President Trump’s wheel of preoccupations spun back around to the border on Thursday, when he took to the White House Rose Garden to announce his administration’s new plan to overhaul federal immigration law. Trump called the proposal “a fair, modern and lawful system of immigration” that would be based primarily on merit. “If for some reason, possibly political, we can’t get the Democrats to approve this merit-based, high-security plan, then we will get it approved immediately after the election when we take back the House, keep the Senate and, of course, hold the presidency,” Trump said.
Trump was still fired up on Friday morning, tweeting that all “people that are illegally coming into the United States now will be removed from our Country at a later date as we build up our removal forces and as the laws are changed.” He added that there is a “good chance” Democrats will ultimately embrace the new plan.
All people that are illegally coming into the United States now will be removed from our Country at a later date as we build up our removal forces and as the laws are changed. Please do not make yourselves too comfortable, you will be leaving soon!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 17, 2019
Will the Democrats give our Country a badly needed immigration win before the election? Good chance!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 17, 2019
The plan unveiled Thursday is aimed at replacing the current family-based system with one based on “merit.” Under Trump’s new system, immigrants would need to demonstrate they can speak English and support themselves financially, and also pass a civics test. Preference would be given to who already have job offers in the United States, or who have specific skills.
According to the New York Times, 12% of immigrants currently in the U.S. with visas qualified to enter based on skill. Under the new plan, the number would be closer to 60%, while the percentage of those in the country through family connections would drop precipitously. “We discriminate against genius. We discriminate against brilliance,” Donald Trump said. “We won’t anymore, once we get this passed.”
Last year, the Slovenian parents of Melania Trump became American citizens through the family-based “chain migration” system Trump has long derided.
No one outside of the administration seems to think much of the plan, the logic of which is confusing. Conservatives have been slow to offer anything resembling enthusiastic support, and some have derided it for its failure to scale down immigration numbers. Liberals have objected to just about everything, from its emphasis on skills over family, to the absence of anything to protect the status of DACA recipients — or, the undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children — which has long been a sticking point for Democrats. After Trump announced the plan on Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called it “dead on arrival” while bashing it for “gutting our asylum and refugee protections.”
The plan is the brainchild of Jared Kushner, with the help of immigration hardliner Stephen Miller, and is expected to be one of the tentpoles of Trump’s 2020 campaign. The tepid response may have had something to do with the fact that it was spearheaded by Trump’s son-in-law, a failed real estate developer who is in no way qualified to overhaul the nation’s immigration system.
On Tuesday, Kushner met with Republican senators to field questions regarding the plan. It didn’t go well, according to the Washington Post. Kushner was reportedly unable to address the concerns of lawmakers, who struggled to understand why the plan didn’t include protections for DACA recipients, an omission that ensures it will not pass through the Democrat-controlled House. “He didn’t give many details about what was in [his plan],” a source familiar with the meeting told the Post. “And there were a number of instances where people had to step in and answer questions because he couldn’t.”
"…some GOP senators left the meeting wondering whether Kushner understood the issue… “He’s in his own little world,” said one individual familiar with the discussion in the meeting…'https://t.co/a9gse8Pl0O
— Glenn Thrush (@GlennThrush) May 15, 2019
Putting his son-in-law in charge of immigration is only one element of Trump’s braindead approach to the border. On Thursday, the Post reported that the president’s obsession with the aesthetics of a potential border wall is driving up costs and giving designers headaches. According to current and former administration officials, his “frequently shifting instructions and suggestions have left engineers and aides confused, and he has repeatedly insisted on cosmetic features that serve little practical purpose. For example, he has demanded the wall — which would actually be a fence — be painted black and have spikes on top, “describing in graphic terms the potential injuries that border crossers might receive.”
Trump has also insisted the fence be as tall as possible, despite warnings about inflating the cost and potential structural integrity. He has rejected the idea that the wall will take years to build and, according to the officials spoken to by the Post, “suggested that some of his friends in New York would have ideas on how to build it faster.”
The ballast to Kushner and Trump’s half-witted approach is being provided by Miller, who is making sure the administration’s approach to immigration is sufficiently cruel. Just as the extent of Trump’s long-running mania about the border wall’s appearance was not known until Thursday, several of the more evil schemes the administration has previously attempted to put into action have only been reported recently.
Last month, the Post revealed that on multiple occasions beginning last November, the administration pushed the Department of Homeland Security about transporting migrants who crossed the border seeking asylum to “sanctuary cities” across America. The action was seen by the administration as a way to punish Democrats and was devised mostly by Miller. “Stephen Miller called people at ICE, said if they’re going to cut funding, you’ve got to make sure you’re releasing people in Pelosi’s district and other congressional districts,” a congressional investigator told the Post. The plan was so vengeful and logistically ridiculous that it was essentially rejected by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Details of another spiteful, ultimately rejected plan came to light earlier this week, when the Post reported that the White House developed a plan to “arrest thousands of parents and children in a blitz operation against migrants in 10 major U.S. cities.”
Any student of WW2 will get chills of recognition reading about this secret White House plan to conduct a "blitz operation" against thousands of migrant families and children. Stephen Miller is a dangerous psychopath, a Nazi of the old school. https://t.co/t7soXR6mCQ
— Steve Silberman (@stevesilberman) May 14, 2019
Again, the plan, which was proposed privately earlier this year, was nixed, both by then-ICE Director Ronald Vitiello and then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. The worry was that the “blitz” was not properly thought out and could backfire. Nielsen was also concerned that the drive to deport families would shift focus away from the administration’s goal of dealing with “criminal aliens.”
Weeks after the plan was rejected, Trump forced out both Vitiello and Nielsen. Vitiello was replaced by ICE Deputy Director Matthew Albence, who happened to support the plan. So did, you guessed it, Stephen Miller, whose extreme approach to dealing with immigration is far less likely to experience the pushback now that Trump has jettisoned Nielsen and Vitiello in an effort to take, as Trump described it, a “tougher approach” to the border. There’s no telling which other aborted plans to crack down on brown people the administration may decide to dust off now that the runway for cruelty has largely been cleared.
As Miller continues to scheme behind the scenes, the administration is pushing a half-baked plan that is effectively nothing more than a political play to the president base, which the administration is hoping might take to the idea of a a “merit-based” system. Few actual details of the plan, or how the administration is going to get the plan passed, are known. Trump did not take questions after the conclusion of his address from the Rose Garden on Thursday.