Monday, August 12, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He proposed yet more immigration restrictions that would have kept his family out of the United States.

Today, Trump unveiled sweeping new restrictions designed to narrow the path to citizenship for legal immigrants—unless they are very wealthy. (Or, rather, his administration did. Trump once again spent the day at the golf course, tweeting.) The proposed rule would create a new interpretation of the "public charge" provision in existing law. In effect, it would bar any legal immigrant from getting a green card if an immigration official thought they might, at any point, use a public assistance program.

In practice, what this means is that legal residents of the United States would need to demonstrate  that they had income of 250% the poverty line. For a family of four, that would be $64,375. The median household income in the United States is about $59,000.

In other words, Trump is saying that more than half of American households are "a strain on public resources" who "abuse our nation's public benefit."

As is often the case with Trump, his own family history would be very different if his immigration policies had been in place. His grandfather came to the United States with little more than a change of clothes, no fluency in English, and no immediate prospect of a job. His mother, too, had no money when she came to the United States intending to work as a household servant. (Both relatives came to live with family already established in the U.S., which Trump now calls "chain migration" and is trying to ban.)

Neither of Trump's two foreign-born wives, Ivana Trump and Melania Trump, would have been able to get a green card under these rules either—except for the fact that they married Trump. There's no evidence that during the brief time that they worked as models in the United States, either would have been able to demonstrate a sufficiently secure income. Melania Trump in particular would have had difficulty, since she appears to have worked illegally in the United States.

Why does this matter?

  • It's wrong to hold other people's families to higher standards than you hold your own.
  • Working- and middle-class Americans might not like Trump suggesting they wouldn't be good enough for the United States if they hadn't been born here.