White Paper

Overview

American politics following the 2000 election exist in a state which can only fairly be judged through reflection, as changes had occurred both incredibly fast and with long-standing consequences whose impacts are only laid bare years after their implementation. This period has long been defined through both the culmination of increasing global immigration patterns and the September 11th terrorist attacks. These defining points slowly polarized American politics, which would quickly result in the conservative wing of America to align itself with anti-immigration policies. Over the past twenty years, the political polarization stemming from this has only become exacerbated each passing year, priming the country for hard-lined differences between political affiliations. This administration cherry-picked, and played into a growing demonizing of immigration, vowing to bring hard limits to immigration for people from Latin America (specifically Mexico) and the Middle East. While the Trump administration found success in accomplishing its platform, many of the changes have been the subject of controversy, protest, and have been met with legal troubles questioning their legality throughout Trump’s term as president.  

Trump’s immigration policy can be divided into three categories, visa changes, immigration from the Middle East, and immigration from Latin America. First, an unbiased view has to report on the intent of the changes being implemented. This administration’s changes to the visa system are intended to protect American jobs, claiming a “Buy American, Hire American” tagline to ensure immigrants are not taking jobs equally talented Americans could hold. Unfortunately, these visa changes are projected to leave numerous predominantly Asian and Indian immigrants (formerly on the path to citizenship) unable to continue employment. The expected catastrophic impact will be directed on America’s tech sector, which relies heavily on talented immigrants, who under the visa changes will no longer qualify for renewal of their visas. Secondarily, immigrants from the Middle East, demonized by American conservatives following the September 11th terrorist attacks, had been placed under a blanket ban on immigration based on (unsubstantiated) claims of continued terrorism from largely Muslim-majority nations. These bans had been met with immediate social and legal upheaval, and while the ban hasn’t impacted American industry- has created an unmistakable mar on America’s face on the world stage. Finally, this administration’s handling of the developing situations along the Mexican/American border has been a human rights catastrophe hitherto unprecedented. The tension has been undeniably exacerbated by President Trump’s rhetoric toward immigrants, which is predicated in racist dog-whistling. To this end, Trump’s administration sought to build a border wall to deter and stop illegal immigration. What it has resulted in, is a human-rights nightmare, with children being separated from their families, gross over-crowing, and a bureaucratic nightmare which leaves little hope for a solution. Further, because of the racist rhetoric the administration worked from, funding for the border wall was continually fought down political lines, eventually leading to a major government shutdown. 

In judging this administration, one must both look at intended and actual effects of the policies Trump put forth. In doing so, we see that the strategies employed did little to impact illegal immigration but did vast harm to legal immigrants. Visa holders, students, and peoples living in America under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) were thrust into precarious positions which threatened the livelihoods they’d built without offering alternative paths to citizenship. This researcher found that numerous claims this administration predicated its policy out of was unsubstantiated, and thus the policies enacted both cause immediate, and equally are projected to cause future harm to America’s image, economy, and role on the world stage.

History & Rationale Behind Existing Policy

Looking at this administration, we must first look at the long and tumultuous history of the sixteen years prior which had escalated tensions to a boiling point in American politics. The world’s vast changes in the past 20 years has impacted on immigration and human migration as a whole. In fact, since 1970 America has seen an ever-increasing number of immigrants (Budiman, 2020), which has forced immigration to center stage of American political decision-making. Rightly so, as immigration is a matter of human rights, as well as the American job market. While the issue of immigration hadn’t started during the Bush administration, we’re using the 2000 election as a relative starting point for the rapid period of growth that predicated Trump’s policies. Bush’s two-terms doubled spending on border control (President Bush’s Plan for Comprehensive Immigration Reform) and mobilized over 6,000 members of the national guard to aid in securing the Southern border. America’s conservative wing developed harder distinctions against overstaying their visas, penning policies saying, “Any Undocumented Worker Seeking Citizenship Must Go to The Back of The Line” (2007). After decades of involvement in the Middle East (The Gulf War & Operation Desert Storm) the September 11th attacks drove America into a continued occupation in the Middle East. The occupation worked to further destabilize the region, and mainstream American discourse became fraught with Islamophobia. Obama’s stance on immigration was significantly more lenient and immigration-friendly; deportations shift to only being strictly enforced along the border, and his administration created the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA) and the DREAMers programs, to extend protections for children of immigrants and students looking to study in the US. All the while, anti-American sentiments had steadily rose resulting from American involvement in the Middle East, paving the way for terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda and ISIL (later ISIS) to grow. The rise of these organizations and the raging Syrian civil war led to a mass exodus of refugees fleeing the growing violence.

