See also, by Peter Brimelow: A Long Farewell To Donald Trump, Immigration Patriot. And Thanks.
Donald Trump’s presidency finally comes to an end this week. He departs from office impeached a second time and banned from nearly every tech platform. The Mainstream Media calls him one of the worst presidents of all time. Never-Trump Republicans are thrilled at Trump’s departure and can’t wait to bring back the Paul Ryan status quo. Even some staunch immigration patriots such as Ann Coulter are sour on him. Trump certainly had his flaws and made serious mistakes, particularly on immigration. But compared to his predecessors and his political opponents, he was a breath of fresh air. He made real progress on immigration and dragged the GOP along with him. We should remember his missed opportunities, but it’s also important to note what Trump did right.
Trump promised a national populist challenge to Conservative Inc. orthodoxy. He pledged to limit immigration, enact trade policy to protect American industry, bring the troops home, and restore law and order. Some of these pledges he met. For instance, he managed to crush ISIS without starting any new wars. On the crucial issue of immigration, he made significant strides. Immigration overall was reduced in his presidential term. There was a year-over-year decline in the Immigrant Workforce Population for 15 straight months in Trump’s final leg in office, only broken by the start of the Biden Rush in December. The decline started several months before COVID and was an even steeper than during the 2008 recession. Overall, Trump reduced immigration by 49% during his tenure [Trump Cuts Legal Immigrants By Half And He’s Not Done Yet, by Stuart Anderson, Forbes, July 21, 2020].
He achieved this though administrative actions. The Leftist media complained Trump had built an “invisible wall” against legal immigration through stricter regulations and higher standards for entry [Trump Got His Wall, After All, by Rachel Morris, HuffPo, November 24, 2019]. These new standards led to record-high denial rates for H-1B visa applicants, forcing companies to provide more proof they needed foreign workers and boosting graduates of American universities. Trump further tried to limit immigration through the public charge rule. This rule prohibited immigrants who relied on government assistance or who were likely to need such aid from receiving green cards.
Trump banned travel from dangerous areas of the world. He famously issued the so-called Muslim ban during his first days in office. The ban was later revised to include non-Muslim states such as North Korea, but it still primarily affected Muslim-majority nations such as Sudan and Iran. The president also banned travel from China at COVID’s onset, a decision that drew sharp criticism from Democrats. The decision likely saved American lives.
Trump’s signature achievement is his temporary immigration moratorium. In response to COVID’s devastation, the president halted most immigration to this country, including H-1bs and other harmful guest worker visas. He recently extended the order past his own tenure.
The expanded moratorium issued last summer aimed to protect over half a million American jobs from foreign competition. Trump single-handedly took this idea long championed by VDARE.com into the mainstream—and it was very popular with the people. Polls showed that roughly two-thirds of America backed a temporary pause to all immigration, including a plurality of Democrats. [Exclusive: In four devastating weeks, Americans' fears of the coronavirus have exploded, by Susan Page, USA Today, April 13]
The president also made it much tougher for asylum seekers and refugees to come here. Before Trump took office, many alleged asylum seekers who crossed through the southern border were allowed to stay in the U.S. while their applications were processed. Trump ended that practice and required the migrants to remain in Mexico. This change resulted in only 0.1% of applicants in Mexico being granted asylum. That’s far lower than the 20% acceptance for asylum-seekers outside of this policy.
Additionally, Trump cut America’s refugee intake to the lowest rate since the disastrous 1980 Refugee Act. Barack Obama admitted a high of 85,000 admissions a year and planned to increase it to 110,000 in the year Trump took office. But Trump progressively decreased the admissions throughout his presidency, capping admissions at just 15,000 for 2020.
Trump also zealously pursued illegal immigrants. He broadened the category of deportables compared to Obama and essentially made all illegals subject to removal. He ended catch-and-release policies that allowed for border crossers to be stay in the U.S. while they awaited their verdict [Trump Administration To End 'Catch And Release' Immigration Policy, by Richard Gonzalez, NPR, September 24, 2019]. The president also invested significant resources into border security, including building more than 400 miles of border wall (80 miles of which were areas previously unguarded) [Why is Trump visiting the border wall in the last days of his presidency?, by Mimi Dwyer, Reuters, January 12, 2021].
