"The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent and Respectable Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations and Religions, whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges, if by decency and propriety of conduct they appear to merit the enjoyment." ~ George Washington
This post is part of my Immigration Series.
In the first part, I introduced the topic.
In the second part, I looked at the (lack of) regulation of Immigration from the founding of our country and the easy path to citizenship for white immigrants.
In the third part, I detailed the racist history of immigration restrictions dating from the Chinese Exclusion Act to the present.
In the fourth part, I looked at the realities of current immigration law, which provides no legal path to entry for the vast majority of those who wish to immigrate.
Let me start by mentioning the elephant in the room:
Donald Trump campaigned and has governed on the nativist platform of the 1920s KKK.
You do realize that, right? It’s not that hard to see - just read some history. This article is a good place to start. The most consistent policy of the Trump administration has been to restrict immigration, and ethnically cleanse America from as many brown people as he legally can.
You can see it in his termination of legal status for Salvadoran immigrants. (They are here with our permission, under a portion of the law granting status to those fleeing disaster or violence in unstable countries. El Salvador is still a mess, and sending these people back would certainly end up with many of them dead.) You can see it in his “shithole countries” comment. You can see it in his termination of DACA (replacement of which he has held hostage until Democrats agree to his preferred immigration restrictions - see below.) You can see it in his decision to end legal status for Somalis here as refugees. You can see it in his claim that third world countries are sending us rapists and drug dealers. You can see it with his alarmist characterization of groups of refugees from South and Central America as caravans of invaders. And, of course, you can see it in his obsession with building a
giant overcompensation for
small “hand” size wall to keep the dirty brown people out.
Every time he opens his mouth (or tweets) regarding brown skinned immigrants, it is to denigrate them and stir up fear and hate against them.
So, I’m sorry, he is thoroughly racist, and bears personal animus against non-whites. It’s pretty darn obvious.
But let’s look at his policies, because there is strong evidence that his policy goals are in fact driven by racism - and would have a racist effect.
The bottom line of the Trump Administration's policy on immigration is this:
End the vast majority of LEGAL immigration. And end virtually ALL immigration from the third world.
When you hear references to “merit based” immigration, that is what is meant.
How about we take a test? Under the version of proposed legislation the administration endorsed last August, prospective immigrants would need to have at least 30 points in order to qualify. Time Magazine put together a nice little online test, which you can take here.
By the way, I would not qualify, despite being fluent in English, having a professional degree I earned in the United States, and being relatively young. A few years ago, I would have qualified, but I am now too old to be desirable. I would have qualified after I graduated from law school, but only if I had a solid job offer before applying. That’s not that easy - legal jobs are not an automatic. And, if I intended to come here and hang out my own shingle, then forget it.
Would you qualify?
Now here’s the thing. I am a highly qualified prospective immigrant compared to most. For example, let’s say I had a bachelor’s degree I earned (with my hard work!) in a foreign country, speak excellent English, and am in my 20s. I even have an offer of a job at the US median salary. Do I qualify? Not even close! Or what if I have a high school diploma from another country, speak good but not excellent English, and have an entry-level job offer. Do I qualify? Nope. Barely halfway there. And don’t even imagine trying to get in without a diploma, with marginal English, and a minimum wage job waiting.
It’s pretty obvious who would be let in, isn’t it? Immigration is for the rich. People from wealthy nations (mostly white), who had the economic privilege in that country to earn a graduate degree, learn perfect English, and have a job offer here paying out well above the median wage. Wow. I can’t see most people having ANY shot at immigrating legally.
And that is the point.
In fact, you can see this demonstrated by both Trump and those he surrounds himself with.
For example, here is Trump saying we allow too many “migrants” (that means legal immigrants) to “resettle” in the United States.
Here are (former and current) advisors Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller talking about how legal immigration - including that of skilled workers - is the real problem, and that we need to basically end all immigration.
Oh, and let’s not forget the times Steve Bannon (and fellow white supremacist Steve King from Iowa) praised the neo-Nazi novel The Camp of the Saints, which envisions the overthrow of (white) civilization by immigrants and native-born brown people. (Note too that Sessions, even though he hasn’t specifically mentioned the book, uses the same ideas in his rhetoric on immigration.)
