The Signal? Yet more ugly anti-immigrant gutter politics.
Last week, the administration unveiled its latest xenophobic policy monstrosity. The target? H-1B visa holders, the high-tech workers who for years have been allowed into the country—not as an act of altruism on America’s part, but because it has been generally recognized that if the US immigration system is a magnet for skilled scientists, doctors, entrepreneurs, computer specialists, and so on, the country benefits tremendously.
Now, however, as Trump and Stephen Miller batten down the country’s hatches, any and all immigrants—especially those who are nonwhite—are viewed as the enemy. The new proposal the administration is mulling would require that companies wanting to hire workers under the H-1B visa program pay them such extraordinarily high wages that, in practice, almost no employer would be willing to do so.
This has nothing to do with the administration’s concern for workers’ rights. After all, in 2016 Trump declared that he opposed any federal minimum wage; and since his inauguration, he has gone out of his way to appoint cabinet members, such as Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, who march in lockstep with the Senate’s GOP majority in opposing increases in the existing federal minimum wage. Instead, this is all about scapegoating immigrants for the economic insecurity faced by a growing proportion of the American workforce.
This death-by-a-thousand-cuts approach to immigration, using regulatory changes in lieu of congressional law, is already having a calamitous effect on the lives of millions of would-be immigrants and their families. Some of these men, women, and children simply won’t be able to apply for visas and residency rights. Those who were already in the process of doing so are seeing their applications put into deep freeze. Some are seeing their legal status change overnight; others are simply being deported with zero due process.
America is currently admitting no new refugees and has locked down the border with Mexico against pretty much all asylum seekers too.
The rationale is essentially that the pandemic is too dangerous to honor normal procedures and protections. Yet this same administration, attempting to shore up a crashing economy, is trying to convince millions of Americans to go out in public and interact, with no respect for social distancing. If, as now seems likely, this leads to a second peak in Covid-19 infections and deaths, it will have everything to do with Trump’s crude and irresponsible messaging and nothing to do with immigrants and refugees.
“We see the humanitarian system being decimated, at least regarding the US-Mexico border,” Olga Byrne, the New York City–based director of US immigration for the International Rescue Committee, told me. “The laws we have on the books—US laws—unequivocally provide for the right to seek asylum. It’s undebatable.”
Byrne doesn’t buy the administration’s argument that the pandemic makes it impossible to admit asylum-seekers while still protecting Americans’ health. After all, the IRC already runs a welcome center in Phoenix for asylum-seekers. It already has health protocols, screenings, and temperature checks; has the ability to run in-depth medical-history interviews with skilled staff; and has isolation facilities for those with contagious diseases.
But instead of utilizing facilities such as the IRC’s, the administration is simply dumping asylum seekers back into Mexico, where they often end up in overwhelmed camps that have no ability to monitor the spread of Covid-19.
Meanwhile, as the country nears 100,000 fatalities from the pandemic, Trump’s master class in distraction continues. Some examples of this week’s Noise include Trump retweeting a particularly coarse tweet calling Hillary Clinton “the Skank” and, with zero evidence to substantiate his claim, accusing TV host Joe Scarborough of being a murderer.
Don’t get sucked into these distractions. Focus on the important stuff, be it the administration’s disastrous handling of the pandemic and its increasingly overt cheerleading for the anti–social distancing brigade; or the anti-immigrant policies being rolled out on a near-daily basis; or the ongoing efforts to prevent Americans from voting by mail; or the deranged idea, touted last week—shortly after Trump had announced that the US military is developing a new “super-duper missile”—that Washington might renew nuclear testing for the first time since 1992.
This isn’t idle chatter. It’s super-duper dangerous and super-duper irresponsible.
That’s the Signal. Stay healthy, and stay focused on removing this loathsome man and his gargoyle administration from power in November.