WASHINGTON, June 18, 2018 — President Trump’s rhetoric on immigration began taking on openly racist undertones Monday, as his administration doubled down on false claims that Democrats in Congress are responsible for President Trump’s policy of detaining asylum seekers and separating children from parents, and that many of the people accompanying children to the border are smugglers and not their parents.
“The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility,” Trump said during a National Space Council event in the White House East Room. “Not on my watch.”
Trump’s references to migrant camps and refugee holding facilities were widely seen on social media as not-so-subtle racial “dog whistles” directed to elements of his political base that see refugee-friendly policies as part of a conspiracy by global elites to implement a so-called “white genocide” by allowing nonwhite immigrants with higher birth rates into majority-white countries.
After repeating the false claim that Democrats are responsible for his own administration’s immigration policies, Trump said that his administration’s policy of separating asylum seekers from their children is rooted in “horrible laws” on immigration.
Separating families is Trump administration policy, not law
While the president is correct in saying that the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act – which makes “improper entry” into the United States a misdemeanor – became law after a Democratic Congress overrode then-President Harry Truman’s veto, none of the 12 subsequent occupants of the Oval Office have chosen to use the law by prosecuting asylum seekers.
Instead, improper entry into the U.S. was largely treated as a civil violation until this April, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Justice Department would prosecute anyone caught trying to enter the country illegally.
The change in policy stems from the Trump administration’s stated desire to deter immigrants from South and Central America from coming to the United States.
The president called the family separation that results from his own administration’s policy “so sad,” but once again echoed Europe’s resurgent nationalist movements with a warning that “a country without borders is not a country at all.”
The policy is necessary, Trump said, because immigrants are bringing “death and destruction.”
No evidence that increased immigration causes higher crime rates
However, Trump’s claim that illegal immigration results in more crime is without merit.
A University of Wisconsin study published in March found that that the increase in illegal immigration since 1990 has not resulted in a corresponding increase in crime, and a separate study by the same researchers found that increased illegal immigration does not cause a corresponding increase in non-violent crime, either.
One of the study’s co-authors, criminologist Kevin Light, explained to National Public Radio that “increased undocumented immigration since 1990 has not increased violent crime over that same time period.”
Trump’s off-topic remarks were the second time in less than 12 hours that he made a false claim conflating immigration with crime.
After viewing a Monday morning Fox News segment about German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s political troubles stemming from nationalist resistance to her immigration policies, Trump tweeted: “The people of Germany are turning against their leadership as migration is rocking the already tenuous Berlin coalition. Crime in Germany is way up. Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!”
The president’s claim echoes those made by members of Europe’s resurgent far-right and white nationalist movements. But it is baseless in light of a recent report by German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle revealed the country’s crime rate is at its lowest level since 1992.
The Trump administration also claims (without evidence) that many children are brought by smugglers, not parents
Later in the morning, he continued the tweetstorm by repeating that and other false claims in support of his administration’s immigration policies.
“Children are being used by some of the worst criminals on earth as a means to enter our country. Has anyone been looking at the Crime taking place south of the border. It is historic, with some countries the most dangerous places in the world. Not going to happen in the U.S.,” Trump said.
Shortly after, he added: “It is the Democrats fault for being weak and ineffective with Boarder [sic] Security and Crime. Tell them to start thinking about the people devastated by Crime coming from illegal immigration. Change the laws!”
The White House has claimed smugglers are posing as parents in large numbers since last month
Both claims are false, but they aren’t the first time he or members of his administration have claimed that a significant percentage of asylum seekers accompanied by children are traffickers posing as parents.
During a briefing call with reporters last month, Justice Department spokesperson Devin O’Malley noted that in Fiscal Year 2018, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials saw a 315 percent increase in “individuals using children to pose as family units to gain entry into the country” over the previous fiscal year.
Administration officials, including White House Senior Policy Adviser Stephen Miller, suggested at the time that so-called “loopholes” in American immigration law entice human traffickers to pose as families with children.
“There’s nothing that would put more children in danger than for the United States to establish a policy – which these loopholes have gone a long way towards doing – that individuals traveling with minors will be spared from both civil and criminal consequences,” he said.
Miller, whose hardline anti-immigration stances date back to his high school days spent railing against the use of Spanish in his school’s morning announcements, said the policy Democrats want is one that spares anyone crossing the border from consequences if they have a child with them.
