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Trump’s Immigration Policy: Still Cruel, Stupid, And Utterly Political

You’d think from all the bombast and military shows at the border that Donald Trump is truly dedicated to ending illegal immigration. His apparent choice of Ken Cuccinelli as immigration “czar” would seem to cement the impression. The immigration hardliner espouses policies that are both cruel — denying citizenship to American-born children of undocumented immigrants — and truly stupid — letting companies fire employees who don’t speak English at work.

Trump, however, blew his cover following his release of an actually sensible immigration proposal. The plan would scale back family-based immigration in favor of a preference for foreigners with needed skills. Good idea. Canada does it. But something was definitely missing: a means to stop employers from hiring workers without papers.

The system to do that is already in place. It’s called E-Verify. E-Verify is a database that enables companies to quickly check a prospective new hire’s right to work in this country.

Paging Donald Trump. Paging Donald Trump.

Asked on Fox News whether his immigration proposals would include E-Verify, Trump responded that it could “possibly” be part of it. “E-Verify is so tough that in some cases, like farmers, they’re not — they’re not equipped for E-Verify,” he said.

Oh, really? Does Trump think farmers don’t have laptops?

As long as foreigners can get jobs in the U.S. paying many times what they do back home, they’re going to come here. You can’t blame them for trying. Many of us would do the same. Meanwhile, our undocumented immigrants are overwhelmingly good people. They all deserve humane treatment.

But we have our own low-skilled workers to protect, and that requires limiting the number of the foreign-born competing for their jobs. E-Verify, or a system like it, is the only effective way of unplugging the job magnet that attracts undocumented workers. Walls two miles high won’t do it.

Trump’s game, however, is to make a show of abusing and humiliating impoverished Central Americans while wink-winking at businesses that use the illegal labor. If Trump wants to ensure that U.S. agriculture gets the farm workers it needs, he can man up and support changing the laws to admit more people. They may not be as cheap, but that’s legal labor for you.

By the way, E-Verify was part of a comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate six years ago with votes from both parties. It could have passed the House with bipartisan support, but then-House Speaker John Boehner refused to bring it up for a vote because a majority of his fellow Republicans opposed it.

Some of the bill’s foes pointed to the 1986 immigration reform, which gave amnesty to many undocumented workers but failed to stop the illegal flow into the country. And they were right about that. Job applicants could present stolen or counterfeit Social Security cards or other documents, and if they looked OK (more winking), the employer was off the hook.

But the 2013 bill’s inclusion of E-Verify fixed that flaw. Face it. There’s no talking to people whose real issue is the color of the immigrants.

Another hint that he doesn’t really mean business on immigration is his omitting any mention of those brought to the country illegally as children. Polls show that Americans overwhelmingly support legalizing the status of these so-called Dreamers.

Whenever things get slow, Trump moves to a “tougher message,” such as naming Cuccinelli immigration czar. Interesting that Cuccinelli once said he considered not getting a Social Security card for his newborn “because it’s being used to track you.”

So much for E-Verify, which tracks Social Security numbers.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.

IMAGE: Ken Cuccinelli photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr.com

Trump’s Immigration ‘Reform’ Is A Dishonest Failure

Listening to Donald Trump lay out his vision of immigration policy is like scavenging in a garbage dump. You will probably find some things worth keeping, but you have to wade through a lot of trash to find it. And you can be sure that whatever you really need won’t be there.

His address Thursday would not have been complete without the familiar, false Trump themes that animate him and many of his loyal followers. He accused Democrats of favoring “open borders.” He portrayed the status quo as “lawless chaos.” He insisted that immigrants are a threat to U.S. jobs.

It’s all nonsense. Last year, 44 Senate Democrats voted to give him $25 billion for his border wall – the antithesis of “open borders.” All they wanted in exchange was a path to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented immigrants (the “dreamers”) brought here as children. But 42 Republicans were opposed.

If there is turmoil at the border, it’s not lawless or dangerous. The surge of migrants at the southern border consists mostly of people from Central America requesting asylum. They are entitled to apply for refuge from persecution under both U.S. law and international conventions signed by the U.S. government.

The real chaos is in the violent places these applicants have fled, which the administration shows little interest in trying to ameliorate. In fact, Trump has announced a cut of $450 million in aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

If immigrants are stealing jobs from Americans, why is the U.S. unemployment rate the lowest it has been since 1969? Filling jobs is not a zero-sum game, where each job done by a foreigner means unemployment for an American citizen. Migrants from abroad, legal or undocumented, also create jobs. Economists generally conclude that they have little if any negative effect on wages.