You can see it everywhere in the rhetoric of Trump and those around him. An appeal to fear about the “Browning of America.” Kind of like Steve King and his “you can’t rebuild a civilization using other people’s babies” comment.
This leads me back to the question of DACA. A large majority of Americans believe justice and fairness require that we accept those who immigrated as children, regardless of their documented or undocumented status. Trump created the crisis in the first place by terminating DACA before a replacement was prepared. He now has refused to support a replacement unless it comes with a big appropriation for his wall, and a change to a “merit-based” immigration policy on the lines outlined above.
Basically, he’ll send the kids back unless he gets to end legal immigration from Mexico. Yeah. Classy.
And so I return to my original point: The Trump Administration policy on immigration is to end nearly all legal immigration - and essentially end the immigration of brown people.
Sorry, that’s racist. And it always has been.
Just a note here: while anti-immigration sentiment is nothing new, it gained currency in today’s GOP initially through the Tea Party movement. Opposition to immigration - particularly by brown people - was a central plank of the movement from the beginning. Although I didn’t leave the GOP until 2013, I was already having second thoughts once the Tea Party came to prominence and begin to take out moderate Republicans in the primaries.
This worried me in part because I was a Californian during the battles over Proposition 187. (For those unaware, California allows citizens to place proposed laws on the ballot - it requires a ton of signatures - so that voters can approve or disapprove them.) Prop 187 was an anti-immigration bill that sought to cut off undocumented immigrants from public services. This included some pretty draconian stuff, such as turning undocumented immigrants (including children) away from health care, public schools, and requiring schools to ask about the immigration status of parents of US-born children. It also required government workers to turn in immigrants to the Feds when they applied for benefits, and so on. It wasn’t good.
I am embarrassed to admit that I voted for it. (My first election at 18.) I am ashamed of that vote. I knew better, but was kind of in the thrall of Rush Limbaugh at the time, and was - to put it mildly - ignorant and immature. I would never vote for such a law today. I look back on that vote as one of the times I have knowingly violated my Christian beliefs, and I deeply regret it.
Anyway, the law passed with a pretty good margin, despite warnings from the federal government that it would harm immigration and law enforcement by driving law-abiding immigrants further into the shadows, deny children health care and education, and not really accomplish anything.
The courts struck down the law soon after it was passed, so it was never enforced.
But what came after is more interesting even than that. The California Republican party went all-in on the law, making it the centerpiece of its political platform. Now, 24 years later, the Republican Party is nearly irrelevant in California state politics. With the exception of The Governator’s tenure - and he was both an immigrant and a moderate - California has been essentially a one-party state. I don’t think that is a particularly good situation, but California Republicans seem to have no interest in actually taking positions that a majority of Californians hold. The inevitable demographic changes haven’t helped the GOP, shall we say. California is majority minority - whites are less than half the population. By choosing to antagonize Latinos, the GOP guaranteed its irrelevance for at least a generation, and likely more. I believe the GOP at the national level is on the same path. Their numbers have become increasingly white - and old. Sure, the electoral college and gerrymandering may preserve their power at the national level for a while yet. But their course doesn’t seem sustainable. Also interesting is that Prop 187 appears to have shifted the attitudes of white voters away from the GOP as well. I am among those white voters who have left the GOP in its new era of xenophobia - and it seems unlikely they will woo either me or my children back.
Speaking of which: during the campaign, pretty much every pro-Trump evangelical I spoke with cited Trump’s immigration policy as the main reason they supported him. ‘Build the wall. We have way too many “Mexicans” here already. Stop the browning of America.’
After a year of the Trump Administration, the only promise he has consistently fulfilled is to deport and antagonize immigrants. And, hisapproval rating with white Evangelicals is 75% - far higher the general public - and the highest it has ever been. I think a reasonable conclusion to draw is that Trump’s racism and xenophobia ARE IN FACT a core value of white Evangelicalism.
Which I one reason we left. And the main reason I will never darken the door of an Evangelical church again. And I will certainly never take my children there. We don’t need to swim in that moral cesspit.