The Case for America: Hardline Republicans Want to Have Their Cake and Eat It Too

To the surprise of many long-time political watchers, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell kept his word in negotiations with his Democratic counterpart and allowed a week of free-flowing debate on the Senate floor to discuss immigration policy.[1] Rather unsurprisingly, however, the GOP-controlled chamber failed to perform its duties and pass any substantive legislation. Instead of taking leadership on the issue by trying to pass moderate and politically popular legislation, the president chose to spread falsehoods and demand severe cuts to legal immigration.[2] By moving the goalposts far beyond what any reasonable Republicans support, the president is attempting to bully the legislature into supporting anti-American policies that are harmful to the nation and its economy.[3]

The pillars of immigration reform that were outlined in the State of the Union were framed as a generous olive branch aimed at enticing bipartisan cooperation, yet instead were met with bipartisan condemnation.[4] The White House presented a false choice between a policy that the majority of Americans (including the president himself) support, and hardline anti-immigrant policies that will tear families apart and reduce racial diversity. Egged on by zealots in Congress and his staff, the president wants to cut legal immigration for reasons that are fundamentally at odds with the values and will of the American people. White House adviser Stephen Miller and his allies have used the opportunity created by the president’s self-imposed crisis with DACA to tack significant legal immigration restrictions onto two policies that the president already supports.

The first two pillars of immigration reform proposed by the president are protecting DACA recipients and allocating billions of dollars in funds to build a border wall with Mexico. On their own, these proposals would be a fair policy deal that Democrats and key Republicans could support (despite the fact that the proposal of building a border wall is considered bad policy by most objective analysts).[5] Protecting Dreamers is an overwhelmingly popular policy that the president has repeatedly expressed support for, and building the border wall is a campaign promise.[6] On this and many other policy issues, the GOP is obstructing progress on issues that the majority of Americans support, which is an impressive feat for a party that controls all three branches of the federal government.

The last two pillars will lead to drastic cuts of up to 40 percent in legal immigration by ending both the diversity lottery and family reunification. It should surprise no one that the effects of such dramatic reductions would devastate the American economy, as 1,500 economists noted in a letter to Trump.[7] Additionally, such cuts would also damage our national security, depriving the military of much-needed recruits.[8] By taking very real threats like ISIS and MS-13 and reducing them into attacks on immigrants from non-white countries, the right is undermining the severity of our national security efforts as well as inadvertently helping these criminal organizations.[9]

The arguments for cuts to legal immigration, which is already subject to incredibly strict regulation, are built upon a long history of legitimizing discriminatory policies. The president’s comments about “shithole countries,” his preference for Norwegians, and his travel ban show his discriminatory intentions and reflect his racial views.[10] The points that are now made about Islam’s incompatibility with American democracy echo previous sentiments about Catholic immigrants.[11] The White House, which tweeted out an image of an immigrant bringing in dozens of family members through “chain migration” failed to mention that processing a visa through family sponsorship can take years, even decades.[12][13] The proposals are built on a long history of assumptions that have been used to justify extremist immigration policies that have targeted aspiring Americans in the past. The same impulses that rationalized keeping Irish and Italian Catholic immigrants, Chinese laborers, and Jewish refugees fleeing fascism away from American shores can be witnessed in rhetoric like Stephen Miller’s “cosmopolitan bias” comment.[14]

These garish displays of hostility to immigration have no place in a liberal democracy. Immigrant labor built America’s greatest cities, immigrant-founded businesses are the lifeblood of the American economy, and immigrant patriots fight and die in America’s armed forces. I urge readers to honor their memory and the countless people who are affected by the extremist policies being floated to fight for liberty and American values. Call your representatives to ensure that they do not enable extremism; if they are on the wrong side and will not fight for justice, support candidates who will. Show the GOP what real American values look like this November. Knock on doors, make calls, and vote. Make the case for America.

[1] Elana Schlor and Burgess Everett, ‘Senate immigration debate ends in failure.” Politico. February 15, 2018.

[2] Allison Graves, Jon Greenberg, Louis Jacobson, John Kruzel, Katie Sanders, Amy Sherman, Manuela Tobias, Miriam Valverde. “ Fact-checking Donald Trump’s 2018 State of the Union speech.” Politifact. January 30, 2018.

[3] Jacob Parmuk, “GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham rips into White House for Trump’s change on immigration deal.” CNBC. January 19, 2018.

[4] Seung Min Kim, “Republicans balk at Trump’s cuts to legal immigration.” Politico. January 30, 2018.

[5] Andrew Taylor and Alicia Caldwell, “Analysis: Trump’s border wall faces a reality check.” AP News. January 26, 2018.

[6] Max Greenwood, “Poll: Nearly 9 in 10 want DACA recipients to stay in US.” The Hill. January 18, 2018.

[7] Octavio Blanco, “1,500 economists to Trump: Immigrants are good for the US economy.” CNN Money. April 12, 2017.

[8] Jeff Mason, “Immigrants in the Military: A History of Service.” Bipartisan Policy Center. August 16, 2017.

[9] Bethan McKernan, “Isis hails Donald Trump’s Muslim immigration restrictions as a ‘blessed ban’.” The Independent. January 30, 2017.

[10] Emily Swanson and Russell Contreras, “More Than Half of Americans Think Donald Trump is Racist.” Time. March 1, 2018.

[11] Julie Byrne, “Roman Catholics and Immigration in Nineteenth-Century America.” Dept of Religion, Duke University.

[12] The White House. “It’s Time to End Chain Migration: Https://” Twitter, Twitter, 18 Dec. 2017,

[13] US State Department. ‘Visa Bulletin for February 2018.”

[14] Nolan McCaskill, “White House aide blasts CNN reporter for ‘cosmopolitan bias’.” Politico. August 2, 2017.  

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