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Trump's "Immigration Reform": Deportation and Nativism. By Roger Algase

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Update: August 18 at 3:20 pm

For a sane, sensible response to Trump's plan to deport all 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the US, see the Washington Post's August 17 editorial:

Donald Trump's immigration plan would wreak havoc on U.S. society.

Update: August 18: 8:15 am:

An early Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, (sometimes also known as Heracleitos or Heracleitus - 6th Century BC), wrote:

"What use are the people's wits,
who let themselves be led
by speechmakers, in crowds,
without considering
how many fools and thieves
they are among, and how few
choose the good?"

(Translation copyright (C) by Brooks Haxton, 2001, in Penguin Classics: Heraclitus - Fragments, 2003)

Has this prediction now come true 26 centuries later in the person of Donald Trump and his supporters?

My original post (slightly revised) follows:

Less than two weeks ago, in the wake of the Republican presidential debate, Donald Trump tried to temper his tirades against Mexican immigrants and calls for a wall along the Southern border with a proviso that there should be a "big, beautiful door" in the wall for legal immigrants. Now, with the release of his six page plan: Immigration Reform That Will Make America Great Again, Trump has shown that his "door" will look more like a row of tanks with machine guns aimed against all immigrants, legal as well as illegal.

In the substance of his plan, as well as its inflammatory rhetoric, Trump has not only adopted the agenda and tone of traditional American right wing populism that anti-immigrant groups have been promoting since the time of the Know-Nothings, Chinese exclusion laws and anti-semitism of Henry Ford and Father Charles Coughlin, but also of present day European right wing nationalism, as reflected in organizations such as Marine Le Pen's Front National in France, Pegida in Germany and similar groups in many other countries.

The introduction to Trump's plan wastes no time in delving into the most inflammatory kind of anti-immigrant rhetoric, aimed only at stirring up hate and division:

Immigration reform, according to Trump, is nothing but "amnesty, cheap labor and open borders" and a giveaway to "corporate patrons". A nation without borders and laws is "not a nation". We must reject an immigration system which "puts the needs of other nations ahead of our own".

Next, continuing his favorite campaign theme, Trump turns to attacking Mexico (one of the US' most important trading partners and a NAFTA ally) by accusing it of "taking advantage" of the US by using illegal immigration to "export crime and poverty", at "extraordinary costs" to US taxpayers.

His solution is to build a wall along the US-Mexican border and make Mexico pay for it. How? By invading Mexico?

Then follows a series of draconian immigration enforcement proposals, including tripling the number of ICE officers to go after the 11 million unauthorized immigrants currently in the US (does Trump really think that all of them can possibly be deported?); deporting all criminal non-US citizens, not just those convicted of serious crimes, and criminalizing visa overstay.

Next, throwing more meat to America's far right, Trump promises to end automatic birthright citizenship for the US-born children of unauthorized immigrants, overturning the 14th Amendment's guarantee of this right, as upheld by the US Supreme Court 117 years ago in US v. Wong Kim Ark (1898).

Trump and the other opponents of birthright citizenship would like to take us back to the days of the exclusion laws, if not to slavery and Dred Scott v. Sandford, when prejudice against unpopular racial minorities "trumped" the US Constitution.

Extreme and one-sided as these enforcement proposals are, there is little in them that goes beyond measures that have already been under consideration in Chairman Bob Goodlatte's (R-VA) House Judiciary Committee, or were actually passed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives in 2005.

Nor do most of the other GOP presidential candidates differ from Trump in advocating an enforcement-first or only approach to immigration. However, where Trump outdoes his rivals in anti-immigrant rhetoric is in his attack on employment-based immigration.

Here is the latest comment on employment visas from the man who has sponsored more than 1,000 temporary workers for legal visas. most of these individuals from the same country that he now wants to pay for a Berlin Wall along our southern border:

"The influx of foreign workers holds down salaries, keeps unemployment high, and makes it difficult for poor and middle class Americans - including immigrants themselves and their children- to earn a middle class wage."

Then, after a dark warning against issuing visas to "people bent on causing us harm", including a reference to ISIS, not a single member or supporter of which has so far been reported as having received any type of US visa, Trump makes the following proposals for "long term reform"

1) Increase prevailing wages for H-1B's:

Without offering any statistics to back up his point, Trump argues that making it harder to fly in "cheaper workers from overseas" will "improve the number of black, Hispanic and female workers in Silicon Valley".

