by Ryan Campbell | December 21, 2015
There’s no question the presidential race has become pretty ugly: with Trump turning it into a reality show, the policies being discussed would hurt the immigrant community, our standing in the global community and our national security.
All of this showmanship has also allowed immigration legislation to slip beneath the radar. To paraphrase Hunter S. Thompson, most of the political show we see is just to distract us from what is really going on.
While the country has been focused on Hillary’s emails, Ben Carson’s brand of crazy and pretty much everything that Donald Trump says or does, Congress has been able to do whatever it wants with little to no notice. The result has been pretty harsh, and not good for either the immigrant community or national security.
For starters, in a turn away from empathy, HR 4197 would allow governors to refuse refugee resettlement. These are the same guys who have been trying to turn away refugees for years, whether from Syria or from the border children crisis of a few summers ago. HR 4218 goes further to halt refugee resettlement until certain conditions are met, such as an estimate from the Congressional Budget Office of costs which the President would then be required to offset.
This is despite the fact that these refugees are some of the most vetted immigration candidates on the planet in a process that takes years and requires background checks by several different US agencies. In addition, the terrorism that we’re so afraid of isn’t refugees, it comes from radicalized citizens of the countries that they attack. Often, they’re radicalized by the narrative of Islam vs. the West that this ban on the refugees trying to escape ISIS so strongly feeds into.
In a surprising turn against a fairly loyal Cuban base, a Florida Republican sponsored legislation that would make Cuban immigrants ineligible for certain refugee benefits. This happens at a time when Cubans are panicking that the generous status the US affords people like Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) families will be withdrawn with the normalization of relations between the two nations.
Ted Cruz, essentially a human political branding campaign (and quite genius at it), introduced S 2394 that would add extra requirements for the H-1B visa program. More relevantly, this bill would also eliminate the diversity visa lottery program. Another Republican bill, HR 4274, would end the fiancé, or K-1, visa program until Congress votes to resume it. This would make it much more difficult for immigrants to bring over a fiancé that they want to marry in the country.
John McCain (R-AZ) introduced S 2395, reauthorizing the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program until 2020. This would provide funding to states that incarcerate undocumented immigrants. These immigrants are incarcerated in private detention centers that make the regular prisons that most Americans consider a national shame look like country clubs. This would also encourage programs that utilize local police in enforcing federal immigration law, which undermines community safety and is especially difficult for victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault in mixed-status families.
Finally, in the omnibus spending bill HR 2029 that is currently awaiting Obama’s signature, there are a host of anti-immigrant measures. This includes restricting the visa waiver program to anyone who has even traveled to Syria, Iraq or certain other countries, losing tax credits depending on your immigration status (including those with DACA and status relating to being a domestic violence survivor) and restrictions on ITNs (individual tax numbers) that make it more difficult to pay taxes.
Most of these policies are the kind that make primary voters feel a little better but do nothing to address the very real problems we face, kinda like 90% of what Trump has said so far.
Quite frankly, these bills are furthering my conviction that the GOP is a party that is completely controlled by primary-related marketing and polls, and cares nothing for the addressing of serious problems with serious legislation; their solution to having more than one mass shooting a day is continuing to allow everyone who is so inclined to arm themselves, and then praying for the victims whenever one of the millions of military-grade weapons is predictably used on people just trying to watch a movie. Their approach to immigration is not much different, and we all live with the consequences of this lack of seriousness from our legislators: there’s no longer an adult in the room for the GOP, and we desperately need one.