Begin: Trump’s Immigration Policy

Building off of these points, Trump’s policy stance became almost synonymous with an anti-immigration stance. He promised to build and enforce a Southern border wall, and to ban Muslims from entering the country (Graphics, 2017). Within the first month of his presidency, Trump utilized executive orders to begin action towards both these ends. His administration has seen tremendous strides in achieving its policy goals but has been met with equally tremendous global disdain and legal opposition by those opposed to its agenda (Graphics, 2017). The Trump administration’s actions towards immigrants has transcended traditional American conservatism and is uses American conservatives to push his racially and religiously discriminatory policies. The past four months, this observer has researched and monitored the Trump administration’s policies and has several proposed changes which bring humanity and an ethical approach back into American immigration policy, as it would apply to Trump’s Visa changes, and his approach to immigration for Muslim peoples, and Latin American immigrants.

The changes to the H-1B visa that took effect on Thursday October 9th, 2020 raised the standards to which foreign workers are held, forcing American employers to raise wages by ~40% for foreign workers (The Trump Administration Is Taking Action to Tighten Foreign Worker Visa Requirements and Protect American Workers 2020). The changes largely disqualify immigrants for a renewal of their H-1B visas, because they “narrow the degrees [which] qualify an applicant and shorten the length of visas for certain contract workers” (Hackman 2020). While the changes are intended to protect American jobs, they come in tandem with a freeze on new visa applications for many types of visas, leaving many people unqualified for renewal, and without a path to citizenship. This is a crippling blow to the tech-sector, which has long employed largely Indian immigrants at Google, Facebook, and other major tech players. Some estimates criticize the visa scrutiny, with data showing how expanding the visa program promotes both innovation and productivity (Nowrasteh, 2020).

Trump’s adjustments to the visa program are under scrutiny because they’re the policy equivalent of ripping a band-aid off before giving a wound time to heal. The changes are drastic, and their implementation is happening faster than markets are able to adjust for (Nowrasteh, 2020). This researcher proposes that merely by adjusting the changes more slowly would achieve similar results and would have no catastrophic impact on the tech sector or on America’s foreign workers. One criticism of the changes is that the rates being required for immigrant employment are based on faulty economic theory (Baron, 2020). An immediate hike of 28% in wages is unsustainable, so this researcher proposes instead an immediate raise of 10% in wages and a ten-year goal of 28%, which while still a massive change would allow industries the time to adjust to the changes. Pursuing this option would reward foreign workers with better pay for their work incentivizing them to bring their innovation to the US. There is supporting data which shows immigrants from India alone were responsibly for raising American wages by $431 million in 2010 (Khanna, G., and Morales, N., 2020).

The government shut down in late 2018 because senate Republicans made border wall funding a key part of their budgeting agreement, and senate Democrats refused to come to the table knowing that fact. Since January 2017, a mere three miles of new wall have been built, all other work has been maintenance on existing portions of the wall (Trump’s campaign promises – has he delivered on them? 2020). All the while, detention centers have been overflowing with detained asylum seekers, and reports of children separated from their parents sit in cages (Dickerson, 2020). The failures of policies surrounding the Southern border resulted from Senate democrats refusing to join in discussions with their republican contemporaries, when those conversations are predicated on Trump’s racist ideology. Further, it is impossible to determine whether the “Muslim Ban” stopped any terrorist attacks from occurring without declassifying documents from the intelligence community. What the ban had succeeded in, was further exacerbating tensions between America and her allies. Both of these major policy decisions, as they had been predicated on racist rhetoric and falsehoods rather than factual data, left America a distrusted player on the world stage (Friedman, 2018). These policies fail to deliver the comprehensive overhauls which our immigration system so desperately needs, and they’re positioned in such a way they cannot succeed as policy.

