Dust-Ups on the Immigration Front

Terry H. Schwadron

Sept. 29, 2017

President Trump came up with his latest attempt to limit travel to the United States from a handful of countries, making it a tad less aimed only at Muslims by adding in North Korea, Chad and making it difficult for people from Venezuela to enter. And limiting refugees to a total of 45,000 a year.

Venezuela? It’s a country falling apart economically, and while opposed to U.S. policy, not considered a haven for terrorism. North Korea? How many visitors do we have to the hated United States?

Public reaction came quickly — and perhaps predictably:

“This is still a Muslim ban — they simply added three additional countries,” Becca Heller, director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, said in a statement of the new restrictions. Of the new target countries, she adding, “Chad is majority Muslim, travel from North Korea is already basically frozen and the restrictions on Venezuela only affect government officials on certain visas. You can’t get any more transparent than that.” Anthony D. Romero, the American Civil Liberties Union’s executive director, said “President Trump’s original sin of targeting Muslims cannot be cured by throwing other countries onto his enemies list.” Avideh Moussavian, senior policy attorney, National Immigration Law Center compared the new variation of the ban to a new coat of paint, which “won’t repair a house with dangerous structural problems.”

Unlike the previous ban, which expired last Sunday, the new rules are set to last indefinitely. And rather than a blanket ban, the restrictions will differ from country to country. For example, certain Venezuelan government officials and their families are targeted, while students from Iran can still enter but will be subjected to “enhanced screening and vetting.”

That may be enough to give it legal cover. The Supreme Court, which had been awaiting oral arguments on the question this week, set aside the previous action and asked for new legal briefs.

If it is found to be constitutionally valid, the new travel ban still raises the question: Why couldn’t the Trumpists have done it correctly in the first place, instead of throwing panic into families. Of course, if it isn’t found legal, the amount of time and money wasted on these efforts has been tremendous.

There are other developments on the immigrant-policy front

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THE CASE OF THE MISSING STUDY ON REFUGEE COSTS: Department of Health and Human Services officials, under pressure from the White House to provide a rationale for reducing the number of refugees allowed into the United States, found their study results rejected after reporting that refugees brought in $63 billion more in government revenues over the past decade than they cost, according to the New York Times, which got a copy of the report. The White House has asserted that continuing to welcome refugees is too costly and raises concerns about terrorism.

The HHS research documenting their fiscal upside, part of the travel ban, never made its way to the White House. Some of those proponents believe the report was suppressed. The study found that refugees “contributed an estimated $269.1 billion in revenues to all levels of government” between 2005 and 2014 through the payment of federal, state and local taxes. “Overall, this report estimated that the net fiscal impact of refugees was positive over the 10-year period, at $63 billion.”

White House officials said those conclusions were illegitimate and politically motivated, adding that they do not comment on leaked documents.

Just why this administration has such an aversion to fact is a real problem. They start with conclusions and work backwards from there.

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GREEN CARD DIFFICULTIES: The State Department has given immigration and consular officials new grounds to deny entry to visitors to the United States or to kick them out if they are already here.

In a cable to American embassies around the world, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson decided that visitors who require a visa before entering the United States must then follow through on their stated plans for at least three months. If during that time, they do something they failed to mention in an interview with a consular official — such as marry an American citizen, go to school or get a job — it will be presumed that they have deliberately lied.

That would make it difficult, if not impossible, for them to renew a visa, get a new one or change their status. And if they were still in the United States, it would make those visitors eligible for deportation.

Changes of plans that occur after three months may still be problematic but are not presumed to be the result of “willful misrepresentation,” the cable said. Under previous rules, a change in plans was deemed to be misrepresentation only for the first month after arrival in the United States.

“If someone comes to the U.S. as a tourist, falls in love and gets married within 90 days and then applies for a green card, this means the application would be denied,” said Diane Rish, the associate director of government relations at the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “This is a significant policy change.”

God forbid, you should meet someone you like. I wonder to myself just how this three-month thinking might apply to the President himself. It seems to me he did none of the things he had promised within the first 100 days. Maybe he should face deportation from office.

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THE WALL: Meanwhile, near San Diego, contractors have broken ground on eight prototypes of a border wall — with a due date 30 days from now. Though there is no money for this project beyond prototypes, the Customs and Border Protection will test the prototypes for safety, security, aesthetics and cost in deterring illegal border crossings. Half will be concrete and half “other materials” ranging between 18 and 30 feet high.

Officials have set aside an area for expected protests about 1.5 miles away in a dusty, unshaded area overlooking Otay Mesa, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported, though no protesters showed for the work this week. “It’s just political theater,” Hiram Soto, spokesman for Alliance San Diego, a protest group, said. “There is no funding for it in Congress.”