The Zero-Tolerance Immigration Policy Controversy
If President Donald Trump reads poetry, he might encounter “Mending Wall” by Robert Frost.
We can expect him to reject its core advice: “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, / that wants it down.”
Nine weeks before Election Day, on August 31, 2016, Republican presidential candidate Donald John Trump outlined his 10-point immigration program before enthusiastic supporters at the Phoenix Arizona Convention Center.
A week later a national CNN poll, for the first time, showed Trump ahead of Hillary Clinton by three points.
Point No. 1 in the Trump immigration plan: “We will build a great wall along the southern border. And Mexico will pay for the wall.”
Since then, Trump’s promise to build a “great, great wall” has become an easy applause line at his frequent rallies.
But many dismissed Trump’s wall as fantasy, too expensive and complex to become reality. Texas alone has more than 1,200 miles of border, much of it rugged, remote, unfenced and privately owned.
But in March, a Capitol Hill appropriations deal approved $641 million toward building 33 miles of Trump’s wall in the Rio Grande Valley. Now government agents are officially notifying ranchers and farmers they must surrender their land.
In the glut of immigration news and controversy, it’s been lost that Trump has ordered a general “zero tolerance” policy, imposing strict interpretation and administration in all aspects of immigration law.
This blanket approach is disrupting American businesses, educational institutions and even crab pickers, and is raising serious constitutional questions about the right to U.S. citizenship.
In a perceptive Wall Street Journal article, veteran reporter Gerald F. Seib spotlighted “a little-understood but economically important aspect of the immigration debate: While the loud public discussion focuses on Trump administration policies to stop illegal immigration, the administration also is taking myriad quieter steps to reduce legal immigration.”
Soon after taking office, the president issued a travel ban on persons entering the U.S. from six mainly Muslim nations. Based on security issues it was upheld by a 5-to-4 Supreme Court vote.
A Trump administration policy separating several thousand migrant children from their parents at the Mexican border reversed a previous practice that kept together families. This and all asylum laws are now being much more strictly enforced.
The president tried to end the Obama program that protected “Dreamers,” but federal court rulings have kept it alive.
Trump and Congress have argued about the status of thousands of young undocumented immigrants facing deportation. Several plans, including one Trump proposed, died in February after a week of congressional debate.
The Trump zero-tolerance policy has curbed the issuance of H-1B visas that enable businesses to hire highly educated foreign nationals.
Total visas issued dropped 41% last year, action on applications takes much longer and renewals are being denied. Business leaders are complaining loudly.
Earlier this year, failure to issue H-2B visas for seasonal workers threw Maryland’s crab industry into crisis, with nearly half of the Eastern Shore businesses without any of their traditional Mexican workers to pick crabs.
The U.S. refugee admission program, from a 2016 limit of 110,000, has been cut to 45,000.
A program called “temporary protected status,” allowing foreign nationals to remain in the U.S. after catastrophic weather or another disaster in their homelands, has been stopped.
Over 300,000 immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, Sudan and Honduras, many of them American residents for years, may be ordered out.
A rumored pending policy could block legal status for immigrants if their family members have received welfare benefits, or if authorities decide an applicant is likely to receive future benefits.
The number of international undergraduate and graduate students enrolling in U.S. colleges increased consistently between fall 2012 and fall 2016, but now it has fallen by 200,000, as student visas have become more difficult to obtain.
The strict Trump zero-tolerance anti-immigration policy even has called into question the status of U.S. citizens with valid passports. Especially in south Texas, but elsewhere as well.
If they cannot produce birth certificates when demanded, they are jailed and subject to deportation proceedings. Others are stuck in Mexico, their passports suddenly revoked when they tried to re-enter the United States.
The failure of a Republican president to reach agreement with a Republican-controlled Congress about a much-needed immigration law overhaul has allowed this zero-tolerance administrative chaos.
The president called our immigration laws “insane” when Democrats wanted to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
But insanity includes not only mental illness, but foolishness and irrationality as well. That seems to describe perfectly the bipartisan approach to immigration in Washington, D.C.
Yours for liberty,
Bob Bauman, JD
Legal Counsel, Banyan Hill Publishing