Proposed Alternative

This researcher proposes the following changes to this administration’s immigration policies. Starting with the Mexican/America’s border, this researcher’s proposed solution to the issues of the border wall, is to reframe the usage of border wall-funding to instead revitalize existing infrastructure of detention centers, and fund social workers and legal teams to humanely and quickly process the detained peoples, granting or denying them legal status in a way respectful of their humanity above all else. This administration’s policies have overfilled detention centers along the border, thus exacerbating our immigration situation. With tensions high, and more asylum seekers and immigrants entering the centers than leaving, immigration officials are unable to make headway into resolving the issue. Regarding short term strategy, my proposed method will greatly increase both deportations and the granting of asylum by processing those people trapped in detention centers. In long term strategy, it will also ensure that asylum-seeking individuals are treated with humanity and processed through a fair civil court to determine their status regarding staying in America. This solution will require a great deal of funding to be allocated to border protections, which both republicans and democrats stand to benefit from. Taking the focus off of Trump’s rhetorical lambasting of Latinx people, and instead focusing on humanitarian comprehensive immigration support would be of the most benefit to all Americans. 

As mentioned earlier, by lowering the raise of wage requirements of H-1B visa holders to 10% (and including a 10-year plan to gradually raise wages to the proposed 28%) gives industries ample time to adapt, grow, and reevaluate their teams alongside the changes. What this would mean for immigration, is that the building crisis of non-renewable visas would cease to exist. This would provide a respectful barrier through which immigrants would be able to earn more equitable wages, and not force the hand of industry causing a mass workforce-exodus. The rate hike from the most recent visa changes pose a threat to American industries and will cause an unintended exodus of talent to neighboring Canada. This hike is unsustainable and creates a fast-approaching ‘jumping-off-point’ as thousands of immigrant workers will not qualify for their upcoming visa renewal. My proposed changes give industries cushion time to adapt to the changes, while simultaneously respecting the efforts made by immigrant peoples on their journeys to citizenship. This again is key, as it again shifts the focus off the hateful rhetoric of the administration and seeks to find a humane method of ensuring protections for American workers- while also taking into consideration the backbone which many of these immigrants provide to our tech and industrial sectors.

Finally, moving on to addressing Trump’s Muslim ban. There is no two-ways about it, this policy is unacceptable in every form. If this administration chooses to discriminate openly, this administration will have to accept losing. Because the policy itself is not based in neither fact nor necessity, it must be thrown away entirely. What should instead replace it, would be to employ a fair but stringent review of all travel and work visas, to ensure entry to applicants who qualify, but drop all pretense of blanket bans targeted against countries. A perpetual blanket ban fails to serve either national or international interests. Our proposal is not predicated on intolerance and works to address systemic issues with existing policies.

In Conclusion

            What all needs to be the takeaway from this report, is that the changes made to America’s immigration systems under the Trump administration are unmistakably failures. None succeed in accomplishing a net constructive goal for America, and all ironically cause fiscal, diplomatic, or social harm to America. It must all be scrapped in exchange for policy which address the underlying flaws of America’s immigration system and must be dealt with using accurate data and statistics- not rhetoric and racism.