Such a policy is tantamount to “completely and totally open borders,” Miller said. And it “is already leading to horrendous hemispheric consequences” and is “driving… the child-smuggling trade.”
Although O’Malley promised more information to back up his claims, neither he nor Miller has responded to repeated requests for that information from BeltwayBreakfast.
But three weeks later, both White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley and White House Director of Strategic Communications Mercedes Schlapp echoed Miller’s unsupported claims that Democrats are in favor of “open borders” and that most children accompanying asylum seekers are being trafficked.
“What Democrats want is a radical open border policy that lets everyone out into the interior of this country with virtually no documentation whatsoever,” Gidley said Monday while defending Trump’s child separation policy by repeating the false claim that Democrats are responsible for it. He added that the children are being “sent with these coyotes,” using a slang term for human smugglers.
Later on, Schlapp downplayed the harm to children caused by being forcibly separated from their parents and once again claimed that human traffickers are benefiting from “loopholes” in immigration law.
“The smugglers are the ones who are benefiting from this,” she said. “It’s human traffickers who are putting these children’s lives in danger.”
Schlapp promised to provide further information to back up her claims but did not respond to several requests to follow through on that promise.
Trump Says He Won’t Impose Tariffs He Threatened Mexico With
WASHINGTON, June 7, 2019 — President Trump on Friday announced that Americans will not have to pay the five percent tax he recently threatened to impose on Mexican imports, citing an agreement reached with the Mexican government following negotiations led by Vice President Pence.
“I am pleased to inform you that The United States of America has reached a signed agreement with Mexico,” Trump said in a tweet Friday night, adding that the tariffs he’d proposed last week were “hereby indefinitely suspended.”
The Mexican government, Trump said, “has agreed to take strong measures” to curb the flow of migrants passing through their country from South and Central America en route to the United States.
A “US-Mexico Joint Declaration” posted to the State Department website elaborated on the President’s announcement by stating that the two governments “will work together to immediately implement a durable solution” to the influx of migrants seeking asylum in the United States, which the declaration called a “shared challenge.”
According to the declaration, Mexico will deploy its national guard forces throughout the country, with a particular focus on the Mexico-Guatemala border.
For the Trump administration’s part, the declaration references an expansion of “existing Migrant Protection Protocols” across the entire US-Mexico border. But that policy has already been ruled unlawful by a three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals after a coalition of immigration advocacy groups filed suit, alleging that it violates the asylum provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
The policy remains in effect, however, because the panel stayed its ruling pending an appeal to the full Ninth Circuit or the Supreme Court.
White House Hopes Kushner Immigration Plan Will Be ‘First Step’ Towards Reform Legislation, Officials Say
WASHINGTON, May 15, 2019 — President Trump on Thursday will unveil an immigration reform plan that would translate some of his rhetoric on the subject into concrete proposals, White House officials said.
The plan Trump will lay out in remarks delivered from the White House Rose Garden is largely the work of Senior Advisor Jared Kushner, a senior administration official told BeltwayBreakfast.
The official said Kushner hopes the plan can provide Republicans with a set of proposals that would have the President’s support if passed as legislation, and hopefully let him replicate the success he had shepherding the FIRST STEP Act criminal justice bill through Congress by bringing that experience to bear on an issue on as toxic as any in American political discourse.
The forthcoming proposal “is a first step towards having that discussion,” he said.
As described to BeltwayBreakfast, Kushner’s plan would address problems the President has identified as weaknesses in current immigration law and is built around several “pillars,” including securing the US-Mexico border, protecting Americans’ wages, satisfying employers’ need for skilled workers, and unifying families while preserving America’s “humanitarian values.”
The White House is presenting it as an effort to overhaul an immigration system that has remained largely unchanged over the half-century since then-President Lyndon Johnson signed the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act into law.
That law, which became effective in 1968, retooled the American immigration system from one that utilized quotas favoring northern and western Europeans over immigrants from Eastern Europe — with heavy restrictions on immigration from countries with largely populations — to one that was blind to race, national origin or ancestry.
According to one senior administration official, the proposal would replace the current system which favors relatives of U.S. citizens and lacks any numerical restrictions for family members with a “merit-based” immigration system which would assign points to potential immigrants based on factors like education, age, skills, employment status, and English proficiency.
