Trump’s Rose Garden speech incorporated many familiar lies and half-truths while pumping for a “plan” with zero percent chance of becoming law. The speech read more like a series of tweets than an outline for legislation, including such gems as, “I guess we could also use the word “progressives.” A new word that’s come about.”
Understanding the current immigration system is a prerequisite for making changes. For example, about two-thirds of each year’s permanent resident visas go to family members of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. Those family members are strictly limited by statute to parents, children, spouses, and brothers and sisters. Some 55 percent have college degrees, compared to 29 percent of native-born U.S. residents.
Like all other immigrants, family members pay high application fees, fill out reams of documentation, and are extensively vetted before being admitted to the United States. They also wait for years for a family visa to become available: more than three million of these spouses, children, parents, brothers and sisters have completed their applications and are waiting for visa numbers.
Blithely ignoring these facts, Trump said family members are admitted “on the basis of random chance,” that “it doesn’t really matter who that relative is,” and that family immigrants are “mostly low wage and low skill.” To say that he lies is accurate, but insufficient to describe his complete and blatant disregard for facts.
Unfortunately, much news coverage reported what Trump said without supplying context or facts that contradict his assertions. For example, he talked about the need to give visas to highly educated, highly skilled immigrants and bemoaned the lack of such visas at present. Relevant context: his administration has dramatically increased processing times and decreased approval for visas for exactly this category of immigrants and has said it will eliminate work permission for the highly-skilled spouses of highly skilled workers with H1-B visas.
Trump said his plan would “humanely” and “rapidly” reunite unaccompanied children “with their families back home.” This means eliminating protections and asylum hearings in order to speedily deport unaccompanied minors—nothing humane about it.
We need comprehensive immigration reform to:
- Provide a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living and working here, building this country and enriching our communities, including Dreamers and people with TPS.
- Increase the number of family visas to cut down the backlog that keeps families apart for years.
- Mobilize our resources to process immigrants at the border and to provide emergency care for those who arrive in need of medical assistance;
- Offer safe haven to refugees and asylum seekers;
- Welcome immigrants to communities that need them, whether that need is for a worker on a Minnesota dairy farm or a medical doctor in a rural community or an engineer in Silicon Valley.
We need comprehensive and humane immigration policies that live up to our best aspirations and ideals. We do not need lies, posturing, and racist rhetoric that pander to our worst prejudices and fears.