2) Hire American workers first:

In other words, H-1B and other temporary work visas would be turned into a labor certification program. This would end skilled and professional work visas for all practical purposes.

3. "Refugee program" for American children:

This, according to Trump, means making it harder for foreign refugees and asylum seekers to come to or stay in the US.

4. "Immigration moderation":

Most radical of all, this proposal would prohibit issuing any new green cards to foreign workers abroad and force employers to hire only from the "domestic pool of unemployed immigrant and native workers" in order to "allow record immigration levels to subside to more moderate historical averages".

One question: How concerned was Mr. Trump about historical levels of immigration, participation by US women and minorities in the workforce, or the wage levels of American workers when he sponsored 1,100 immigrants for mainly low wage jobs with his own companies?

Are we not witnessing the most cynical and hypocritical pandering to anti-immigrant prejudice by a man who, while claiming not to be a politician, is willing to stoop to the lowest level of intolerance in the US electorate in order to win the presidency?

Note: In a previous post, I gave Wisconsin governor Scott Walker the prize for anti-immigrant hypocrisy. I now withdraw that award. No one can beat The Donald in that competition.
Roger Algase is a New York lawyer and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School who has been helping mainly skilled and professional immigrants obtain visas and green cards for more than 30 years. His email is

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Updated 08-18-2015 at 02:22 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

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  1. Retired INS's Avatar
    Americans don't understand immigration laws. They do understand doing something different. As a former INS officer, I like the idea of de-funding sanctuary cities. In 1875 the Supreme Court ruled that immigration is a federal problem and both states and cities just leave immigration issues to the federal government. That didn't last long because in 1882 the federal government asked states to perform immigration inspections using newly passed laws. The states were reimbursed until the federal government took over the inspections in 1891. Regardless of the legal status of immigration detainers, they should be honored. There is a lot of cooperation between federal agencies and state and local governments that is not bound by law, just cooperation. Why not immigration detainers?

    The remark about birthright citizenship is idiotic. If he really wanted to put a stop to anchor babies, there is a much easier way to do that. Just eliminate the immigration category for parents of U.S. citizens. It may seem extreme, but at least it would be legal and would not require a Constitutional amendment. Of the 120,000 parents of citizens admitted each year, less than 20,000 relate to anchor babies. The rest are the parents of naturalized citizens. As I said, it would be extreme to eliminate this category, but it would do the job and leave birthright citizenship untouched. Birthright citizenship is what made America great. It still does. It is easy to enforce. If ended, it would not just affect illegal alien parents, but the parent of every child born in America after the change. Imagine republican parents being required to pay for a certificate of citizenship for their children while these same certificates are issued free to low income families who probably vote for democrats. Trump would be fired!!!
  2. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    "Anchor Babies" is little more than a racial epithet without any real meaning in the law. If an immigrant wants to get a green card though having a baby in the US, he/she will have to wait until the child turns 21 under current law. What kind of an "anchor" is that?

    As for honoring detainers, I recently wrote about a former client of mine who, even though she had a legal visa, was deported for taking a bath together with her boyfriend and his young son, which turned out to be a criminal offense under the law of the state involved. When she showed up in court to pay a token fine (no jail sentence) two ICE agents were already there to take her into custody. Did this make America a better or safer place?

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
  3. Retired INS's Avatar
    Mexicans should have never asked to be covered under the priority system (so they could immigrate siblings). Before January 1, 1977, any illegal alien from Mexico who had a child born in the United States could be issued an immigrant visa within about 2 years of the child's birth. There was no numerical limit to the Western Hemisphere, only the requirement to have a labor certification. The labor certification was waived for parents of American children. As an immigration inspector in El Paso (1972-1975), 95% of the new immigrants I admitted were able to immigrate because they were exempt the labor certification due to having an American child.

    It sounds like your female client was naked with a child that was not legally related to her. Shame on her!!!! However, it doesn't sound like ICE responded to a detainer in the same sense we normally think of (ICE locating illegal aliens in prison and placing a detainer for when the sentence is served).
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