Donald Trump finally released a white paper on his Immigration plans yesterday. It was pretty bad. He has teamed up with nativist, anti-LEGAL immigration Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions (R), who says that Trump's plan is "exactly the plan America needs" to form an anti-immigration Dynamic Duo. Ann Coulter is running alongside them while yelling that Trump can do abortions in the White House for all she cares if he is going to release immigration white papers like this one.
Let's take a look at Trump's plan. He bases it off of three main ideas:
1. A wall on the Southern border than he will make Mexico pay for.
2. Stricter enforcement of immigration laws in the interior with massive deportations and beefed up ICE forces monitoring visas as well as e-verify and ending birthright citizenship.
3. Prioritizing American workers over foreign workers coming in on H-1B visas.
On the surface, all three of these ideas might seem good. I am in favor of a secure border and enforcement of American law when it comes to immigration. Every nation should have a border and every nation has the right to enforce its own laws. That part makes sense. The other part that makes sense is requiring American businesses to hire American workers and to create an environment where they are paid a decent wage. However, Trump's focus on these issues and lack of understanding of other issues that form this mess of system will mean that everything that he tries to do to fix this will only make things worse in the long run. He has so many missing pieces that it causes one to wonder if he is being intentionally deceitful or if he is just woefully uninformed.
Trump's Missing Pieces
Welfare Reform. Undocumented Immigrants presently make up about 5% of the American workforce. They do many of the jobs that native-born Americans do not want to do. That has been proven in states like Alabama (where I live) and Georgia when there were crackdowns on their presence and the immigrants fled. Crops rotted in the fields as there was no one to do the work that the migrant workers were doing. Was everyone in those states fully employed? No. Work is available, but it is not the work that people want to do or they are not qualified to do it. Motivation decreases to take advantage of lower level jobs that are available or the education offered for free when there is government assistance waiting for people at every turn.
You cannot deal with illegal immigration and LEGAL immigration as well and think that the jobs vacated will be automatically filled without simultaneously reducing aid to poor native-born Americans who have no real incentive to take very difficult, low paying jobs that undocumented immgrants have taken. All that you are going to have is a massive hole. Trump does not address this situation at all. We must deal with welfare reform and dependency culture, which means that we must also deal with systemic, generational poverty and its causes while maintaining an appropriate public safety net. That is a HUGE situation that gets into a host of issues.
Education/Worker Training Reform. In addition to this, all over America there are good, better paying jobs that exist that regions of the country cannot fill. Just recently, for example, Hyundai Motor America CEO Dave Zuchowski, said that Hyundai might not build its projected $1.1 Billion auto plant expansion in the Montgomery area because of a dearth of properly trained workers. It makes sense for Hyundai to put the plant here in every conceivable way because their main plant and suppliers are already located here and the Kia plant is just across the Georgia state line. All of their infrastructure is here. But, Hyundai has a major problem finding workers who are capable of doing the job here. They have to recruit out of state for workers and still have trouble finding the right ones. There are tens of thousands of unemployed people in the Central Alabama area, but very few who are educated, skilled, or qualified to do the job required. This is a problem across the country.
You cannot deal with the immigration issue without also dealing with the education issue and the lack of properly trained and motivated workers for our economy. We throw out the 90+ million number of working age Americans who are not in the workforce and we think that that constitutes this massive pool of unemployed, trained, motivated people out looking for a job but cannot find one because employers keep giving jobs away to illegal immigrants who work for pennies on the dollar. All of that is a myth. The reality is that there are thousands and thousands of jobs that go unfilled because employers cannot find trained, motivated workers. We must deal with education and worker training.
I do agree with Trump on one issue, though. If employers manipulate the system (and this does happen) to give H-1B visas to foreign workers so that they can pay a much lower wage to them instead of paying a competitive wage to equally qualified American workers, they should be fined heavily. That is an abuse of the system that harms everyone and circumvents the purpose of the H-1B Visa program.
Children/Family Unity. Trump has said that he will send all undocumented immigrants out of the country and dismantle the DACA and DAPA programs that provides protection for dependent children brought here when they were young and parents of children born here and who are now U.S. Citizens. He will abolish "birthright citizenship." We currently have 11+ million undocumented immigrants here in the United States. Many have been here for a decade or more. Where will he send them? Their country of origin, no doubt, but how will that happen exactly? The idea is that if they cannot work, then they will leave on their own. But, if they have children who are U.S. Citizens and who are allowed to be here by law, they will, in many cases, leave them here in the same way that Moses' mother sent Moses down the Nile in a basket to save him from death. Parents want a better future for their children. Many who have fled here know that no matter what, their children will fare better here than wherever they are being sent. Recent reports say that there are up to 4.5 million children who were born here and are U.S. citizens who have one or both parents who are undocumented. So, we are talking about millions of families being split up or deporting children who are actually U.S. citizens. That is unlawful and immoral.
You cannot solve the current situation in a humane way by breaking up families. For whatever reason that people came here - and let's be honest, we have had a business and government collusion to create this situation for the past 30 years - the fact is that for America to be great, as Trump wants, it must also be good, as Tocqueville reportedly said. Ripping families apart and sending away children who are American citizens is neither great nor good. We can and must do better. We must deal with family unity.
