential debate:
TAPPER: Mr. Trump, your critics say your campaign platform is inconsistent with how you run your businesses, noting that you've brought in foreign workers instead of hiring Americans, and your companies manufacture clothing in China and Mexico. Why should voters trust that you will run the country differently from how you run your businesses?
TRUMP: Because nobody knows the system better than me. I know the H1B. I know the H2B. Nobody knows it better than me. I'm a businessman. These are laws. These are regulations. These are rules. We're allowed to do it. And frankly, because of the devaluations that other countries — the monetary devaluations that other countries are constantly doing and brilliantly doing against us, it's very, very hard for our companies in this country, in our country, to compete.
So I will take advantage of it; they're the laws. But I'm the one that knows how to change it. Nobody else on this dais knows how to change it like I do, believe me.
As a candidate, Trump similarly boasted about exploiting a tax code that he said was unfair. He said that as a businessman he bought influence with politicians but denounced the political system as “rigged.” Buying influence showed Trump just how rigged the system really is, he argued, and actually made him better equipped to fix things.
Trump is certainly not the only politician to benefit from a law he wants to change — and to defend the inconsistency. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton said they opposed unlimited outside spending in campaigns, but both accepted the aid of super PACs, contending that it would be foolish to self-impose a disadvantage before the rules could be changed for everyone.
“What I've said consistently is, we're not going to just unilaterally disarm,” Obama said in 2012.
If Obama and Clinton did not unilaterally disarm when it came to campaign finance, Trump can argue, then his family should not unilaterally disarm when it comes to immigration.