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The New Alien Exclusion Act

When you have so many immigrants being admitted, they tend to cluster together, they tend to maybe be a bit more slow in learning the English language, to becoming acculturated, to becoming patriotic Americans,” Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) told NPR reporter John Burnett in early February.

Smith has been a genteel nativist for decades, but the content of his character came into sharper focus in 2010 when his selection to chair the House Judiciary Committee raised the visibility of his anti-immigrant, and more specifically anti-Latino, legislation.

That year Smith put together an anti-immigrant trifecta that included: a “show-your-papers” bill that would have made ethnicity probable cause for state and local police to demand proof of citizenship or legal residency; an anchor-baby bill that would have excluded the children of immigrants from the promise of the Fourteenth Amendment, which says “all persons born or naturalized in the United States . . . are citizens of the United States”; and a bill that would have made the E-Verify employment screen mandatory, which would have been reasonable if E-Verify was not wildly inaccurate in identifying legal residents.

Smith, who has served in the House since 1987, could not win an election in a district anchored by San Antonio were it not for the gerrymandering practice known as “bleaching,” which has ensured that roughly 57 percent of his district is “Anglo” with Latinos hovering just below 30 percent.

The only firewall standing between these new nativists and public policy is the Democratic minority in the Senate.

Emboldened by a president who began his campaign with a rank, racist riff about Mexicans—“They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”—Smith and other nativist Republicans in Congress are determined to extend the practice of “bleaching” legislative districts to the entire nation, to create a whiter America.

The occasion for Smith’s comments about the ghettoization of Latinos was an NPR report on an immigration reform bill he is co-sponsoring with two confederates in the Senate, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, and David Perdue of Georgia. At a time when approximately 11 million undocumented residents of the United States (and the businesses that employ them) could benefit from legislation that would normalize their residency status, the three Southern Republicans have something entirely different in mind: a rewrite of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which made legal immigration to the United States less restrictive.

And it’s legal immigration that Smith, Cotton, and Perdue are targeting. In the spirit of the Immigration Act of 1924, which closed American borders to Southern and Eastern Europeans, in particular Italians and Ashkenazi Jews, the 2017 Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act (RAISE) targets the largest category of legal immigrants to the United States, green card applicants attempting to join family members. It would also reduce refugees to 50 percent of current admissions, and end the Diversity Visa Lottery, which provides visas to residents of countries with low immigration rates to the United States.

Cotton told NPR that the number of green cards issued each year, about one million, is excessive.

“In one year, this would reduce it to around 600,000. Over the span of the 10-year window, it would fall to about 500,000.”

The bill would also dramatically reduce the number of refugees offered permanent residence from 85,000 (in 2016) to 50,000. (The U.S. population is 321 million; Canada, with a population of 38 million will accept 57,000 refugees in 2017.)

The bill, and there will be more to follow from the congressional Republicans preparing exclusionary legislation, is informed by the idea that there are too many immigrants.

“The goal here is to get our immigration levels back to historical norms, to take something of a pause to allow the economy to catch up with the immigrants that we have allowed into our country over the last two generations,” Cotton told NPR, “and to focus on the well-being of American citizens, those citizens who are here today, many of whom are struggling economically.”

Republicans preparing anti-immigrant legislation are working in concert with Trump administration officials known for their aversion to immigrants: Attorney General Jeff Sessions who as a U.S. Senator advocated the reduction of the foreign population in the country; Steve Bannon, who as executive editor of the extreme-right Breitbart News enthusiastically published white supremacists; and Julie Kirchner, a special adviser to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, who previously directed the anti-immigrant Federation for American Immigration Reform, which the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as a “hate group.”

The only firewall standing between these new nativists and public policy is the Democratic minority in the Senate, and perhaps federal judges like James Robart, who promptly put Donald Trump’s “Muslim Ban” on hold.

The 5 Worst Climate Change Truthers In Congress

Throughout his presidency, Barack Obama has taken tremendous strides toward combating climate change and the dangers that it poses. But he hasn’t gotten much help from Congress — and now that Republicans hold majority control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, he probably never will.

Although scientists overwhelmingly agree that human activity has caused the climate to rapidly warm over the past century, the majority of congressional Republicans flatly deny the facts.

Here are five of the most notable climate truthers in the 114th Congress:

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX)
Rep. Smith, a 14-term Republican from Texas, currently serves as chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. He is also an outspoken climate change truther who seems to believe that scientists and the liberal media are teaming up to mislead Americans about the threat. In November, Smith shrugged off a frightening United Nations report on climate change as “clearly biased,” before acknowledging that he didn’t actually read it.

Despite not having faced a competitive election in nearly two decades, Smith has raised more than $600,000 from the oil and gas industry throughout his career — including $112,050 in the last election cycle alone.

Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX)
Rep. Weber, chairman of the House Subcommitee on Energy, is a relative newcomer to Congress; he was elected to succeed Rep. Ron Paul in 2012. But he’s quickly become known for his strident refusal to accept the facts on climate change. Most notably, Weber attempted to ridicule White House science advisor John Holdren during a hearing last March, and ended up making a fool of himself.

Weber — who, ironically, owns an air conditioning company — is a favorite of the oil and gas industry; it donated $87,250 to him in the last election cycle, nearly double the total he raised from any other industry.

Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO)
Senator Cory Gardner moved up from the House in 2014, when he defeated environmentalist Democrat Mark Udall in a significant upset. Along the way, he refused to answer questions about climate change — a strategy that actually represented a minor step forward from his previous insistence that “I don’t believe humans are causing that change.”

Gardner currently sits on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, along with the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources — which helps to explain why the oil and gas industry contributed $658,049 to his campaign, second to only Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) among House members.

Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK)
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee chairman Jim Inhofe is one of the world’s most outspoken climate change deniers. During his tenure in Congress, Inhofe has described global warming as the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,” compared Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, insisted that climate change is impossible because “God’s still up there,” and attempted to disprove the scientific consensus with a snowball, among other incidents.

Unsurprisingly, Inhofe is also beloved by the oil and gas industry; it contributed $576,250 to him in 2014, and nearly $2 million throughout his career — easily the highest total of any industry.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)
Senator Cruz chairs the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, which oversees NASA and the National Science Foundation, among other responsibilities.

This is very bad news for NASA and the National Science Foundation, given Cruz’s proud hostility to science. The newly minted presidential candidate is under the mistaken impression that global warming ceased in 1997, and that cold weather disproves climate change altogether. He also appears to believe that his ignorance on the topic makes him a modern-day Galileo.

Over Cruz’s brief four-year career as a federal candidate, he has raised a whopping $1,086,368 from the oil and gas industry.

Photo: CSIS: Center for Strategic & International Studies via Flickr