Population Decrease. Baby Boomers are retiring en masse year after year. In 1950, the worker to retiree ratio was around 16:1. Now, it is around 3:1. Baby Boomers and succeeding generations have aborted 55 million babies. Recent reports state that without abortion, there would have been approximately an extra 120 million people in America (aborted children having children, etc) to work and enlarge the economy as both producers and consumers. A population that ceases replacing itself because it chooses to not have children cannot be expected to survive. Immigrants somewhat alleviate this problem - they mask it, really. If we take away the immigrants, where do the workers come from? They have to come from the 90+ million here and not working, but that is another problem, as we have already discussed.
The best way to solve all of this while securing the border and enhancing internal security is to provide legal status for the undocumented immigrants who are already here, especially those who were brought here as children (not their own choice) and now have nowhere else to go - this IS their country. In addition, legal status must be provided for the parents of children who are U.S. citizens so they are not placed in the foster care system costing untold amounts to U.S. taxpayers. Any "solution" that does not take into consideration these factors is both immoral and inhumane and is not fitting any kind of description of what a "great" nation would do.
I am all for Americans being first in line to get American jobs and the way that American companies are allowed to move factories/production overseas is deplorable. The whole system of corporate taxes, lack of tariffs on imported goods, and the way that American corporations can keep billions of dollars sheltered offshore needs to be addressed. We have factories overseas that essentially use slave labor so that Americans can have cheap goods imported in while American jobs disappear. Someone gets rich off of that and it isn't the American worker. But, the way to solve that problem is not to deal with illegal immigration or LEGAL immigration first as Senator Sessions proposes. The way to solve that is to address the practices of American businesses as well as the corporate tax structure that disincentives their residency in the United States. It is a complicated problem. The Mexican immigrant is not the source of it.
The reality is that if you remove the immigrant workforce that is here both legally and illegally, you leave a HUGE hole in the American economy that will not be filled by the 90+ million Americans who are of working age but are not presently working. You have to disincentivize dependency, reform our education and worker training system, keep families together, address the corporate tax structure, reinvigorate the American workforce, economy, and regulatory and tax systems, and encourage the building and growth of the American family in such as way that America becomes far more stable, entreprenurial, trained, and business friendly at every level than it has been in the past. The fact that Trump is first talking about illegal immigration instead of all of the surrounding issues tells me that he is demagoguing instead of really addressing the issues that are hurting our nation.
America can only be great if she is good. We are in a difficult situation when it comes to immigration. Migrants are moving all over the world. Europe is facing real challenges in this area as well. The way to solve them is not to just build walls, but to build a society that is good and works for the people who reside in it. You cannot solve the immigration problem without addressing the causes that led to it. But, here we are. How do we develop solutions from this point that are moral and humane for the people who are here? How do we actually benefit the American worker by addressing the larger economic issues and systems that led us to this point? And, how do we treat immigrants humanely as people made in God's image?
Trump is focusing on the weakest and most powerless in this equation because he benefits by tapping into the anger of Americans who are mad at a system they feel is stacked against them. He is focusing on the immigrant who came looking for work and a better life, the children who were brought here by others, the parent who came here for whatever reason and who had children here, and those who have nowhere else to go. The ethos of America inscribed on the Statue of Liberty calling for the "tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to be free" and the call of George Washington who said America was to be "an asylum for the poor and oppressed of all nations and religions" has given way to a desire to build a wall and throw weak, poor people out so we can just have the "best and brightest." But, in bringing out this focus, Trump obscures the larger problems with our economy and political structure and he does so for his own political gain.
Trump's plan is Terrible, Horrible, No Good, and Very Bad not entirely because of what it says about security and the primacy of enforcing the law and providing jobs for American workers. Those can be good things if they are seen as part of a larger perspective and if they are handled well. Trump's plan is terrible because of what he does not address and because he uses immigrants as a scapegoat for other problems that are unrelated to them. In many ways, his solutions will make these problems worse if they are all that we do. Instead of a "Security First" approach, we need a "Security Plus . . ." approach that also considers the needs of children, families, businesses, and the way that we welcome newcomers to our nation. If we alter our national identity from being a nation, as Washington says, that was meant to be "an asylum for the poor and oppressed," then what have we really gained? If we gain the whole world and lose our soul, then what are we really fighting for?
Solving the immigration problem in America requires wisdom and actual governing. It requires humility and a proper assessment of what led us into this situation. You cannot go in and just say, "You're fired!" and snap your fingers and make everything right by force of will. We are dealing with real people and lives and children - all made in the image of God. The issues are complex and once you address one thing, you have five other things that are affected. "Getting rid of the illegals" taps into people's emotions, but it doesn't solve anything. Where are they going to go? I have asked people that and they say, "I don't care. Just get them out of here." Well, that perspective is not helpful, moral, or Christian. It does not reflect a "great" America. It describes an America that is fearful, weak, and unable to absorb anyone who doesn't come with loads of cash and connections. That kind of America does exist and Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions, and Ann Coulter are tapping into it. But, if we are not "good" then how can we be "great"? Trump really has no idea.