Accuse the president and his administration of xenophobia or anti-immigrant leanings, and the response is often, “We are not against all immigrants — just those here illegally.”
Point out that “Make America Great Again” is really just a thinly-veiled euphemism for “Make America White” and supporters of President Trump claim they’re just trying to restore law and order.
Dare to critique the zero-tolerance policy, or the crackdown on Central Americans crossing to escape violence, or rants about the “animals” of MS-13? You’ll be told the efforts are aimed at rapists, murderers, gang members — not law-abiding immigrants.
The idea seems to be that if someone comes to America legally, applies for citizenship, waits for years for that application to be approved, takes the oath of allegiance to the United States, and lives a good, upstanding, taxpaying life here, he or she will be welcomed with open arms.
We would love that to be true. It wouldn’t make the human rights abuses against undocumented immigrants any less outrageous. But at least embracing legal immigrants who follow the rules would show some integrity.
Instead, we get only hypocrisy.
Words are one thing. At a 2016 rally, then-candidate Trump told a man wearing a “Legal Immigrant for Trump” shirt: “People are going to come into our country. We want people to come in. But they’ve got to come in, like you, legally. My man.”
Actions are something else. Under the Trump administration, there has been a ban on legal travelers from predominantly Muslim countries. There are restrictions on people legally seeking asylum from domestic abuse and gang violence in their home countries. There’s a sharp reduction in the number of refugees admitted through a routine legal process. There have been proposals to slash the overall levels of legal immigration and reports of Customs and Border Protection officials denying entry to visa holders.
The 45th president has demonstrated through his policies that his chief motivations were never rule of law and national security. He is not just targeting those who pose a danger, but those who pose a difference — a difference in language, religion, socioeconomic status, even skin color. Recall when Trump asked in a meeting with members of Congress why America admits people from “shithole countries” such as African nations, rather than places like Norway, which is predominately white.
Under Trump, the message to all immigrants — here legally or not — is unmistakable: You are not wanted.
This week, Julie Ainsley of NBC News reported about a plan that would make it harder for immigrants in the U.S. legally — emphasis on the word “legally” — to gain citizenship or permanent legal residency if they or anyone in their household has ever used public services. That includes subsidized insurance under the Affordable Care Act, children’s health insurance, food stamps or public housing. The proposal is the brainchild of White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, who has pushed for drastically cutting legal immigration and advocated for the zero-tolerance policy, even if it meant separating children from parents.