While current immigration law allows U.S. citizens to sponsor an unlimited number of extended family members — making them eligible for immigrant visas — the plan the official described would limit “family unification” eligibility to a U.S. citizen’s children and spouse, putting an end what anti-immigration activists and President Trump call “chain migration.”
It would also eliminate the “diversity lottery,” which gives citizens of countries with low rates of immigration to the United States a chance to obtain an immigrant visa. The President has frequently attacked the program as one that allows other countries to “enter” undesirables in order to send them to the United States without vetting, even though individuals enter the lottery on their own initiative and are thoroughly vetted before being allowed to enter.
Even with the demise of the visa lottery and the restrictions on immigration by citizens’ extended family members, another White House official stressed that the proposal would not effect the overall number of legal immigrants entering the U.S. because it would increase the number of immigrants admitted on merit — described by the official as “the best and brightest” — from 12 percent to 57 percent.
“We’re not increasing it, we’re not decreasing it,” the official said. “We’re just changing the composition.”
Officials said the Kushner plan will also feature a border security component, including funding for border security measures, including 33 sections of the President’s wall along the US-Mexico border, new technology and infrastructure improvements at ports of entry, and a sustainable fund for border security.
Additionally, the plan would also reform existing asylum laws by tightening requirements for asylum and giving immigration officials the tools to reform what the White House official described as a system rife with fraud by removing “magnets” for asylum seekers and closing what the administration has described as “loopholes” that allow asylum seekers to easily remain in the country.
Although the plan described to BeltwayBreakfast was long on goals, administration officials were short on details when asked for specifics about the what proposed changes the plan would make to asylum laws, or whether those changes would allow the U.S. to meet its treaty obligations under the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.
Such details — including proposed legislative language for Congress — are several weeks away, said the official, who noted the plan was more a starting point than a finished proposal.
But even in a more detailed form, the plan looks to be dead on arrival in Congress, as Democrats have been loathe to take up any immigration reform proposal that does not address the status of millions of people who are currently living in the U.S. without authorization.
In particular, Democrats have repeatedly balked at proposals that fail to provide permanent protection and a path to citizenship for so-called “dreamers,” undocumented young people who were brought to the U.S. as children. While some undocumented immigrants are covered by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, no new sign-ups have been permitted since President Trump ended the program in 2017.
When asked why the plan made no attempt to address matters that would be necessary to garner the required Democratic votes for passage in the House or Senate, the official stressed that the plan is more a statement of priorities for Republicans to rally around than a comprehensive solution of any sort.
“This is a ‘Here’s what merit-based immigration looks like under the Trump administration, here’s what border security looks like,’ which is progress,” but isn’t going to resolve the systemic problems, he said.
“Nobody’s ever put something out and people say: ‘That’s the greatest idea, let’s sign it tomorrow, let’s do a parade for you.’ Where you start is never where you end. This is the right place to start.”
White House ‘Compromise’ Bill Contains Previously-Rejected Immigration Reforms, Makes Asylum Claims More Difficult
WASHINGTON, January 23, 2019 — Despite promises to the contrary, legislation Republicans are promoting as a “compromise” to reopen the government is actually a vehicle for sweeping changes to the American asylum system.
Administration officials have spent the days since President Trump announced the proposal promoting it as a bipartisan compromise, packed with incentives meant to lure Democratic support. The Senate is expected to take up the measure sometime on Thursday, which will be the 33rd day of the longest partial government shutdown in American history.
One provision that White House officials have touted as a concession to Democrats would provide for a temporary extension to the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program, which allows certain people whose parents brought them to the US illegally as children to obtain temporary work and residence permits. Also included is language to extend Temporary Protected Status to a small number of foreign nationals from disaster-stricken countries.
Democrats have universally panned both the DACA and TPS provisions as fixes to the president’s own messes, created when he and his administration unilaterally ended both programs during his first year in office.
The DACA extension, however, became a moot point this week after the Supreme Court declined to hear the Justice Department’s appeal of a lower court decision which allows existing DACA recipients to renew their permits.
Although the DACA and TPS provisions give the appearance that Republicans are giving away something in a form of legislative horse-trading, buried towards the end of the bill is language that would take away processes and programs supported by Democrats and immigration advocates.