References

Immigrants and the Economy. (2020). Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.aclu.org/other/immigrants-and-economy 

It’s time to fix our broken immigration system. (n.d.). Retrieved October 19, 2020, from https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/issues/immigration/immigration-action

President Bush’s Plan for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. (2007). Retrieved October 15, 2020, from https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/stateoftheunion/2007/initiatives/immigration.html

Presidential Executive Order on Buy American and Hire American. (2017). Retrieved October 21, 2020, from https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/presidential-executive-order-buy-american-hire-american/

The Trump Administration Is Taking Action to Tighten Foreign Worker Visa Requirements and Protect American Workers. (2020, October 06). Retrieved October 19, 2020, from https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/trump-administration-taking-action-tighten-foreign-worker-visa-requirements-protect-american-workers/

Trump’s campaign promises – has he delivered on them? (2020, October 15). Retrieved October 19, 2020, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-37982000

Arce, J. (2019, August 06). Donald Trump’s Anti-Immigration Rhetoric Is Rooted in Racism. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://time.com/5645501/trump-anti-immigration-rhetoric-racism/

Baron, E. (2020, October 18). H-1B visa pay boost: Historic win for foreign workers or ‘mess’ doomed to fail? Retrieved October 19, 2020, from https://www.mercurynews.com/2020/10/16/h-1b-visa-pay-boost-historic-win-for-foreign-workers-or-mess-doomed-to-fail/

Budiman, A. (2020, September 22). Key findings about U.S. immigrants. Retrieved November 19, 2020, from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/08/20/key-findings-about-u-s-immigrants/

Dickerson, C. (2020, October 21). Parents of 545 Children Separated at the Border Cannot Be Found. Retrieved November 19, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/21/us/migrant-children-separated.html

Flores, A. (2020, May 31). Facts on Latinos in America. Retrieved November 19, 2020, from https://www.pewresearch.org/hispanic/2017/09/18/2015-statistical-information-on-hispanics-in-united-states/

Flores, A. (2020, May 31). Facts on Latinos in America. Retrieved November 19, 2020, from https://www.pewresearch.org/hispanic/2017/09/18/2015-statistical-information-on-hispanics-in-united-states/

Graphics, R. (2017). The Trump Effect: Immigration. Retrieved October 15, 2020, from http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/TRUMP-EFFECT-IMMIGRATION/010050ZX28W/index.html 

Greeff, B. (2019, November 1). [Flag through Fence]. Retrieved 2020, from https://www.dallasobserver.com/news/immigration-limitations-based-on-healthcare-set-to-go-into-effect-sunday-11796379

Hackman, M. (2020, October 07). Trump Administration Announces Overhaul of H-1B Visa Program. Retrieved October 19, 2020, from https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-administration-announces-overhaul-of-h-1b-visa-program-11602017434

Horsley, S. (2016, August 31). 5 Things to Know About Obama’s Enforcement of Immigration Laws. Retrieved October 19, 2020, from https://www.npr.org/2016/08/31/491965912/5-things-to-know-about-obamas-enforcement-of-immigration-laws

Khanna, G., and Morales, N. (December 2018). The IT Boom and Other Unintended Consequences of Chasing the American Dream. Retrieved October 19, 2020, from https://poseidon01.ssrn.com/delivery.php?ID=888113013007024120115120009102018094032059000085054054113127088097111084097125123075026050063104107058097100080067012025030116058039008069063023024098120091012085105091003063003066004082124122089005117082117022084071068007121097003118090007116098003121&EXT=pdf

Nowrasteh, A. (2020, May 15). Don’t Ban H-1B Workers: They Are Worth Their Weight in Innovation. Retrieved October 19, 2020, from https://www.cato.org/blog/dont-ban-h-1b-workers-they-are-worth-their-weight-patents

Reuters, S. (2015, December 08). Donald Trump calls for complete ban on Muslims entering the US – video. Retrieved October 19, 2020, from https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/video/2015/dec/08/donald-trump-calls-for-complete-ban-on-muslims-entering-the-us-video

Schochet, L. (2017, July 31). Trump’s Immigration Policies Are Harming American Children. Retrieved October 19, 2020, from https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/early-childhood/reports/2017/07/31/436377/trumps-immigration-policies-harming-american-children/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: