In an administration whose entire policy-making agenda is reliant upon a foundation of “fake news,” for continual obfuscation, it is unsurprising that our current national dialogue fails to reflect the intricacies of the immigration issue. President Trump’s obsession with the creation of a 2,000 mile, 25 billion dollar border wall is a lazy and racist response to the crossroads that we are currently facing as a nation. While the Obama administration made some headway through the introduction of a “stop gap” measure, that was the DACA bill, a more nuanced approach is still needed. The controversy has become increasingly problematic with Trump’s plan to repeal DACA looming, potentially leaving thousands of Dreamers in the lurch.
For decades, the American issue of immigration has resulted in gridlock across the aisle, as Congress perennially fails to produce viable compromises that satisfy the demands of both parties. The controversy stems from the precarious nature of developing immigration policy- humanitarian concerns must be balanced against economic and security concerns- with the end result being a multi-faceted problem that has no easy solution. However, this failure to reach definitive, thoughtful, conclusions is unacceptable, particularly in our current political climate where heated debates on border security, travel bans, and refugee status are increasing in prominence daily.
Part of the problem stems from the way in which the word “immigrant” itself is contextualized. As a nation, we have a tendency to blithely divide immigrants into one of two categories, “legal” or “illegal,” with the term “illegal immigration” often conjuring up images of hordes of undocumented people sneaking across borders. However, the issue is (unsurprisingly) more complex than that.
Currently, the total immigrant population is approximately 43.3 billion people, with the undocumented representing about eleven million. A significant portion of that population is comprised of people who initially arrive in the U.S. legally, and subsequently overstay their visas. In fact, The Center for Migration studies announced that overstayers outnumbered illegal immigrants who arrived via border crossing by over six hundred thousand people since 2007. Today, that adds up to almost half of our nation’s undocumented population.This is consistent with U.S. Customs and Border Protection data that reported a 36% drop in border crossings for the year of 2017.
It is therefore ridiculous to posit that building a wall would be advantageous in attempting to solve the immigration dispute, when in reality all it would do is increase wasteful spending. Trump’s recent State of the Union speech that called for the securing of wall funding in exchange for a path to citizenship for an estimated 1.8 billion Dreamers is nativist in nature, and fails to account for the other 9 million persons who would remain undocumented. Under this plan, these residents- which include 4 million parents of U.S. citizens, and nearly 7 million U.S. employed workers- would be at risk of deportation and harassment by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. In addition to being inherently inadequate, this “great concession” comes with a significant amount of strings attached. As part of this plan, Trump is also demanding a.) a replacement of the current lottery system that distributes 500,000 visas per year with a merit-based system that allocates visas to “highly skilled” immigrants, b.) heavy limitations placed on chain migration, such that only spouses and minors would be able to obtain sponsorship for entry into the country, and c.) the previously mentioned $25 billion trust fund for a border wall.
These stipulations are dangerous. From a wall that is an economic drain and a pointless venture, to the removal of a lottery system whose primary purpose is to protect American multiculturalism by encouraging immigration from underrepresented countries, to the inhibition of the ability of legal immigrants to bring their families to the country, this proposal embodies Trump in all of his racist, inept glory. By offering the most insignificant olive branch in his arsenal, he continues to demand change that strikes directly at the heart of American diversity. He has no ability to conceptualize the ramifications of his actions, and seeks only to further whitewash the country. He, and his careless immigration policies must be combated. Logic, compassion, and a desire to develop legitimate compromises are a requirement moving forward, and unfortunately, we must look somewhere else than the current administration for them.