Update, April 18 at 12:05 pm:

On April 23, 2017, almost exactly a year ago, I wrote an Immigration Daily comment predicting the kinds of attempts to dismantle America's legal immigration system which Donald Trump is now engaging in through his speeches, as described below, and administrative action, to be discussed in a forthcoming comment.

I also predicted that Trump might be disappointed if he expected his appointed Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch to rubber-stamp Trump's immigration policies. This prediction turns out to have been justified by Justice Gorsuch's choosing to vote with the liberal Justices on April 17 in the deportation case of Sessions v. Dimaya.

For my comment from April of last year, see:


My comment from earlier today follows below:

Sometimes I am asked why my comments on this site focus so much on Donald Trump's immigration policies, even though, according to one perspective, Trump is only a part of the overall immigration picture, and allegedly only a small part at that.

According to this argument, despite Trump's unrelenting anti-immigrant rhetoric and attempts to demonize Hispanic, Muslim, African and Asian immigrants as "criminals", "terrorists", "hut dwellers" and "job stealers" respectively, not to mention the use of harsher language such as "snakes" and, most notoriously of all, citizens of "shithole countries"; and his many calls to change the immigration laws to eliminate visa categories which have been helpful to areas of the world which do not contain "countries like Norway"; there have in fact been no significant changes in the immigration laws in the "Trump Era" so far, and the legal immigration system continues to operate in basically the same way as it did under previous administrations.

According to this view, much, if admittedly not all, of the legal immigration system is still functioning without any major damage or impairment. EB-5 still lives on; parents of US citizens (including those of First Lady Melania Trump) are still arriving in the US with green cards even though Trump has vigorously called for abolishing this and some other family visa categories; the H-1B lottery is still taking place, even as Trump tries to make these visas more complicated and difficult to obtain than before; and most of the employment-based green card system is still intact.

Foreign visitors and students are still coming to the US in large numbers from every part of the world, even if those numbers, according to some figures, are reduced from previous years.

Certainly, on the unauthorized side of the immigration ledger, people who entered the country without permission or overstayed their visas are having a harder time in the "Trump Era", but hey - they aren't supposed to be here anyway! So if a 7 year old child is incarcerated by ICE two thousand miles away from her mother, or non-criminal immigrants are arrested by ICE on their way to court or to the hospital, who do they have to blame but themselves? At least so the argument runs.

Besides, isn't the all-time US record for deportations still held by a Democratic president, Barack Obama? And wasn't the harsh IIRIRA immigration law of 1996 signed by another Democratic president, Bill Clinton (who also blockaded Haiti to stop refugees from leaving that country - something that arguably goes far beyond Trump's Muslim ban - which itself has been considerably watered down from what was originally intended)?

Certainly there is an argument to be made that focusing on Trump is one sided and limited - there is much more to immigration in America than only the speeches and actions of this one US president.

But for the reasons I will explain below, I believe that this is a narrow and shortsighted view, one which overlooks or soft pedals the very real dangers to America's legal immigration system from a president who is openly committed to making drastic changes in, or even destroying, many of its most important and fundamental features.

First, there is the immense power of the president of the United States to set the national mood toward just about any issue. Under President Obama, even with his record high number of deportations, immigration detention abuses and other many shortcomings in the administration of the immigration system, the general approach to legal immigration was one of welcome - from every part of the world.

One might even say the this was part of Obama's overall optimistic"Yes, we can!" philosophy.

In contrast, one could say that Trump's basic attitude toward legal immigration, especially from outside Europe, is rooted in a fundamentally dark view of immigration, if not the world in general (and I am not referring only to the skin color of the people whom Trump wants so much to keep out!) which could be summed up in the words:"No, we ban."

The power of the president to set the climate in which the details of any given issue or set of policies are determined is immense. This used to be known once upon a time as the "bully pulpit" and it is now known as the tweet.

It is hard to deny that Donald Trump is radically changing the immigration climate in America (even as he is very arguably putting the entire planet in danger by doing everything possible to advance climate change in the atmosphere and oceans, and turn the EPA into a polluters agency, not an environmental protection one - but this beyond the scope of these comments).

Every US president and administration for the past half century, ever since the landmark civil rights era reform of 1965 which was intended to end 40 years of open racism and white supremacy in our immigration laws embodied in the "Nordics"-only immigration quotas of the 1924 law, has distinguished between legal immigration, which has been supported as being one of America's most fundamental values, and illegal immigration, which has of course been opposed.

Donald Trump, however, is very arguably the first US president since Calvin Coolidge openly to condemn legal immigration as well as illegal immigration as a danger to America, and to call for drastic changes in the immigration laws aimed at not only cutting down on overall legal immigration numbers, but making it harder for immigrants from outside Europe to come to or stay in America legally.

This is most evident in his support for the RAISE Act, which would be a major step back toward the white supremacist 1924 law; and in Trump's own "framework" for, inter alia, eliminating extended family immigration - falsely and maliciously referred to by restrictionists by the term "chain migration"; as well as eliminating the diversity visa lottery - which no politicians in either party had a problem with in its original ("AA-1") whites (almost) only form before 1994, but which Trump now condemns without any evidence as dangerous to national security when most of the beneficiaries come from Africa and other places outside Europe.

Anyone who thinks that Trump can continue to attack legal as well as unauthorized immigrants, week after week, in speech after speech, rally after rally and tweet after tweet, as "criminals", "rapists", "drug dealers", "'gang members" "terrorists", "cheap labor" and people who do not "love America" or "share our values", while appointing people with ties to restrictionist groups which the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has labeled as "hate organizations" to key positions in the administration or the immigration bureaucracy - see my forthcoming comments on this point - without this leading to major changes in many different aspects of our legal immigration system is simply putting on the blinders and engaging in self-delusion.

In my next comment on this topic I will show how Trump is using the vast administrative power over immigration which the federal courts originally bestowed on the executive branch in an earlier, openly white supremacist, era dating back to the notorious Chinese exclusion laws of the late 19th century, to dismantle key parts of, if not totally destroy, America's legal immigration system as we now know it without needing or receiving Congressional approval.

Roger Algase
Attorney at Law