Saturday, April 6, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He took every possible stance on immigration.

Several times this week, and again in an interview released today, Trump has tried out a new line: that asylum seekers are no longer welcome because the United States is "full."

Trump saying so doesn't change refugee law, although he's correct that asylum claims are up. By cutting aid aimed at reducing the number of people fleeing Central America, by promoting the still-mythical "wall," and by denouncing America's immigration laws, Trump himself is the reason that many asylum-seekers are choosing to risk the journey now.

But at the same time that he's insisting that America is "full," Trump is nearly doubling the number of H-2B visas available. These visas are supposed to be for short-term workers when there are no qualified American applicants, although employers—including Trump's businesses—often issue them illegally to hire foreign workers at lower wages than Americans living full-time in the country can afford. 

For example, when Trump's Mar-a-Lago club wants to hire seasonal workers, it technically complies with the law by running a small ad in a local newspaper for two days, then applies for visas on the grounds that it cannot find Americans qualified to work as cooks, bartenders, waitstaff, and housekeepers. The result is that 143 such jobs at Mar-a-Lago and other Trump resorts in the last three years have gone to H-2B visa employees, who were paid as little as $10.33/hour, and one single American citizen was hired.

Trump also has a long history of illegally employing undocumented foreigners at his businesses, but those would not be affected by the availability of legal work permits.

Why should I care about this?

  • Presidents don't get to ignore or rewrite the law when it suits their political needs.
  • The overall welfare of the country should be a bigger factor in immigration policy than keeping wages down at the president's golf courses.