In rolling out what is supposed to be a serious item on its agenda, only the Trump administration could say a critical issue for one side is “too controversial” so it won’t be included in legislation. In other words, the administration put out a bill the other side will reject immediately. Such is the Trump administration’s concept of “legislating."
President Trump on Thursday presented his immigration plan, or rather the plan his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, put together (and which he had trouble explaining to Republicans). That plan actually leaves out two critical elements Democrats need — relief for the “dreamers” and a path to citizenship for the general population of 11 million people here illegally.
What did it include? To no one’s surprise, Trump wants the wall, another non-starter with Democrats. Trump shut down the government, you will recall, and then got outfoxed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). After getting outmaneuvered, Trump used a blatantly unconstitutional, executive power grab that swiped money from the military to pay for the unnecessary wall. Putting the wall in this latest plan is yet one more indication of his lack of interest in reaching a deal.
One wonders if Kushner actually came up with this plan on his own or whether he copied off virulent anti-immigrant adviser Stephen Miller’s paper. He surely has enough of Miller’s poison pills.
However, Miller didn’t get his way on one item. The plan has something for the right-wing nativists to hate as well. The Post reports:
About 1 million immigrants are granted green cards every year. Unlike with previous White House proposals, the administration took pains to ensure that the net number of green cards — which grant foreigners legal permanent residency in the United States — stayed the same as it is currently so that the overall level of immigration would not be cut.
Under the new system, about 57 percent of green cards would be issued on merit, compared to about 12 percent now, according to White House aides Brooke Rollins and Mercedes Schlapp, who briefed GOP aides on Thursday. About two-thirds of green cards are currently based on family ties, but the new White House proposal would slash that percentage down to about a third, according to an official who attended the briefing.
That won’t please the nativist fringe who wants to cut immigration.
To no one’s surprise Democrats panned the proposal. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) put out a statement, which read in part: “The extreme immigration plan that President Trump unveiled today is not a serious proposal. The Senate already overwhelmingly rejected a similar proposal by a 39-60 vote last year. The Trump plan would waste more money on a border wall with Mexico, make it harder for families to reunify, and turn away refugees fleeing persecution in their home countries.” He also noted that dreamers and refugees with temporary protected status were entirely left out of the proposal.
At her weekly news conference, Pelosi observed:
I want to just say something about the word that they use, ‘merit.’ It is really a condescending word. Are they saying family is without merit? Are they saying most of the people who have ever come to the United States in the history of our country are without merit because they don’t have an engineering degree? Certainly, we want to attract the best to our country, and that includes many people from many parts of society.
And, again, if you want me to, I will quote Ronald Reagan. I would just ask you to go to his last speech as President of the United States and what he said about newcomers to our country being the vital force of America’s preeminence in the world. . . . Every President has recognized that since Ronald Reagan, except this President. So, we’ll see what values are reflected there.
As she noted, “merit in the eyes of Donald Trump” isn’t everyone’s idea of merit.
On one level, this was a profound statement of our founding creed (“All men are created equal. . .”) However, it was also a reminder that historically many of those “unskilled” laborers became the backbone of our economy, climbed into the middle class and wound up sending their children to college and onward into business and professional careers. Furthermore, Pelosi accurately summarized our demographic and economic challenges at a time we have about 7.5 million unfilled jobs and the fertility rate in the United States plunged to a 30 year low. Should it surprise us that Trump flunks on moral, historical and economic grounds?
As with trade, Trump’s immigration outlook is hobbled by his economic ignorance (or perhaps he uses economic ignorance as an excuse for xenophobic policies). We need more workers, at all wage levels. And as for family reunification, he should talk with the first lady. She was able to bring over her parents, Viktor and Amalija Knavs, most likely under the very immigration provisions he wants to foreclose for many others. What Trump never understands (among other things) is that reunification is often vitally important to new immigrants who rely on extended family, for example, for child care to remain fully employed. The thrice married president who was apparently a distant figure until his children grew up, as with so much else, just doesn’t get it.