Salon: Trump’s New Crackdown on Legal Immigration

When Democrats dismissed the Fox News-led fear-mongering about “hordes” of undocumented immigrants “invading” the United States from the south as a manufactured crisis, they were pilloried by Republicans and the mainstream media alike for not taking the issue seriously. Hardly anyone demonstrated an understanding of Democrats’ nuanced argument, Salon writes.

Illegal immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border appeared much more substantial precisely because the Trump administration had choked off access to legal ports of entry for many migrants seeking legal access. This was likely a clear strategic move by White House adviser Stephen Miller, deliberately turning otherwise would-be legal asylum seekers into lawbreakers.

This campaign worked and activists were left to protest that asylum is a right recognized by international law while children were separated from their parents and shepherded into cages. Trump supporters, meanwhile, grew more obstinate in their opposition to immigrants.

Trump and his supporters insist that they aren’t against immigration only, yet they have systemically hacked away at an already byzantine legal process, making it dramatically more difficult to access legal entry into the U.S. By stripping away at the last remnants of functional immigration policy, the Trump administration makes clear that this was never about the law and only about good old-fashioned xenophobia. Calls for immigrants to come into the U.S. “the right way” or “the legal way” have always been a deflection tactic, used so immigration foes don’t have to show their hand.

Trump’s latest crackdown on legal immigration looks like a major win for Miller, the leading immigration opponent in the White House and the architect of most administration policy on the issue. The youthful yet cadaverous adviser has long sought to redefine federal immigration rules as restrictively as possible.

On Monday, for example, the administration announced a change to the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1882 that seeks to reinterpret “public charge,” a term never explicitly defined by Congress that allows the government to deny permanent residency to immigrants who are deemed a financial burden on society. A “public charge” has historically referred to someone who is “primarily dependent on the government for subsistence” based on their receipt of “public cash assistance.”

Trump’s new rule, set to go into effect in two months although an overwhelming majority of public comments oppose the change, expands the universe of federal assistance programs that could disqualify immigrants, designating use of food stamps, housing assistance and Medicaid as negative factors when evaluating applications for green cards or visas.

“We certainly expect people of any income to be able to stand on their own two feet,” said Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. “President Trump has once again delivered on his promise to the American people to enforce long-standing immigration law.”

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