Within days of his inauguration, President Trump declared that citizens of 7 Muslim-majority countries could no longer enter the US. This disrupted the lives of foreign students returning to their universities and ordinary people with valid work visas trying to resume their jobs. The order affected tens of thousands already in the country who could no longer travel once their visas were declared invalid.
Perhaps most shockingly, the administration claimed that green card holders from these 7 countries could not return to the USA. These are people who have the right to legal permanent residence, often because they are married to a US citizen or have lived and worked here for several years.
Undocumented immigrants have of course, been subjected to even worse. Trump said he had begun a “military operation” to remove undocumented immigrants, painting them as “gang members” and “bad dudes”. Meanwhile, the instructions to
A week after the initial muslim ban, Tom Cotton (R-AK) and David Perdue (R-GA) introduced a bill that would reduce by 50%, the number of immigrant visas available each year. The bill was supported by the White House. Millions of people eligible to emigrate to the US already face 5 or 10 year waits before they are allotted an immigrant visa. This bill would stretch those waiting times even longer. It is as important, but did not receive as much attention as the spectacle created when visitors with valid visas were turned back at our airports.
The most anti-immigrant administration America has seen in at least 80 years occupies the White House today. This administration is offended by legal immigrants as much as it is by undocumented immigrants. The directive to cancel the green cards of more than 250,000 people was not an error or a misreading of the law. It was done deliberately and with the intent. Security concerns were merely a pretext.
This should worry all green-card holders, including the 3 million from Mexico, 640,000 from China and 540,000 from India. It should worry the broader group of citizens and residents with family overseas who might one day want them in the US. There is a good case to be made that existing family ties help make immigrants’ transition successful. This is how tens of millions of immigrants arrived in the 19th and 20th century. Those immigrants from Southern or Eastern Europe, Asia/Africa and people who were Jewish or Catholic also faced opposition at the time. What we are seeing today is a resurgence of the same forces that have routinely arrayed themselves against immigration.
At the center of the current Republican hatred for immigration is an age-old explanation, racism. The only immigrants this administration finds acceptable are those from Europe. Here is how Breitbart describes their view:
“Halting, or drastically slowing, immigration is a major priority for the alt-right… the movement is frightened by the prospect of demographic displacement represented by immigration…The alt-right’s intellectuals would also argue that culture is inseparable from race. The alt-right believe that some degree of separation between peoples is necessary for a culture to be preserved.” — Breitbart
This is white-nationalism, and its advocates occupy the White House and Congress. In the Senate, Jeff Sessions has long been their champion. He now controls the federal legal apparatus and his spot in the Senate is now occupied by Tom Cotton. The base that has cheered on the Trump/Bannon executive orders on Muslims and undocumented immigrants could not be any clearer about their desires. They want “separation between races” by halting immigration. Then, they would like to find a way to expel millions of legal immigrants from the US. Trump/Bannon/Session/Cotton have given them every signal that they intend to make their white nationalist dreams come true.
At least one witness said that the gunman, identified as Adam W. Purinton, 51, yelled “get out of my country” before opening fire […] several officials said at a news conference that they were looking into the possibility that the shooting was a hate crime.
— NY Times on Kansas shooting that left one Asian-Indian engineer dead.
White nationalism has a long history in the US. Brannon and Trump are the direct successors of political factions that kept racial quotas on immigrants in place for a hundred years. The 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act removed these quotas among the flurry of reforms prompted by the Civil Rights movement. That law is deeply resented by this administration. Trump’s executive order and Cotton’s bill are designed to test that law’s prohibition on discrimination by nationality.
This administration’s animosity towards non-white Americans goes further than immigration. The attorney general, Jeff Sessions, dislikes the 14th amendment’s clause granting citizenship to every child born in the country. Aided by Sessions, the Bannon-Trump administration will attempt to undermine birthright citizenship and undermine this law which has been part of our constitution since the civil war, over 150 years ago. It was enacted to ensure that no state or executive could ever again deny the rights and privileges of citizenship to a child born in the United States. Trump and Sessions would like to undo this, and the administration is appointing people to various agencies to help him in his endeavor.
Trump has already demonstrated his willingness to take a single crime committed by an immigrant and tie it to all immigrants from that country. Over the next four years, he will use this tactic to demonize immigrants from India, China and several other countries using similar inflammatory rhetoric. Though the first salvo was aimed at the most vulnerable population, Muslims and undocumented immigrants, all immigrants should be wary. This administration does not want immigrants changing the demographics of America. It views all immigration from non-European countries as threatening. They do not want our American-born children to be citizens. And they want as many of us gone from this country as possible. In this quest, they will use every pretext available. Undocumented workers will be speedily deported even if they have family who are US citizens and the wait for immigrant visas is a decade or more. Legal immigrants will be subjected to demeaning scrutiny at the border. The bully pulpit will be used by a bully to declare us threats to public safety and national security. Our loyalty to the USA shall be questioned constantly.
Despite legal setbacks, the Trump administration has continued to defend its immigration order. The executive has numerous tools at its disposal to frustrate the judiciary over the next four years, including simply issuing a new order as they have indicated they will. Federal courts might try, but they are unlikely to hold the line. The Trump administration will blame any terror attack by an immigrant on judges who find against their anti-immigrant policies. This will not affect all judges, but it will have some impact.
Republican’s anti-immigrant policies require a political solution. Immigrants and those who value them will have to organize to repel the anti-immigrant policies of this administration.
We do have one hidden advantage. By 2018, 13 million green card holders in the USA will be eligible for citizenship. Many of them have lived here for decades without acquiring US citizenship. If they wish to stay, they should apply for citizenship and vote in 2018.
Lady Liberty needs their help to keep her beacon aloft by the golden door.