immigration debate
October 27, 2020

Immigration has taken a back seat in the 2020 election. For starters, analysts say, the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout have dominated the discussion for months, while racial injustice and the Supreme Court have also emerged as major stories in the lead up to Nov. 3. Still, a review from The Wall Street Journal shows how sharply President Trump's messaging on immigration has declined in the last four years.

Immigration was a driving factor for Trump in 2016 — with a particular emphasis on building a southern border wall — when it was the fourth most mentioned issue in his television campaign ads, but in 2020 it's barely cracked the top 10. (Similarly, terrorism went from being the third-most mentioned issue to falling out of the top 10 entirely.)

A lot of that has to do with the shifting circumstances and priorities in the U.S., but some Republicans think the campaign realized Trump was overzealous in his efforts to curb immigration in 2018, eventually costing the party votes in the midterm elections.

"I don't think it's a coincidence that we haven't heard a whole lot about immigration since Election Day 2018," Alex Conant, a former senior adviser to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), told the Journal. "He tried to make the midterms all about immigration and it failed horribly."

Former Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), who lost his re-election bid, also said he thinks Trump's "divisive rhetoric" and "scapegoating" contributed to defeat.

That doesn't mean the Trump campaign is completely ignoring the issue. Writes the Journal, the progressive advocacy group Immigration Hub has found that more than 20 percent of Trump's Facebook ads over the past month have focused on immigration, so the strategy has evidently shifted more toward "micro targeting." Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell

July 15, 2019

The Trump administration is taking another step toward curbing immigration at the southern border. The new motion will surely face some fierce opposition.

A new rule, which is expected to be published in the Federal Register and go into effect on Tuesday, has declared asylum seekers who pass through another country first without applying for asylum in that country ineligible for asylum upon reaching the southern border of the United States, The Associated Press reports.

The rule would effectively end asylum protections for most Central American migrants, unless they are victims of human trafficking, were denied asylum in the country they passed through first, or if the the country they passed through does not adhere to one of the major international treaties governing how refugees are managed. It also applies to children who have crossed the border alone.

The policy is expected to face a legal challenge, AP reports. Currently, U.S. law makes no distinction between asylum requests — refugees can apply regardless of how they arrived in the United States, though there is one exception to the law. The U.S. and Canada have a mutual "safe third country" agreement. That is, asylum must be requested in whichever country the migrant arrives in first. What qualifies a country as "safe" under the Immigration and Nationality Act is vague, but, either way, an agreement is supposed to be "pursuant to a bilateral or multilateral agreement." That does not appear to be what's happening here. Tim O'Donnell

June 29, 2019

The German captain of a humanitarian rescue ship risked 10 years' imprisonment when she rammed an Italian police motorboat off the coast of Lampedusa on Saturday.

The 31-year-old Carola Rackete was captaining a ship carrying 40 migrants who were rescued in the Mediterranean Sea from an unseaworthy vessel launched from Libya when her ship was blocked by the much smaller police boat. No one was injured.

Rackete reportedly was tired of waiting for permission to dock after 17 days at sea and a multi-day standoff with Italian authorities. Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who is known for his anti-immigrant stances, refused to let Rackete's ship dock in Lampedusa until other European Union countries agreed to take in the migrants on board — Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, and Portugal pledged to do so on Friday.

Rackete was arrested for her actions, which excited "jeering" onlookers, The Associated Press reports, though others applauded when the migrants disembarked. The migrants reportedly hugged the ship's crew for their rescue efforts.

In addition to the possibility of a decade-long sentence, Rackete could also face a fine as high 50,000 euros — the result of a recent Salvini-backed law cracking down on private rescue vessels, AP reports.

The arrest, like the larger debate surrounding immigration, has split opinions across Europe — the leaders of Germany's Green Party and the Protestant Church have thrown their support behind Rackete, while Salvini and a Sicilian prosecutor criticized her for putting lives at risk. Tim O'Donnell

June 10, 2019

It's official.

After much speculation over what leadership role he would serve in the Department of Homeland Security, The Hill reported on Monday that former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) will take over as the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that administers the country's legal immigration system. Cuccinelli is a hardliner on immigration, who in the past has advocated for ending birthright citizenship and militarizing the border, and served as the chief patron for a proposed Virginia bill that would have allowed employers to fire employees who didn't speak English in the workplace.

His fellow Virginian, Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), has pointed to his extremist views as reason enough to reject his confirmation, should President Trump eventually choose Cuccinelli to lead the USCIS permanently.

The Hispanic Caucus, an organization consisting of Democratic members of Congress advocating for issues related to Hispanics and Latinos in the U.S., has also already expressed concern over Cuccinelli's new role, fearing he will advance an anti-immigration agenda.

