As the impeachment inquiry continues, important political battles continue to play out on other terrain. There’s a lot of Signal out there at the moment.
On the immigration front, Trump keeps throwing red meat to his base, and the lower courts keep putting holds on his plans. This week, a coalition of advocacy groups won a huge but little-reported victory after suing to block the administration’s recently announced “presidential proclamation” barring would-be immigrants who can’t afford to buy private insurance from accessing visas to enter the country.
The Migration Policy Institute had estimated that this rewriting of immigration policy would prevent some 375,000 people a year from migrating to the United States, thus shredding the family reunification principles embedded in the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act.
Over the weekend, Judge Michael Simon of the federal district court in Portland, Oregon, issued a nationwide temporary restraining order preventing the administration from implementing the proclamation. For now, at least, this attempt at an end run around Congress on immigration has been put on hold.
That’s the good news. On the bad-news front, the administration is suggesting that it is about to expand the Muslim travel ban. Sources told CNN the administration would likely target fewer than five countries—but since the Supreme Court last year upheld the national security arguments used to justify the ban, in theory there’s really no limit on how many countries from which Trump can prevent entry. This isn’t about improving security; it’s pretty clear from Trump’s incoherent Syria policy that he isn’t thinking in terms of grand geopolitical strategy. Rather, it’s an election-year gimmick intended to shore up Trump’s nativist credentials.
And while immigration restrictions continue to animate Trump and his nativist and Islamophobic base, he’s also mindful of the need to court other vital parts of his GOP coalition: big business and evangelicals.
Hence, to keep the religious right on board, the Department of Health and Human Services has proposed rules that—in a rollback of a 2016 Obama administration regulation—will once again allow faith-based welfare agencies to refuse to process foster-care cases and adoptions for LGBTQ families.
And to keep big business onside, Trump plans yet another assault on Obama-era environmental protections. This time, the Environmental Protection Agency is rolling back pollution controls on coal-fired power plants. The result will be dirtier water and air and, in particular, permission for companies to dump water contaminated with toxic metals into local waterways.
That’s the Signal. And the Noise? The sound of thousands of people once again booing a lawless president, this time when Trump showed his face at a mixed martial arts fight at Madison Square Garden.