SAN DIEGO – On his Oval Office report card, Barack Obama earned a massive fail on the immigration issue.
He broke his campaign promise to reform our immigration system, deported about 3 million people, dragged his feet for three years before giving executive relief to young undocumented immigrants through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), shipped out thousands of Central American women and children refugees without hearing their asylum claims and lied about what he had done by shifting blame to Republicans.
All this cold-heartedness helped make Obama the most anti-immigrant president in modern U.S. history.
But now, in light of his over-the-top and ignorance-fueled demands to Congress in exchange for supporting legal status but not citizenship for Dreamers, it’s clear that President Donald Trump wants a shot at the title.
Trump claimed in a statement that each item on his restrictionist wish list will “ensure prosperity, opportunity, and safety for every member of our national family.”
Trump tried to accomplish all that by pitching his policy goals as a remedy to what boneheaded Republicans glibly describe as Obama’s “illegal executive amnesty” for undocumented young people brought here as children.
For those of you interested in a little thing called truth, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is not “illegal” since the executive branch sets deportation policy and not “amnesty” because it is conditional with strings attached.
Right-wingers confuse feeling strongly about immigration with actually knowing something about it.
Trump made the same mistake when he said that the Obama administration granted in 2012 the “same benefits” that Congress had considered and rejected when comprehensive immigration reform went off the rails several years earlier.
Wrong. DACA is temporary relief that lasts two years and requires recipients to turn themselves in to Immigration and Customs Enforcement; the “deferred action” is deportation. Congress was debating permanent legal status for undocumented immigrants who would not have had to turn themselves in.
About 690,000 young people are enrolled in DACA, and the total number of Dreamers in the United States is about 1.5 million.
Trump also claims that Obama’s olive branch to Dreamers resulted in a surge of illegal immigration.
Wrong again. Even before Trump took office, illegal immigration into the United States from Mexico and the rest of Latin America was on the decline because it was easier to find work south of the border. And when a surge does happen, the only thing that causes it are jobs offered by U.S. employers.
Do I have to explain all this to a businessman who owns hotels and resorts that he has admitted to staffing with illegal immigrants because he can’t find Americans to do those jobs?
Trump’s demands to Congress are a combination of the impractical, the inhumane and the imaginary. They include: funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border that could cost $25 billion, a continuation of the Obama administration’s crackdown on women and children refugees from Central America, and an end to law enforcement grants to fabled “sanctuary cities” that conservatives insist really do exist even as federal immigration agents are – in states like California – cutting through “sanctuary” like a hot knife through butter.
And while members of his party continue to insist that illegal immigration is unfair to those who “play by the rules,” Trump also wants a 50 percent cut in legal immigration to punish those who play by the rules. In addition, he wants new immigrants to be “high-skilled” and may yet suggest that – like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson – they take an IQ test.
Bringing in more high-skilled immigrants should be loads of fun for those American workers who can’t even compete with low-skilled immigrants.
And what about those pathetic American workers who love to attack immigrants for doing hard and dirty jobs that they won’t go within a mile of, no matter how much they get paid to do them?
Trump says he’s doing all this for them, and that “immigration reform must create more jobs, higher wages, and greater security for Americans – now and for future generations.”
Still wrong. It’s not the duty of our immigration policy to do those things. All it is supposed to do is secure our borders, encourage legal immigration, and stop illegal immigration. It is not a jobs program for people who don’t want to work anyway.
For crying out loud, look at all the “Help Wanted” signs sprouting up in your town. America is still the land of opportunity. It’s not immigrants’ fault that so many Americans want everything handed to them, and expect the government to be their nanny.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.