In the run up to yesterday’s address to the joint session of Congress, news broke that Trump has signaled that, “The time is right for an immigration bill as long as there is compromise on both sides.” We were not impressed.
Last night’s speech proved us right—Trump spent his time ten minutes on immigration throwing red meat to the most anti-immigrant extremist faction of his supporter base. This is a common theme for Trump and his cronies, vilifying immigrants and their families, attacking them as the other and blaming them for all of the country’s problems. So let’s walk through, piece by piece, each of Trump’s statement related to immigration from last night:
We’ve defended the borders of other nations while leaving our own borders wide open for anyone to cross and for drugs to pour in at a now unprecedented rate.
Border, border, BORDER! Obviously this is what Trump started his campaign on - the idea of a lawless southern border. A few quick facts: In FY 2012, Customs and Border Protection was funded at $11.7 billion, an increase of 64% since FY 2006. In 2011, there were 21,444 border agents, nearly double the number in 2006, making far fewer apprehensions because border crossings are at an all time low. And FBI crime reports from 2010 show that violent crimes in southwest border states have dropped an average of 40 percent in the last 20 years. So maybe it’s time we move on from the border?
My administration has answered the pleas of the American people for immigration enforcement and border security.
I missed these pleas somehow - the polls definitely don’t support this claim. Polls from Quinnipiac, Pew Research, New York Times/CBS, Washington Post/ABC News, CNN, and Gallup each found that between 72% and 88% of Americans back either citizenship or legalization for undocumented immigrants over deportation.
By finally enforcing our immigration laws, we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions and billions of dollars, and make our communities safer for everyone. We want all Americans to succeed, but that can’t happen in an environment of lawless chaos. We must restore integrity and the rule of law at our borders.
This is just not true. As many different studies have pointed out, immigrants have little to no effect on most wages, and can even have a positive effect over multiple years, are less likely to commit crimes than the native born, and pour millions of dollars into local, state and national coffers both as tax payers and as consumers. (And yes, I just cited three resources from the libertarian Cato Institute-that’s how settled this is.)
We will soon begin the construction of a great, great wall along our southern border.
The great, great wall that might actually be a fence, or nothing at all if Congress doesn’t appropriate funds.
As we speak tonight, we are removing gang members, drug dealers, and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our very innocent citizens. Bad ones are going out as I speak, and as I promised throughout the campaign.
DACA recipient Daniel Ramirez Medina, domestic violence survivor Irvin Gonzalez, and cancer victim Sara, would all probably vehemently disagree with this statement. Trump may be trying to sell this lie, but the truth is by making every undocumented immigrant a priority for deportation and completely unleashing Immigration and Customs Enforcement, this White House is engaged in a concerted campaign to instill panic and fear in immigrant, refugee and Muslim communities across our country.
To any in Congress who do not believe we should enforce our laws, I would ask you this one question: What would you say to the American family that loses their jobs, their income, or their loved one because America refused to uphold its laws and defend its borders?
That we are all members of the “American family” and should work together to pass real policies that help working people instead of trying to take advantage of the legitimate grievances of American workers to push forward an extreme, immoral anti-immigrant agenda. And, just as a reminder, let’s run over some of the the anti-worker actions Trump has taken already: his former nominee for Labor Secretary has fought tooth and nail against any attempt to increase the minimum wage, his nominee for Attorney General has voted against every worker protection bill put forward in his 20 years in the Senate, and his nominee for Housing and Urban Development wants to abolish public sectors unions.
It is not compassionate, but reckless to allow uncontrolled entry from places where proper vetting cannot occur. Those given the high honor of admission to the United States should support this country and love its people and its values. We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside America. We cannot allow our nation to become a sanctuary for extremists. That is why my administration has been working on improved vetting procedures, and we will shortly take new steps to keep our nation safe and to keep out those out who will do us harm.
This is a Muslim and refugee ban, not a way to keep this country safe, and it is entirely unconstitutional, immoral and ridiculous.
Protecting our workers also means reforming our system of legal immigration. The current, outdated system depresses wages for our poorest workers, and puts great pressure on taxpayers. Nations around the world, like Canada, Australia and many others, have a merit-based immigration system. It’s a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially. Yet, in America, we do not enforce this rule, straining the very public resources that our poorest citizens rely upon.
Here it is, Trump’s promised softening on immigration - oh wait - this is a bunch of crap. Immigrants, documented or not, are not allowed to access any means-tested benefits (think welfare or food stamps) for at least five years, they also have to prove they can support themselves and won’t be a public charge.
According to the National Academy of Sciences, our current immigration system costs American taxpayers many billions of dollars a year. Switching away from this current system of lower-skilled immigration, and instead adopting a merit-based system, we will have so many more benefits. It will save countless dollars, raise workers’ wages, and help struggling families ― including immigrant families ― enter the middle class. And they will do it quickly, and they will be very, very happy, indeed. I believe that real and positive immigration reform is possible, as long as we focus on the following goals: To improve jobs and wages for Americans; to strengthen our nation’s security; and to restore respect for our laws. If we are guided by the well-being of American citizens, then I believe Republicans and Democrats can work together to achieve an outcome that has eluded our country for decades.
Trump seemed to miss the main thrust of the National Academy of Sciences report, from the NY Times: “The report called immigration ‘integral to the nation’s economic growth’ because immigrants bring new ideas and add to an American labor force that would be shrinking without them, helping ensure continued growth into the future.
Moving away from the family-based system that the country has used for decades would mean fundamentally altering who we are as a country and what we prioritize. What he lays out isn’t immigration reform, it’s isolationism.
And we must support the victims of crime. I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to serve American victims. The office is called VOICE ― Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement. We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media and silenced by special interests. Joining us in the audience tonight are four very brave Americans whose government failed them. Their names are Jamiel Shaw, Susan Oliver, Jenna Oliver, and Jessica Davis.
The government has and should support victims of crime and their families, and hold those responsible accountable. But, what Trump is implicitly saying here, is that some victims are more deserving than others. The President waited five days to even mention the hate crime murder of Srinivas Kuchibhotla and has barely addressed the anti-Semitic acts of violence happening across the country. Are these victims and their families less deserving of our national grief? What interests are served by segregating victims by the citizenship of their attackers? No good ones, I assure you.
We have seen the war and the destruction that have ravaged and raged throughout the world ― all across the world. The only long-term solution for these humanitarian disasters, in many cases, is to create the conditions where displaced persons can safely return home and begin the long, long process of rebuilding.
Trump needs to stop talking like he cares about refugees. Full stop.