Public Comment

President Trump's Deceptive Immigration Policy

Harry Brill
Friday June 08, 2018 - 07:05:00 PM

According to a recent Gallup poll President Trump achieved a 46 percent approval rating with regard to his role in making the United States (U.S.) prosperous. Although there is certainly disagreement about Trump's accomplishments, he nevertheless commands considerable support. A main reason for his high rating is his stance on immigration. Most of all, Trump has apparently convinced many Americans that he will work to improve the economy and provide good paying jobs primarily for American workers. Trump claims that he is not only unhappy about illegal immigration. He also wants to impose more restrictions on legal immigration as well. In his own words, "We will reform legal immigration to serve the best interests of America and its workers, the forgotten people. We're going to take care of our workers".

These proclamations are perspectives that American workers and their families like to hear. But it certainly doesn't reflect the views of Republicans who value the availability of cheap, compliant foreign labor. We would expect, then, that they would be unhappy with Trump's immigration agenda. Yet according to the polls, 84 percent of Republicans believe that Trump is doing a good job making America prosperous. How is that possible? That's an easy question to answer. The Republicans realize that Trump's message to the public is only propaganda. In fact, this characterizes the posturing of the Republicans generally. Let us take a look at the gap between Trump's rhetoric and what he is actually doing and not doing on behalf of working people. 

Among Trump's allies is the corporate controlled media, which often presents news with a one sided slant. The public has been hearing that the Trump administration is committed to arresting immigrants who have successfully crossed the border. Trump is proud that the increase in arrests in 2017 has climbed from 5,498 in the prior year to 13,000. Although this is certainly a whopping gain, we hear very little about how few are actually apprehended at the southern border. The number of immigrants who have been arrested before crossing the border is the lowest in 46 years, and 25 percent fewer than the year before. The estimate of those crossing the border successfully ranges from 300,000 to 400,000 immigrants patrol annually. There are 20,000 agents on the border patrol. Years ago more undocumented immigrants were arrested with about half the number of agents. Could it be that the decline in arrests currently is deliberate so that employers would have access to more low wage workers? 

But Trump claims he is not giving up. He wants to deploy 2,000 to 4,000 National Guard members to support federal agents along the border. Yet all parties involved, including the Trump administration, have agreed that the troops would not be allowed to have any physical contacts with those who are attempting to cross the border. What then would they be doing? Trump proposed that for surveillance purposes the National Guard members could fly planes over the southern border, which is the main point of entry to the U.S. 

However, It is not just that a large contingent of pilots would be both impractical as well as superfluous. The Border Patrol is already flying drones over the border. Clearly, the National Guard would accomplish virtually nothing no matter how many National Guard troops were sent. Apparently, Trump enjoys taking dramatic steps to project a false image of himself as a hero to American workers. 

Also, Trump has paid virtually no attention to those who come to the U.S. legally but overstay their temporary visas. These include tourists, students, and foreign workers who have been given temporary jobs. Those who have overstayed their visa make up 42 percent of all undocumented persons in the U.S. Moreover, since 2007 overstays have exceeded those entering illegally every year. In 2016 an estimated 629,000 visitors overstayed the deadline that their visas specified.  

There are slightly over 11 million undocumented workers living in the U.S. About 8 million are in the civilian labor force. That is, they are either working or looking for work. So even if the border patrol made a substantial dent reducing the number of immigrants crossing the border, there are still plenty of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. who want and need to work. 

The bottom line is that the business community with the assistance of the federal government has many options for recruiting foreign labor. Take, for example, the role of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which as a cabinet agency answers to the president. The mass media has featured many articles on the arrests that have been made by the Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE), which is a DHS unit. 

However, less publicized hat been the role DHS has been playing, with Trump's approval, to supply business with low wage foreign workers. The DHS has recently issued 48,000 guest visas to non-agricultural employers. Trump and the DHS have accepted the false claim of the business community that there were not enough qualified workers to fill these job openings. This clamor over a skilled labor shortage is nonsense. There are plenty of workers available. But business is looking for low wage employees by recruiting job hungry foreign workers. That Trump approved the work visas is certainly not surprising. Trump has a long history of using foreign workers in his business ventures. 

Despite Trump's slogan, "Buy American, Hire American," the Administration has done virtually nothing to address the notorious H1-B program. 85,000 work visas are given annually to foreign workers to fill jobs in businesses, particularly high tech. Legally speaking, employers are allowed to hire these workers only because they claim that there are not enough qualified American workers. But in reality there are a substantial number of unemployed high tech American workers who had been receiving high salaries. So the H1-B work visas has made it possible to replace these employees with lower wage foreign workers, 

Take for example the Disney Corporation's layoff of almost 250 employees. The workers who were hired to replace them were trained by those losing their jobs as a condition of receiving severance pay. How outrageous! Not only has the Trump Administration been uninterested in enforcing the law. Nor has the Administration made any attempt to reduce the annual allotment of these work visas. 

A related federal program, called the Optional Practical Training Program (OPT) encourages employers to provide good jobs to foreign students, both undergraduates and graduates, for up to 36 months. The advocates of OPT claimed that the students should have an opportunity to work at jobs that reflected their academic training. The government provides an incentive to employers to hire foreign workers by offering a tax break of 8.25 percent. Incredibly, the program drains about $2 billion annually from the Medicare and Social Security Trust fund. By reducing these trust funds, the government is robbing the elderly on behalf of the business community. 

Under OPT 154,000 foreign students were approved to work on student visas. How do we explain why the federal government has been so generous to these students? Actually, the explanation has little or nothing to do with the best interest of these applicants. The explanation is that Microsoft viewed OPT as a way of increasing the number of lower paid foreign workers that High Tech could hire beyond what H1-B allows. 

To challenge Trump's and the business community's jobs program we should realize that asking the wrong questions will yield the wrong answers. The question "How can we prevent immigrants from crossing the border"? is the wrong question because it assumes that these undocumented immigrants do not have the right to come here without official permission. 

A major reason that undocumented individuals and families are coming to the U.S. is because the highly illegal intervention of the U.S. in Mexico and Central America has deprived many of their citizens of a means to earn a living. For example, the NAFTA agreement eliminated barriers to American crop exports, including corn, which has made it impossible for many peasants in Mexico to continue making a living growing these crops. Consequently, the U.S. has contributed to promoting mass poverty in these countries. 

So the appropriate question, then, is "How long should it take to assure that these non-citizens become citizens?" The only ethical answer IS PRONTO, PRONTO, PRONTO.