Immigration news gets harder to write every day. The real news is painful: families fleeing violence, walking thousands of miles, hoping for safety in the United States, almost certain to be turned away. That’s not even the headline story.
The headlines go to the White House, as Trump spews more lies about immigrants daily, even admitting that “there’s no proof” for his wild charges.
Even worse, he promises daily that he will stop immigrants, as if that is a national priority. It is not. It should never be. Immigrants built and continue to build this country.
At the top of the economic and educational ladder, they start new businesses and win Nobel Prizes. At the bottom of that ladder, they care for the sick and elderly and disabled in hospitals and nursing homes and as personal care assistants, making up the backbone of our health care system. They build houses and nail on roofs under the hot sun. They provide most of the work force on dairy farms and in meat processing plants. Through it all, they send their children to school and sacrifice for them to go to college, so that the next generation can be even more successful. That is what immigrants have always done for this country. That is what they do today.
Immigrants pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits. Immigrants are more law-abiding than native-born U.S. citizens. These are facts, but facts do not seem to matter in this immigration debate. The president doesn’t care about facts and, increasingly, he demonstrates that he also does not care about the Constitution and laws of the country.
Persons born in the United States have always been citizens of the United States. That is sometimes called birthright citizenship. The Fourteenth Amendment made this an explicit part of the Constitution, specifying that
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”
“It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t,” Trump said.
A president cannot change the Constitution by executive order: that’s called dictatorship, not democracy.
Is Trump ignorant of the Constitution he swore to uphold? Probably. He certainly demonstrates ignorance of the laws of the United States. Last Thursday Trump tweeted
“Go back to your Country and if you want, apply for citizenship like millions of others are doing!”
That’s not how U.S. immigration law works. No one can apply for U.S. citizenship from outside the country. Only permanent residents who have lived in this country for years are eligible to apply.
People in the caravan are trying to get in ahead of millions of others patiently waiting in line: no waiting list exists, and there’s no line to stand in to immigrate to the United States. Very strict limits on immigration mean that most immigrants must be either immediate relatives sponsored by U.S. citizens and permanent residents or highly educated, highly skilled workers sponsored by an employer can apply for permanent residence.
One of the few other openings for immigrants is through asylum, which U.S. law offers to people fleeing violence and persecution. U.S. law says asylum seekers may present their cases to immigration authorities at the border or inside the United States.
Trump says no. He says he is closing the border, closing the doors to all asylum seekers.
The caravan presents no danger to the United States. At most, it presents a challenge: how can the immigration system process a few hundred or even a few thousand asylum cases? That is an administrative challenge and surely not beyond the capacity of the United States of America.
The people in the caravan are not the “invaders” Trump warns about. They are families fleeing violence. They have gathered together for protection from violence on their way north.
The caravan of footsore asylum seekers is still thousands of miles from the border. Like similar caravans in the past, it is shrinking in size as it moves north. Some people are applying for asylum in Mexico. Some are giving up and returning home. The number of people, once estimated at 7,000, is now down to 3,500 or less. By the time the would-be migrants reach the U,S. border, their numbers will be even fewer. That is not unusual: this is not the first caravan, nor the last, and all have shrunk in size as they moved north.
The head of Customs and Border Protection said that agents at the border do not have the resources to process asylum seekers as the law requires.
“McAleenan said the only long-term solution is for Congress to allocate more money and overhaul the nation’s immigration laws to adjust to the new face of immigration.
“The system is beyond capacity,” he said. “We need different and more resources to manage what we’re seeing.”
Trump doesn’t know or care what resources are needed. He is not interested in providing resources to process asylum seekers. He is only interested in stirring up hatred inside the United States and in keeping immigrants out.
The president of the United States doesn’t know or care what the law says and he doesn’t know or care what the Constitution says. His oath to protect and defend the Constitution was just one more performance by a bad actor. That is the real threat to our national security.