Last semester I wrote an essay about Immigration Reform for a U.S. Government class. It was written before the public learned that the Trump Administration was separating families at the Mexican border. The prompt was as follows:
Though many Democrats and Republicans agree that the United States’ immigration system is broken, they hold sharply different views on why it is broken and how it should be fixed.
Democrats are more likely to say that immigrants make American society better. Republicans are more likely to say that immigrants have a negative effect on American society and quality of life. In September 2015, the Pew Research Center published the results of a study that showed in detail how Americans’ views are split along party lines.
So it is no surprise that during the 2016 presidential campaign between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, the candidates took markedly different positions on immigration. Secretary Clinton’s position is summarized here. Mr. Trump’s position, reiterated in a major speech on August 31 speech in Phoenix, Arizona (after a surprise meeting with Mexico’s President Peña-Nieto) is summarized here.
Use your transcript of the State of the Union address, your fact checking document, and other resources as necessary. Write an essay that addresses ALL of the points below.
1. What are the four pillars that the president described in his 2018 State of the Union address? For additional context, you may want to look at NPR’s annotated text and analysis of the speech here.
a. Does your “fact checker” identify any issues with the president’s statements?
2. What is the current status of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program? Make sure you address the two recent rulings from federal judges that have affected this program.
3. Where do you stand on this issue? Should the “dreamers” have a path to legalization? What about other immigrants who arrived illegally? Should “chain migration” be ended? In general, are immigrants a benefit or a threat to the American way of life? Explain your position.
Immigration reform has been a divisive subject in the United States for most of the nation’s existence. Democrats believe that immigrants are beneficial to the American economy and have little effect on crime. Republicans believe that immigrants are categorically worse for both American crime and American wealth. In 2016, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump presented drastically different positions on how to resolve immigration problems during their prospective presidencies. Clinton’s plan focused on naturalization and leniency on illegal residents and families. Trump’s campaign plan focused on developing a stronger border presence and aggressive deportation campaigns akin to those of the Eisenhower Administration. President Trump expounded on his position during the 2018 State of the Union address, in which he listed four pillars for his immigration strategy.
The first pillar mentioned is to offer the opportunity for illegal immigrants who were brought here as children to become naturalized citizens. This differs from the Obama administration’s DACA program which only granted this subset of 1.8 million people work permits and collegiate opportunities. With Trump’s first pillar, undocumented immigrants between ages 15 and 31 could have the chance to become naturalized citizens over a 12-year period.
The second pillar proposed by President Trump discusses border security. Specifically, Trump states his plans to build a wall along the border with Mexico and hire more Border Patrol personnel. This does not contrast with his previous statements on immigration but fails to address any of the nuance involved in comprehensively securing our border. For example, the proposed border wall plans cross onto privately owned land in Texas. This has caused for congressman and property owners to vocally oppose the physical border wall altogether. While hiring personnel to man the Mexican border is important, Trump’s State of the Union address also fails to address the technological needs of the Border Patrol.
The third pillar of Trump’s immigration plan is to end the visa lottery. Trump incorrectly states that the visa lottery rewards work permits to immigrants without any process of determining their potential danger to American citizens. The diversity visa lottery allows for citizens that are ineligible for immigration through close family connections or work skills to be granted work visas after a thorough background check. Trump’s plan states that work visas should only be allotted to people who can benefit American society through their skills and to people who will not disrespect American values.
The fourth pillar of Trump’s plan is to end chain migration. Chain migration or family reunification allows for legal residents to sponsor spouses and young children in their visa applications. This process also allows for naturalized citizens to apply for their parents, married children, and adult siblings to obtain work visas as well. Trump’s statements in the SOTU fail to acknowledge the smaller details yet again. The process for applicants to be granted visas is limited by the family classifications of the system as well as the yearly limits to how many visas are allotted. This means that this process can take years to affect American communities. Trump’s four pillars propose a highly restrictive approach to allowing immigrants to be granted citizenship and work visas and vows to protect our border with Mexico.
Federal court rulings in California and New York have made Trump’s plans to end DACA more difficult. Both courts block Trump’s action to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The New York Federal Court in Brooklyn states that the U.S. government must continue to process renewal requests from DACA recipients due to the reasoning cited for voiding the Obama administration’s executive order. U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis says that the executive order is not unconstitutional but can be terminated under different circumstances. This means that although new applicants are still not allowed to be covered by DACA, current beneficiaries can still live in the United States if they apply for renewals.
My opinions on immigration are influenced by my idealistic views on foreign policy. Clearly, the current system is not working, but I believe that American should still be a force for bringing freedom and opportunity to the entire world. This means firmly placing a division between how the government treats illegal immigration versus how it treats applicants for work visas and citizenship. Immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and have attempted to better themselves through education and job training should be allotted a fast route to citizenship within 5 years of applying. Illegal resident families should not be broken apart from DACA recipients unless they have caused a detriment to society through serious crimes like assault, robbery, manslaughter/murder, and rape.
Work visas should be prioritized towards those who have skills in industries that most need innovation in the United States like medicine, technology, and renewable energy. All Work visa recipients should have a minimum English proficiency of the 5th-grade level and must continue to take English language instruction as a condition of their residency. Family reunification or chain migration should limit the number of work visa family members that can sponsor their immediate family. Naturalized U.S. citizens should have the ability to sponsor spouses, parents, grandparents, and children, but have a limited ability to sponsor uncles, in-laws, and cousins.
Regarding America’s border with Mexico, additional personnel to a lesser than stated in Trump’s plan should be hired and trained extensively before taking their places as Border Patrol agents. Current checkpoints and fences should be improved and repaired, but the border wall proposed should not be constructed on private property. Immigrant smugglers should be detained and prosecuted whereas smuggled persons should be humanely deported to their home countries unless seeking refuge and/or asylum. Families seeking refuge and asylum should be housed with their children in federally funded housing and be provided for until their immigration hearings. Immigration hearings should be prioritized when dealing with those seeking asylum from dangerous elements in their home countries. Overall immigrants are incredibly beneficial to American society. Immigrants bring culture and innovation to the United States. But the safety of America’s ideals and its citizens must be prioritized. When the United States is strong, it can spread its ideas of freedom, opportunity, and democracy throughout the world.