December 3, 2022

Immigration Law & You
By R. Mark Frey

R. Mark Frey,
Immigration Law & You

No question about it. We’ve entered a new era with the Trump administration, one with a radically different take on the world – be it global warming and the environment, women, minorities, or, even immigrants.

During his first few weeks in office, President Trump signed three immigration-related executive orders (Exec. Order 13767: “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements”; Exec. Order 13768: “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States”; Exec. Order: 13780: “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States”) devoted to such matters as refugee resettlement, travel to the U.S. of noncitizens from certain predominantly Muslim countries, and immigration enforcement at the border as well as in our nation’s interior.

By all appearances, the executive orders smack of outright religious discrimination. And, the courts have weighed in with equal amounts of consternation, placing a hold on the implementation of many of their troubling features. While court review of those executive orders has garnered much public attention, another aspect has received relatively little scrutiny. As noted in a report issued by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) late last month (“Muscular Public Relations Strategy to Paint Immigrants and Immigration as Negatives Embedded Deep Within Trump Executive Orders”)* there is a huge public relations push by the Trump administration to persuade the majority of Americans that immigrants are a bad element (“bad dudes” as described by President Trump back in February) and the executive orders as well as implementing memoranda reflect that effort by mandating extensive data collection and reporting on the costs of immigration without providing context or, on balance, its positive effects.

Take, for example, President Trump’s March 6 Memorandum (“Implementing Heightened Screening and Vetting of Applications for Visas and Other Immigration Benefits”) requiring the Departments of State, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and Office of Management and Budget to provide him with a report by September 2, 2017 outlining the estimated long-term costs of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program at the federal, state, and local levels with recommendations how to “curtail those costs.” On its face, this seems reasonable. Who would argue with accountability and efforts to curb resource waste? But, looking more closely, what does the Memorandum mean in fact by “long-term costs”? How are “long-term costs” calculated? Is that balanced by consideration of the long-term contributions of refugees to our nation? And, how are costs curtailed? Could this be the initial step in establishing a mechanism for selective acceptance of refugees from countries the United States has deemed appropriate through a more palatable cost-based rationale rather than that of the administration’s earlier efforts based on religious background?

This seems likely given that another section of the Trump Memorandum is devoted to yet more reporting on costs involved in supporting refugees in “countries of first asylum (near their home countries)” while comparing that to the long-term costs of supporting them in the United States. Again, all without factoring in the benefits accruing to the United States by accepting those refugees.

What is the impact of this broad reporting requirement, and many others mandated by the executive orders and implementing memoranda, on various agencies at the federal, state, and local levels? It seem that we have yet another example of bureaucratic paper-shuffling, ultimately a waste of finite government resources.

At the same time, and more importantly from the Trump administration’s standpoint, these “reports” provide lots of “facts” to news outlets hungry for information to disseminate to the public. This selective reporting serves only to feed “an anti-immigrant propaganda machine”, ultimately fostering more division in the country and animosity towards those perceived as different from the majority.

The most troubling thing about this entire enterprise is that it is built on a comprehensive appeal to fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of the Other, and fear of one another. It’s not good for the country and it’s certainly not reflective of who we are as a nation. We’re a nation of immigrants, comprised of peoples from around the world, many of whom fled their own home countries because they were different, because they too were the Other. President Trump, you can do better.

*This report may be found at http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/muscular-public-relations-strategy-paint-immigrants-and-immigration-negatives-embedded-deep.

R. Mark Frey is a St. Paul, Minnesota attorney who has practiced immigration law exclusively for more than 25 years with an emphasis on asylum and other forms of humanitarian relief, family and marriage-based immigration, naturalization, removal defense, appeals, religious workers, and H-1B, L, and E-2 visas.

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