Posted on September 12, 2020

In a New Term, Trump Would Further Seal the Gates of a Fortress America

Editorial Board, Washington Post, September 11, 2020

Without the assent of Congress, President Trump has remade almost every major facet of America’s immigration system over the past three-plus years, slashing levels of legal and illegal arrivals; refugees and asylum seekers; {snip} He has sought to strip citizenship from naturalized Americans and subject “dreamers” raised in this country to deportation. He tried to deter illegal border crossings by sundering families, thereby traumatizing migrant teens, tweens and toddlers. If reelected, it is likely Mr. Trump would do more of the same in pursuit of a Fortress America hostile to newcomers {snip}

Mr. Trump has largely succeeded in delivering on the anti-immigration message that drove his 2016 victory and continues to animate much of his base. Only a small fraction of his border wall has been built, and Mexico has paid for none of it, but the thrust of his nativist vision has taken root in hundreds of rule changes and policy shifts that have slammed shut America’s doors. {snip}

The president and his advisers have justified their policy as a protective stance against migrants who would rob U.S. citizens of jobs and imperil their health with disease. {snip}


Midway through his term, Mr. Trump proposed overhauling the legal immigration system to favor educated, skilled English speakers with strong earnings prospects, rather than relatives of current residents — an improvement on his previous embrace of long-term reductions. But that plan proved to be no more than political posturing: There was no effort at a bargain with Democrats that would include any path forward for dreamers, raised in this country, or the other 10 million undocumented migrants, most of whom have lived here for 15 years or more.


For decades before Mr. Trump took office, the United States resettled more refugees than the rest of the world combined; last year, it admitted just a third of the number of other countries’ total. {snip} When Mr. Trump declares that “our country is full,” he also encourages other countries to turn their backs on the world’s most desperate people. When he pours scorn on welcoming refugees from Haiti and African countries — “shithole countries,” in his view — he promotes the idea that people clamoring to leave the world’s poor nations are undeserving of admission to rich ones. {snip}

The coronavirus pandemic has furnished Mr. Trump with a pretext to shut down much of the already reduced immigration flow, on the argument that migrants pose a public health menace. The steps he has taken since the spring — including barring admission to asylum seekers; freezing the refugee program; and attempting to rescind visas for foreign students whose colleges shift to all online classes — are a likely sneak preview of a second Trump term.

The Supreme Court blocked the administration’s effort to remove work permits and the threat of deportation for dreamers, but the setback was temporary; if reelected, Mr. Trump could almost certainly implement those policies after undertaking the requisite procedures officials ignored in their initial attempt. He could also continue to squeeze or eliminate what has been a steady flow of visas for skilled and unskilled workers, as he has since the spring. Immigration advocates have further warned that the administration could renew efforts to coerce localities to assist deportation agents, thereby alienating immigrant communities. It could even, as Mr. Miller reportedly proposed, try to impede undocumented children from attending public school {snip}