For Trump to address the broad issue of immigration while offering nothing for those foreigners protected under Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is unconscionable as policy and inept as politics.

Many if not most of these young people are American in every way except their place of birth. To expel them to places most of them hardly remember, whose language they may not even speak, would be pointless cruelty. But Trump can’t be bothered to find a way to let them stay.

His refusal dooms any proposal that needs the approval of Congress. If the opposition party wasn’t prepared to abandon the “dreamers” when Republicans had a majority in both houses, it isn’t going to do so now that Nancy Pelosi is speaker of the House. A package that does nothing for the DACA population is as viable as a snowball in a sauna.

This is no secret even in the administration. The Washington Post reported, “A number of White House aides are skeptical of the plan having any chance of passing and say the president having a Rose Garden speech for immigration is a waste of his time.”

But his plan’s fatal elements may be a feature, not a bug. Anything that could be passed into law would provoke the fury of anti-immigration voters. They aren’t content with preventing unauthorized arrivals; they also insist on blocking foreigners from coming legally.

Mark Krikorian, head of the Center for Immigration Studies, complained beforehand that Trump’s blueprint would “not include any reduction in the overall level of legal immigration.” This comes as a disappointment from those who applauded when Trump announced that “our country is full.” But because his plan has no chance of passage, it should not alienate this loyal bloc.

He wants to replace family-based immigration with a “merit-based” system that gives preference to foreigners based on skills, English proficiency, education and job offers. Though that approach is not entirely without, um, merit, the U.S. economy doesn’t benefit only from foreigners who can work at tech firms. Those willing to pick vegetables and process poultry are also assets. We can admit both.

Conservatives often say that would-be immigrants should follow the rules, get in line, and wait their turn. But the White House admits that under this policy, many people who have done that — often waiting years — would have to go to the back of the line.

That shameful feature highlights another way that listening to Trump on immigration resembles a visit to the dump. Afterward, you need a shower.

Steve Chapman blogs at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman. Follow him on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapmanand read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Why The Republicans Refuse To Fix Immigration

President Trump and the Republican leadership have made clear that they have no intention of repairing our chaotic immigration system. Why not? Because illegal immigration is a problem that bothers most Americans. Fix it and all these politicians have are tax cuts for the rich, environmental degradation, soaring deficits and the loss of health care.

As a campaigner, Trump learned that when audience passion flagged, he could demand a wall with Mexico and his folks would jump to their feet. The week that America went into convulsions over Trump’s racist vulgarities about certain immigrants is a week we’ll never get back again. But it did cancel right-wing displeasure over his seemingly constructive comments on immigration reform a few days earlier.

“Is Trump a racist?” the TV commentators kept asking. He said racially disgusting things as a candidate and again as president. Asking whether he’s a racist deep in his cheesecloth soul is a pointless exercise.

Trump shows all appearances of “not playing with a full deck,” despite a doctor’s report of good cognitive health. It really doesn’t matter much whether he is crazy or just acts crazy.

But with his promises to protect working people breaking like fine crystal dropped from Trump Tower’s 26th floor, his policy deck has become quite thin. Illegal immigration remains one of the few potent cards he has to play. Why take it out of play by solving the problem?

This thinking did not begin with Trump.

In 2013, the U.S. Senate passed comprehensive immigration reform in a bipartisan vote. It would have legalized the status of most undocumented immigrants while putting teeth in enforcement going forward.

There were enough supportive Democrats and Republicans to pass the reform in the House, as well, but then-Speaker John Boehner didn’t put it up for a vote. Passage would have made some hotheads in his Republican caucus unhappy.

Some foes of comprehensive reform pointed to the 1986 immigration deal as the reason they couldn’t support that one. Their reason was baloney.

True, the law enacted in 1986 gave amnesty to millions without stopping the flow of more undocumented workers. Its big flaw was letting employers accept documents that merely “looked good” as ID for hiring someone. An explosion of fake Social Security cards and other documents greatly weakened the ability to enforce the ban on employing those here illegally.

The 2013 legislation would have closed that loophole. It would have required companies to use E-Verify, a secure database, to determine every job applicant’s right to work in the United States. That would have made all the difference in hiring practices and the ability of government to enforce the law.

Had the reform passed in 2013, America would now be in its fifth year of mandatory E-Verify. Instead, we have a law that still lets even poorly counterfeited documents become tickets to employment. The numbers on illegal immigration, falling since the Obama administration, would probably be smaller still had the 2013 reform passed.