The asylum provisions contained in the Central American Minors Protection Act would render unaccompanied minors from South and Central America ineligible for asylum unless they apply at processing centers in their home countries or at to-be-determined locations. Arriving in the United States without a parent or guardian would also render one ineligible for asylum.
The bill would also strip courts and immigration judges of any jurisdiction to review most asylum denials, while handing that duty over to Department of Homeland Security officials answerable only to the executive branch. It would also expand the circumstances under which an asylum seeker’s claim could be deemed frivolous, a determination which can carry severe sanctions.
One Justice Department official close to the process said the attempt to deny asylum seekers due process is more of the same for the Trump administration.
“They believe that these people are not Americans and are not entitled to the same rights that Americans have. They would like to write asylum out of the law because they do not believe America will survive if we give away too much of our pie,” said the official.
The official suggested the current “border crisis” is a direct result of the administration’s deliberate overloading of the immigration court system in hopes that the public will accept the whole system being thrown out and replaced by one in which almost no one can find refuge in the United States.
“They do things to make it almost impossible for someone to win their case, because they don’t believe these people should be allowed to remain in the United States,” the official said. “They don’t have the votes to change it so they’re delegitimizing it and making it dysfunctional.”
The official was particularly concerned about the possibility of the law being changed to put asylum determinations under the purview DHS officials, and noted that when DHS officials make removal decisions, their rejection rate is “very high” compared with the immigration courts.
“The law…does not lend itself to rushing through these situations,” said the official, who pointed to the president’s recent televised speech in which he once again ridiculed the idea of giving asylum seekers access to immigration courts.
“This administration is completely at odds with the existing legal structure. They do understand the law, but they don’t believe the fundamental basis of it is correct.”
Corroborating the Justice Department official’s clams, one former Immigration and Customs Enforcement official who spoke with BeltwayBreakfast also suggested that the end goal is actually to overwhelm the system. At that point. there will no longer be enough resources to provide asylum-seekers and other immigrants with the due process rights they are owed under current law.
But a senior DHS official whom the administration made available to reporters late Tuesday said the purpose of the legislation is not to limit anyone with “legitimate” claims of asylum.
“We believe that the provisions will actually encourage more people with legitimate claims to asylum” by making it easier for them to apply, he said, adding that it is “apparent to everyone” that there are “widespread” frivolous claims.
American Immigration Council Policy Analyst Aaron Reichlin-Melnick disputed the administration’s claim that many asylum claims are fraudulent.
“Just because somebody loses their asylum case, that doesn’t mean that they didn’t have a fear of persecution in their home country. It’s just that their fear may have fallen within grounds that didn’t qualify for asylum under the law,” he said, noting that the attorney general already has great discretion to interpret the statutory ground on which asylum is granted.
Reichlin-Melnick said the proposed changes reflect a disdain for the idea that asylum seekers are entitled to due process.
“The administration has characterized the basic fundamental principle that America will act as a refuge for those fleeing persecution as a loophole,” he said. “Everyone has the right at least to go through the asylum process and the administration would prefer to cut off access to the asylum process rather than deal with all asylum seekers in general.”
Tennessee-based immigration lawyer Greg Siskind suggested that the asylum provisions in the White House bill show that the Trump administration isn’t serious about actually reforming the immigration system or reopening the government, particularly since they’ve appeared in several previous immigration bills.
“They’re poison pills,” Siskind said. “For Democrats, it would be politically disastrous to vote for them to sign off on that stuff, so it makes one wonder what their purpose is other than to antagonize.”
Siskind echoed the sentiments of the Justice Department and ICE officials by suggesting that the Trump administration don’t want anyone to be able to apply.
“They don’t want people applying for asylum — that’s the bottom line,” Siskind said. “There’s just one thing after another that’s designed to make the U.S. asylum system as unattractive and unavailable as possible.”
Despite the administration’s hopes that sufficient Democratic votes could be found to end debate on the measure, the bill has encountered a reception as chilly as the subfreezing temperatures that have gripped Washington in recent days. Without Democratic support, the Republican proposal is not expected to garner the 60 votes Senate rules require to end debate on Thursday.
Asked about her expectations for Thursday’s vote, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was far from confident, telling reporters that she hopes the bill would be successful.
Sanders appeared to preview the administration’s strategy for confronting the bill’s eventual failure by suggesting the sole responsibility for a lack of a deal would fall on Senate Democrats.