This of course fell short of the big, beautiful wall he promised in 2016, but it was far more than any of his 2016 opponents would have delivered. Trump went to great lengths to get wall funding, even setting off a government shutdown in 2019 over the matter and issuing an unprecedented national emergency declaration to obtain billions from the Defense budget. The 400 miles showed it worked, and the contracts he signed may force Biden to keep building more [Biden is facing high hopes, tough choices on border wall, by Norman Merchant and John L. Mone, Associated Press, December 3, 2020].
These are serious achievements in the face of the unified opposition of Establishment Republicans, Democrats and, above all, the Kritarchs, who mounted an unprecedented campaign to write an Open Borders clause into the Constitution.
Of course, we must remember Trump’s missed opportunities on immigration. He pledged to end Birthright Citizenship several times during the 2016 campaign and throughout his presidency. But he never signed the Executive Order that was reportedly drafted for him, nor did he push for Congress to pass legislation on it. The same happened with the RAISE Act, a bill he endorsed that would have halved legal immigration. He didn’t even make Congress consider his own immigration plan, which was a watered-down version of the RAISE Act. There were several other areas that he could have also pushed Congress to pass specific bills on: from sanctuary cities to mandatory e-verify and even to the Wall. The only legislation he tried to push: a deal for illegal aliens who arrived in the U.S. as minors. His proposal was unacceptable to immigration patriots as it legalized over a million illegals in exchange for a few concessions on the Wall and chain migration. It fortunately did not pass.
Trump’s inability to pass any legislation on immigration was his greatest failure. He had the opportunity when the GOP controlled both chambers of Congress, but he seemed too focused on tax cuts, healthcare, and other Establishment concerns. Patriotic immigration reform legislation might not have passed even a Republican-controlled Congress, but Trump should’ve forced the debate anyway and made his party members state their position on the issue. He could’ve detected the rats much sooner and had a more successful presidency.
Trump’s other problem with immigration: his conflicted rhetoric. He didn’t talk about immigration enough on the 2020 campaign trail and he never mentioned the moratorium at all for some unknown reason. When he did talk about immigration, it was mostly solid. He emphasized the dangers of illegal immigration, refugees, and occasionally guest workers. But he hardly talked any more about the dangers of legal immigration There were even times in his presidency, particularly in 2019, where he sounded in favor of more immigration. Thankfully, he never did anything to spur more immigration and some of the comments can be chalked up to Trumpian off-the-cuff moments. But, politically, he lost the thread.
Trump limited political vision and vocabulary kept him from fully articulating an America First immigration policy, especially after he quarreled with Ann Coulter. He reportedly doesn’t read online (or anywhere) and simply repeats what he hears from conservative media. And conservative media doesn’t like to talk about legal immigration. But while Trump may have stopped supporting an outright cut to legal immigration—his own 2019 comprehensive plan didn’t spell out cuts—his policies created that result anyway.
Overall, Trump pushed the party in a positive direction. The immigration moratorium is now a mainstream issue. Several Republicans take legal immigration seriously and want to reduce it. Three senators and 10 representatives sponsored the RAISE Act. There would’ve never even been a bill to reduce legal immigration before Trump; the talk only centered on illegal immigration.
Trump also banished talk of the kind of Amnesty the GOP Establishment wanted before he came along. Marco Rubio didn’t reintroduce the Gang of Eight Amnesty and no Republican openly said they wanted to pass an Amnesty while Trump was in office.
Even now when Amnesty legislation looms on the horizon, immigration booster Republicans don’t appear too eager to openly support it. They know the base hates it and Trump won the Republican primary due to his firm opposition towards it. But it remains to be seen if Republicans will sustain carry on this hostility toward Amnesty when Trump leaves office.
The primary compliment we owe Trump: he was far better than what we had before. His immediate predecessors were horrible on the immigration issue and eagerly pushed for Amnesty. Ronald Reagan passed Amnesty and George H.W. Bush signed the calamitous Immigration Act of 1990 into law. Trump’s opponents promised to be his exact opposite on immigration. Hillary Clinton and nearly every other Republican with the exception of Ted Cruz openly backed Amnesty. None of them would have drastically cut refugee numbers or signed the Moratorium. They would’ve all stuck to the status quo and allowed the Great Replacement to carry on.
Trump delayed it, perhaps only briefly, and offered America a serious alternative to the status quo.
The worst you can say about him is that he failed to fully accomplish his mission.
If the GOP hopes to survive during the Biden era, it must remember what elected Trump in the first place. It was immigration, stupid.
And to save this country, they must complete Trump’s mission to make our immigration policy serve Americans, not corporations or ethnic lobbies, first.
Washington Watcher II [Email him] is an anonymous DC insider.