And those brought here illegally as children would be enjoying a secure life as Americans. But Trump and many Republicans apparently see value in periodically threatening to deport these innocents. They’re useful as a political plaything.

As for Democrats, they would make a big mistake in underestimating the public’s hunger for an orderly immigration program. Polls show that Americans want a program based on respect — for the immigrants themselves and for the laws designed to protect U.S. workers from unfair competition.

If Democrats make clear that they are on board with both kinds of respect, they’ll be fine. Trump is grasping his one powerful card with both hands. Democrats should not help him.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Relatives separated by deportation and immigration hug at the border during a brief reunification meeting at the banks of the Rio Bravo, a natural border between U.S. and Mexico, October 29, 2016. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez/File Photo

Republicans Or Social Security? On 80th Anniversary, Still An Easy Choice

Ten years ago, as Americans celebrated the 70th anniversary of Social Security, the presidency of George W. Bush was already disintegrating over his attempt to ruin that amazingly successful program. The people’s rejection of the Bush proposal to privatize the system was so powerful that Republicans in Congress scurried away – and his political reputation never recovered.

Since then, the United States has endured a market crash and a crushing recession that proved how much this country needs its premier social insurance plan. Those events demonstrated that ceding control of Social Security and its revenues to Wall Street, in accordance with the Bush scheme, would have been a national disaster. And yet the Republican candidates for president seem utterly unable to learn that simple economic lesson.

To paraphrase the old French adage, the more things change, the more conservatism remains the same. On this 80th birthday of Social Security, the increasingly right-wing Republicans continue to blather the same old nostrums, as if they missed everything that has happened since 2005 – and as if they still want revenge against Franklin Delano Roosevelt for the humiliations he inflicted on their ideological ancestors.

Since August 14, 1935, Republicans and their financial backers have sought to undo the progress that Social Security represents for workers, the elderly, the disabled, and their families. Today’s Republican presidential wannabes all claim to be offering something new, but whenever they talk about Social Security, they sound as if they’re stuck in 2005 – or 1935.

From Rand Paul to John Kasich, from Marco Rubio to Rick Perry, from Lindsey Graham to Ted Cruz, from Bobby Jindal to Jeb Bush and George Pataki, they all agree that Social Security should be privatized. And with the possible exception of Mike Huckabee, all agree on undermining the only program that keeps millions of older Americans from ending their lives in poverty rather than dignity. Chris Christie, robber of public employee pensions, would swiftly raise the retirement age to 69, threatening grave hardship for blue-collar, lower-income Americans. Carly Fiorina would inflict similar suffering on workers who weren’t fortunate enough to snag an undeserved $40 million “golden parachute,” like she did.

Behind Republican warnings about the solvency of Social Security – and their enduring desire to privatize – are major financial interests that would like to seize the system’s revenue streams for their own profit.

Greed is always in fashion on Wall Street. But working Americans see no reason to hand Social Security over to the banks, when its administrative costs amount to well under 1 percent of its revenues. They know that the financial geniuses who almost sank the world economy eight years ago would charge far more than 1 percent, while imposing enormous risks on everyone but themselves.

So thanks, but — most emphatically — no thanks. As we mark this anniversary, most surveys show negligible support for privatizing Social Security or reducing its benefits; indeed, there is growing public support for proposals to expand and improve the system.

Yet polls also show many young Americans worrying that the system may not be sufficiently robust to pay full benefits by the time they reach retirement age. The latest report of the Social Security trustees, issued last month, suggested that the system’s trust fund could be exhausted by 2034.

Even then, the system’s revenues are projected to pay at least 75 percent of the benefits owed. But that wouldn’t be good enough when benefits are already too low – and there are several simple ways to fix Social Security’s finances so that nobody need worry. Long before the trust fund runs out of money, Congress can follow the example Ronald Reagan set in 1983 by raising the payroll tax rate — or mandate more progressive policy changes, such as lifting the cap on earnings subject to the tax, and broadening the tax base.

Declaring the nation’s “ironclad commitment” to Social Security, Reagan – who had once opposed the system as a symptom of creeping socialism – also expanded its base by bringing government employees into the system. Comprehensive immigration reform, which the Republicans oppose in nativist lockstep, would also create a stronger future foundation for all retirees and disabled workers.

So whenever these would-be presidents start barking about the need to pare, prune, or privatize this country’s most effective government program, remember this: Saving Social Security for future generations — even with higher payroll taxes — is far more popular than any of them ever will be.

The best financial decision any future beneficiary can make is to vote accordingly.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons