Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Break out the Skull Measuring Tool: Trump Moves to Restrict Legal Immigration

The loss of the 2016 election will perhaps be felt most acutely by immigrants and those related to immigrants, which encompasses an enormous portion of the US population. We lost bigly, folks, we lost bigly.

While Trump has failed so far to carry out many of his more lackluster campaign promises like health care and tax reform and infrastructure spending, he and his appointees are moving aggressively on their most important campaign promise - restricting immigration. Many people reacted with surprise to learn that legal, as well as illegal, immigration would be targeted under Trump, but really, his views on the matter were very clear during the campaign. The selection of people like Stephen Miller, Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions clearly showed where his priorities lie. The fact that these people are clowns doesn't make their policies any less damaging. Policies targeting immigrants are happening, so people had better stop their hand-wringing and start paying attention.

In particular, the RAISE act would sharply decrease family unification visas to the US. Family based immigration forms a large part of immigration to the US and is also vital for immigrant assimilation, as people who come here to work are far less likely to stay if they can't bring their families. For work-based visas, young, rich English speakers and geniuses would be given priority and would eliminate country caps that ensure that no one rich country (China) sucks up all the available visas. In an interesting twist, persons who rack up a lot of points wouldn't necessarily have to have a job offer when they arrive. Most ominously, it would make the 50,000 refugee-cap permanent. It also requires that before a green card holder can obtain citizenship, their sponsor must reimburse the government for any government aid.

Several good reports have come out criticizing nativism. Among them are a piece in WaPo on the economic costs, the Migration Policy Institution has issued a report breaking down the law's changes, and by the Immigration Council.

It's vitally important that we understand what the Trump administration is trying to accomplish with their immigration policies. This is not about the economy. Reducing immigration does not help the economy. This is a fact, like climate change, and we shouldn't waste any time arguing about it. Growing population = growing economy. While targeted immigration restrictions can help Americans in some sectors get jobs, the overall harm to the economy might outweigh such benefits. As the economy shrinks, jobs will disappear, including those "left vacant" by immigrants.

This policy, like all of Trump's immigration policies, are focused on racial, linguistic and religious engineering. We might as well break out the skull measuring tools and make everyone wait at Ellis Island to have their heads and noses measured before they can enter. Or maybe we can give everyone a jigsaw puzzle to test their ability to do jigsaw puzzles, like "doctors" did on Ellis Island. As yet unanswered: will Stephen Miller be required to take a test, too? Can he do the jigsaw puzzle?