Trump Immigration Agenda

The Trump administration has faced consistent opposition in its drive to implement aggressive changes to U.S. immigration policy. Friday will mark Donald Trump’s 100th day in office. The day is important for another reason as well. On Friday, a budget will need to be passed in order to avoid a government shutdown.

Democratic lawmakers have threatened non-cooperation if funding for a border wall is included. Wary of this, the administration has backed down on its demand for funding to be allocated for wall construction.

This situation is similar to the one encountered by Republican lawmakers over the recent health care bill, which was pulled before it could be put to a vote. A failure of the bill would have been seriously damaging to Republican credibility.

The wall is likely to be an uphill struggle for some time. It may also never come to be in the form that was originally suggested on the campaign trail. The president has made it clear that this is nothing more than a temporary retreat.

He insists that the wall will be built sooner or later. Trump may have to settle for more funds directed toward the border, despite his insistence that the wall will not go away and that funding can be pushed further down the line, perhaps until next fall.

A few weeks ago I did some simple math on the wall’s construction costs. Calculations indicated that the project was likely to cost, as a bare minimum, somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 billion for raw materials alone.

Most estimates place the price of a completed border wall at approximately $20 billion or more.  An alternative could be to eventually seek funding for an elaborate electronic border wall, which would cost far less. Mexico still asserts that it has no intention to render payment.

Elsewhere, on Tuesday, a Ninth Circuit Court judge blocked a portion of Trump’s January 25 executive order on immigration, which threatened to take away federal funds from uncooperative sanctuary cities. Judge William H. Orrick, in issuing the injunction, chose to cite Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion on a 2012 Supreme Court decision, which determined that the Affordable Care Act unconstitutionally forced states to augment their Medicaid programs. Orrick argued that states must be able to choose whether they want to accept conditions set by the federal government.

Trump has promised to take the issue to the Supreme Court, which he feels will provide a more favorable outcome. There is reason to believe that this might be the case. The recent confirmation of Neil Gorsuch has shifted the balance of power on the court to the conservative side. A conservative majority in the Supreme Court may be a wild card with respect to issues surrounding federal power over states, however.

Still elsewhere, Trump’s travel ban has been blocked twice. During his presidential campaign, Trump strongly implied that it would specifically be a ban on Muslims entering the country. Since then, the administration has watered down its language in an attempt to make it more palatable.

The first attempt, from January 27, resulted in a chaotic response and outrage from many. It was blocked by a court in February. Among other relatively strict sections, this measure declared that the entry of Syrian refugees is, “detrimental to the interests of the United States.” It also capped the number of refugees allowed entry into the U.S. each year at 50,000.

The second, from March 6, revised and reduced attempt was blocked by a judge in Hawaii. It featured some changes, among them the removal of Iraq from the list of blacklisted countries in exchange for a promise of increased participation from the Iraqi government. This new version also did not include legal permanent residents. These changes were meant to make the ban more legally defensible.

U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions commented on this failure, expressing his amazement that, “a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific,” could block the measure. A judge in Maryland later blocked it as well.

The rhetoric surrounding the ban may sap billions in tourism dollars over the next few years independently of its implementation in addition to the other ripples of damage that may spread far and wide. For example, Emirates Airlines has decided to reduce the number of flights on five of its U.S. routes and blames the travel ban.

Earlier this month, A spokeswoman for Emirates said, “The recent actions taken by the U.S. government relating to the issuance of entry visas, heightened security vetting and restrictions on electronic devices in aircraft cabins have had a direct impact on consumer interest and demand for air travel into the U.S.” 

Political support for and opposition to the ban is split between Democratic and Republican states. It has been heavily criticized as discriminatory by human rights and immigrant activist groups. It has also been attacked by tech companies. This month over 150 companies filed an amicus brief against the ban which reads, in part:

“Like the First Executive Order, the Second Order effects a fundamental shift in the rules governing entry into the United States, and is inflicting substantial harm on U.S. companies, their employees, and the entire economy. It hinders the ability of American companies to attract talented employees; increases costs imposed on business; makes it more difficult for American firms to compete in the international marketplace; and gives global enterprises a new, significant incentive to build operations—and hire new employees—outside the United States.”

Donald Trump is encountering some of the same legal troubles as Barack Obama. This trend is only likely to continue. Despite the challenges this administration is making waves and its immigration policies are having far-reaching effects. Hard-line conservatives are, no doubt, elated.

This blunt, unrefined, American-centric, and vaguely xenophobic rhetoric is slowly accumulating over time. As it does, the voice and image of the federal government will continue to transform. Determination toward the end of implementing and solidifying the intended changes, regardless of the success or failure of this endeavor, it may only yield more American division domestically and more unpopularity abroad.

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