There’s a lot to discuss in the immigration issue. But what is going on at our border is not an immigration issue. It’s an invasion orchestrated by cartels and smugglers and is an emergency national security issue. Now is not the time to shift debate to the visa system, as important as that issue might be. The president doesn’t need a new legislative proposal to protect our border, and his sole focus, at least in the immediate future, should be using existing national defense and immigration law to combat the cartels and shut down all immigration processing at the border.
I have nothing against the president’s latest immigration plan, largely spearheaded by his son-in-law. If we could press a magic button and make it become law, there would only be positive benefits with no downsides. By all accounts, it appears that the bill, which has not been fully drafted yet, would close the border loopholes and abolish the diversity visa lottery and much of chain migration. Rather than pocketing the much-needed cuts in immigration numbers, though, the proposal calls for backfilling the exact same level of immigration with a higher-skilled “merit-based” criterion. While it’s disappointing that there are no cuts, it’s still much better than the status quo, which is not merit-based at all.
The problem is that it’s just not what the doctor ordered. It’s like a person who has a leak in his roof, but then a river floods his basement. While the roof was certainly important to focus on the day before, it is a moot issue unless he deals with his basement first. Trump campaigned on getting rid of chain migration. But family-based legal immigration is simply not nearly as severe as the illegal immigrant chain migration pouring over our border and all its fiscal, health, and national security concerns. Moreover, the latter can and must be dealt with using current law, while fixing the former requires Congress, something that will never happen at this point.
Therefore, to make this debate about a “comprehensive” look at the immigration system rather than the loss of our sovereignty at our land border, with all its perilous cascading effects on our society and security, is definitely a huge distraction. While moving toward a merit-based system is important, rather than expending his political capital on cutting chain migration and allowing the media to change the conversation to legal immigration, Trump should be giving a speech on a plan to shut off the border flow using his powers under 8 U.S.C 1182(f) and other aspects of current law.
While Kushner’s plan would include border fixes, the main discussion and focus will now be on the visa system: a major distraction in our current emergency.
Furthermore, this proposal feeds the notion that we need Congress to enforce current law that was passed in 1996 to prevent this sort of problem. Congress will never pass a new law, and thus, countenancing the premise that we need new laws to fix this is condemning us to an open border for the remainder of the presidency. We don’t need a comprehensive immigration deal to uphold the letter and spirit of the president’s emergency powers under national defense, as well as the provisions of the 1996 immigration law. We get that for free. Save the negotiations over fixing chain migration for the second term.
Also, if the president wants to spawn “a discussion” with this proposal, the only way to impel serious action from Congress is to begin using his current authority to take executive actions. A complete shutoff of immigration at the border, along with the buildup of the military to combat the national security issues, will force the issue of the border to the top of the public consciousness and pressure Congress to play ball. Furthermore, if Trump were to announce a 90-day warning under the Administrative Procedure Act that he is terminating DACA, that would also force a discussion from a position of strength. As of now, over 373,000 amnesty papers have been renewed under this administration, so the Democrats feel they get it for free without any negotiation.
This week might just have coincided with Jared Kushner’s completion of his latest project. Fine. But next week, the president should follow up with a series of executive actions using current laws. Rather than trying to craft a messaging bill that is too large, ask McConnell to hold votes on stand-alone proposals dealing with sanctuaries, criminal aliens, cartels, and gangs.
This is all for messaging. Ultimately, the only leverage to pass anything legislatively comes through the budget process and “must-pass” legislation. Trump should make it clear that the disaster bills or any spending deal must address his border priorities, and he should absolutely stand behind a veto threat unless they are included. Right now, Democrats are only agreeing to provide more funding for care of illegal aliens but not for expanded detention space or more resources for ICE deportations.
It would be nice to have the luxury to focus on new immigration ideas today. Sadly, that will have to wait until after the election. The reality of what has happened to our border in recent months has countered years’ worth of progress on illegal immigration. We’ve gone backward. As such, we simply can’t afford to wait another year and a half for the next election to actually have a border again. Let’s reclaim our border; then we can debate our visa system. Otherwise, there is no country left to which people can immigrate at all.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.