Caution: People Are Involved

Terry H. Schwadron

Jan. 26, 2018

At the White House, staffers for President Trump are preparing a hard-line proposal on immigration that calls on the most severe of alternatives to resolve the DACA debate., though the president himself eased that a bit last night by offering an eventual path to citizenship.

In the Senate, a group of 30 senators met with the intention of beating the White House to the punch with an alternative that aims to win broad support but avoid the most severe positions. They decided to name Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill) and John Coryn (R-Tex) as their main leaders, though Lindsay Graham (R-SC) remains involved in the shuttling of alternatives. Among House Democrats, there were reports of tensions and resentments for Senate colleagues, whom they say, left them with a major political problem in their house by capitulating in ending the government shutdown.

And now, into all of this has entered Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who said he was introducing a bill that would more than double the maximum number of temporary visas — but only for for high-skilled workers for technology companies. He said that raising that number to as many as 195,000 H-1B visas based on demand, dropping caps on people from any one country, but offering temporary work visas would not run afoul of anyone else’s work.

During the election campaign last year, Donald Trump called the H-1B system a “cheap labor program” that takes away jobs from Americans. According to Bloomberg Politics, Hatch wants to favor immigration candidates for this program who hold advanced degrees in science and mathematics, in other words, engineers who would be highly sought by U.S. technology companies.

Hatch would eliminate low-skilled immigrants. He may be overlooking the fact that Trump himself seeks H-1 visa approvals for seasonal workers at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, and his family has sought them for vineyards in Virginia.

Oh, and there was that little bit of Security and Exchange Commission trouble that Jared Kushner’s family ran into in which they had to deal with the idea of trading substantial foreign investments from the Chinese in their New York real estate projects for prime positioning in EB-5 visas leading to green card status.

With all these issues swirling, there will be confusion. The debate seems to make it almost beside the point that there are hundreds of thousands of individuals who came here as children under the Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals Act who are facing deportation to countries in which they never have lived. Any idea of humanitarian concern is being buried among the efforts to salve the political posturing of each of the government players.

It seems to be lost in all this that the White House also wants to cut legal immigration, which already is a clogged system. And that wars, conflicts and economic problems worldwide are producing more refugees who need homes. Just this week, Nikki Haley, our ambassador to the UN was among those to stand up and note that Yemen has become the world’s biggest refugee problem, which in the world of Syrians and Rohingyas is saying something. But she never offered U.S. help, because that would run afoul of political ideology at the White House.

Instead, advancement of any of the legislative proposals is tied immediately to political leverage, to positioning to also win the day on budget bills and on currying favor with competing views of political bases, all with an eye to personal re-election or candidacy for president in three years.

Each news story seems to drip with the sizzling fat of grilled politics rather than finding an acceptable solution to the matter at hand. And depending on which cable flavor you check in with, you can find yourself in a completely different universe as to what passes as truth, fairness, balance or nose-counting.

Setting aside the Hatch proposal and the political infighting, the central question remains on setting a price for allowing a path to citizenship for DACA immigrants — something the president seemed to back last night, even for those who had not been registered, a total of about 1.8 million. The president is following not only his instincts, but the very determined path of selected advisers and conservatives in setting the bar extremely high. What seems to be building in his proposals — which he says he will share on Monday — is that only individuals can come here, if they pass extreme vetting, and not their family members.

Still, conservatives immediately crowed “Amnesty Don” about Trump, and some Democrats said the price of the Wall itself is too high a price to pay.

Exactly what that means for passage, of course, is still pending. But it runs counter to all that makes us humans, to skip over two centuries of American history built by immigrant families. “If Democrats want permanent relief for young immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children, including President Trump’s promise of eventual citizenship, they will have to accept a massive border wall and strict policies designed to block low-skilled immigrants from joining their families in America,” said The New York Times in summary.

“The legislative strategy is set to be released publicly on Monday. It is designed to exert maximum pressure on Democrats, who are desperate to protect the young immigrants known as Dreamers but who fiercely oppose the conservative immigration policies embraced by hard-line, anti-immigration activists like Stephen Miller, the president’s top domestic policy adviser in the White House.”

Apparently, even as Trump was telling Dreamers not to worry, senior staffers were outlining harsh terms. “One senior official said the Dreamers would be given legal status so long as they were productive, law-abiding members of American society. The official said a path to citizenship was only a discussion point and would be available to about 690,000 young immigrants who signed up for legal protections under an Obama-era program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA — and now maybe to those who did not sign up..”

Even then, it might take these folks another 10 or more years to earn citizenship (For some it already has been 10 years).

The debate here is running the wrong way. It should not be about how to punish Dreamers, it should be about how to assimilate them into normal American society.

Even by negotiation logic, the widest policies, which the White House is seeking as payment for support of the Dreamers — a problem that this White House created last September — there is little ground left for discussion of applying the lessons to 11 million undocumented immigrants in our country.

Along the way, the president is allowing himself to be used, and is reinforcing an image not as a deal-maker or negotiator, but as a bully who just sets terms and sits back and waits.

Where is the political courage? Where is the humanity here? Where is the needed effort to speed legal immigration?

All we are guaranteed in this process is that we will have a result that leaves resentment and discord as its legacy, regardless of the specific policy outcome.




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