But it's not just the other side of the aisle that wants to prevent Cuccinelli from advancing into a permanent role. He's made quite a few enemies within the GOP, as well, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has reportedly vowed to block Cuccinelli from getting confirmed to any position. Tim O'Donnell

May 25, 2019

President Trump has tapped Ken Cuccinelli as the new director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

While Cuccinelli's hiring was reported as early as Tuesday, it remained unclear what exactly Cuccinelli's role in the Department of Homeland Security would be. He'll replace the agency's current director, L. Francis Cissna, whom The Washington Post describes as having "deep expertise" when it comes to immigration law, but was forced out following criticism from Trump senior policy adviser, Stephen Miller.

Cuccinelli is considered an immigration hardliner and is known for his "combative" television appearances and enthusiastic support for Trump's immigration proposals. He has, however, drawn ire from both Republicans and Democrats. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has reportedly vowed to block Cuccinelli from getting confirmed for any position. McConnell reportedly blames Cuccinelli for promoting insurgent candidates running against sitting Republicans during the 2014 midterm elections. Tim O'Donnell

August 13, 2018

Amy and Marco Becerra are both U.S. citizens, and while they were living in Marco's native Peru — he has dual citizenship — they fostered then adopted an infant girl, Angela. They decided to move back to Colorado so Angela could "have the opportunities that are available here, the education that’s available here," Amy Becerra told Colorado's KDVR News. But because it was a domestic adoption, not an international adoption, they had trouble getting Angela the proper immigration papers. They brought her to Colorado on a tourist visa, which expires at the end of August, and last week, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) denied Angela's application for citizenship.

"I don’t know what it takes to reopen a case," Amy Becerra told KDVR. The appeals process will take longer than a few weeks, and "if she expires her visa, she is officially here as an undocumented alien, and legally is at risk for deportation even though both her parents are citizens." Their congressman, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), saw the news report and agreed. "I mean this is beyond belief," he told KDVR, adding that his office is working with the Denver USCIS office to expedite a new process for the Becerras. "We believe there were errors in that process," he added, calling their case a symptom of America's "broken immigration system."

David Bier, an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute, tells Reason he thinks the problem is that the Becerras brought Angela to the country on a tourist visa, and immigration lawyer Matt Kolken added that he thinks the Becerras can get Angela a green card from inside the U.S. "Just because she becomes an undocumented immigrant for a temporary period, if you're a minor and you're the child of U.S. citizens you should be able to get a green card and get this fixed," Bier adds. Peter Weber

August 9, 2018

On Fox News Wednesday night, Laura Ingraham took issue with comments by "new socialist 'it' girl" Alexandria Ocasia-Cortez. Ingraham defended minivans against a perceived slight and asked how Ocasio-Cortez knows about America "from her loft in Queens" — and then she went full nativist.

"In some parts of the country, it does seem like the America that we know and love doesn't exist anymore," Ingraham said. "Massive demographic changes have been foisted upon the American people. And they're changes that none of us ever voted for and most of us don't like." She specifically cited "both illegal and in some cases legal immigration."

"This is exactly what socialists like Ocasio-Cortez want," Ingraham argued: "Eventually diluting and overwhelming your vote with the votes of others who aren't, uh let's face it, too big on Adam Smith and the Federalist Papers." Journalist Jeff Bercovici joked that Ingraham had a point.

On CNN, Chris Cuomo offered a rebuttal. President Trump "doesn't want immigrants coming in any more than absolutely necessary," he said. "What he really wants to create is an ugly rejection of who made this country great in the first place. And you are staring at the big nose of the truth on your screen right now," he said, pointing to the proof of his Italian heritage. "So my argument is this: How many of you would be here if America was like what Trump wants it to be now? I wouldn't. Would you? ... I don't think you'd make the cut." Peter Weber

July 5, 2018

Cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits used to be the "third rail" of U.S. politics — touch it and you get burned — but "the new third rail in Republican politics is criticizing [President] Trump," Washington Examiner correspondent David Drucker writes at Vanity Fair. Off the record, however, "Republicans believe Trump is bungling an opportunity to capitalize on his unrivaled street cred with the conservative grassroots to create the political space for the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to overhaul a significant portion of the nation's outdated — horrible, a joke, the president might say — immigration laws."

The inability or unwillingness of Trump, "perhaps the most hardline anti-immigration voice in a generation" and a self-professed dealmaking maven, to make a concerted push for his party to constrict America's immigration laws is "one of the more curious aspects" of Trump's presidency, Drucker writes. And unless Trump "radically" changes his approach to "overcome the complete lack of trust on Capitol Hill" he has engendered, that won't change, he adds:

With the proper assurances, Trump could soothe his base, bring Fox News in line, and give conservative lawmakers cover to pass a bill. But congressional Republicans have no faith that Trump won't betray them if they stick their necks out for him. Who's to say they won't deliver him a bill that protects the Dreamers — one of Trump's four pillars — only to have the president complain afterward that he never really wanted to sign a bill with an "amnesty" provision but was forced into it by those wimpy Republicans in Congress? ... "The House guys are tired of getting burned," said a Republican who has advised both moderate and conservative members on immigration. "No one can ever be sure what his priority is going to be the next day." [Vanity Fair]

You can read more about Trump and the GOP's internal war over immigration at Vanity Fair. Peter Weber

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