By Patrick Young
Donald Trump’s Sunday tweet threatening to shut down the Federal government if he does not get his way on immigration is widely being misreported in the media as just his latest effort to fund the construction of his border wall. If only it was just the wall that was at stake, immigration experts would be less worried than they are now. In fact, Trump is calling for much more.
Trump also tweeted Sunday that Congress “Must get rid of Lottery.” The “lottery” to which he refers is the Diversity Visa Program, which allocates 50,000 permanent resident “green cards” to immigrants primarily from Europe, Africa, and Asia. The president also called for the replacement of the current family-based immigration system with one controlled by big business. These two changes could reduce the total number of legal immigrants by more than a quarter of a million every year.
The media does a disservice by portraying this as merely the latest expression of Trump’s fixation on the wall. This makes the entire battle seem to be over unauthorized immigration. In fact, the primary target of his tweet today was the legal immigration system. Trump has repeatedly indicated his dedication to drastically reducing legal immigration from countries without white majorities. His use of a scatological term to describe the countries of Africa, Central America, and Haiti was just one example of his racial prejudices. It is reasonable to believe that the president considers most immigration by non-whites to be extremely undesirable.
For the second time since he took office, Donald Trump is threatening a shutdown over his proposal to drastically cut legal immigration. The last time he pressed legislation embodying his bigotry, it only got 38 votes in the Senate. Without the economic blackmail of shuttering the Federal government, his draconian legislation has no chance of passage. The Republican leadership is hoping that this is just more bluff and bluster from Trump, but one thing he has been consistent about is his utter antagonism towards immigrants. I would not bet that he is bluffing.
Paul Ryan’s and Mitch McConnell’s failures to establish their House and Senate majorities as a check on presidential power is now coming back to haunt them. They face the closing of most Federal governmental functions over a set of Trump legislative proposals that neither man considers core to the Republican Party’s electoral or governing strategies. The fact that the closure may take place right before the Congressional elections is doubly damning for them.
Patrick Young is an attorney at the Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) on Long Island and blogs for the New York Immigration Coalition. He is also Director of Legal Services at CARECEN and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra University.