Miller does not have to be right

On April 20th, which feels like lifetimes ago, President Trump tweeted, “In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!”

The executive order was released a couple days later as a, “Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak.”

In announcing the proclamation, Trump went a step further, “Crucially, [the proclamation] will also preserve our healthcare resources for American patients. We have to take care of our patients.”

Jobs and health care. Noted.

Jacinta Ma, the Forum’s Vice President of Policy and Advocacy, spoke with Sharvari Dalal-Dheini, Director of Government Relations at the American Immigration Lawyers Association, about the impact of the proclamation. Boundless Immigration estimated the proclamation would cut legal immigration by 33%. Stuart Anderson of the National Foundation for American Policy pointed out in Forbes that the proclamation, “would block indefinitely immigrants in categories the administration failed to eliminate in a bill before the U.S. Senate in February 2018.” And, the Justice Action Center pulled together a coalition to file a lawsuit.

All to say, the proclamation suspends the majority of family-based immigration opportunities and, for the time being, holds harmless most non-immigrant, work-based, visa programs.

Which made opponents to immigrants and immigration rather unhappy.

The proclamation, they wrote, “contains massive exemptions and is designed to satisfy powerful business interests that value a steady flow of cheap foreign labor.”

That led to Stephen Miller and Ken Cuccinelli hopping on the phone with their aggrieved base. (Which was promptly leaked to the Washington Post.)

Miller told the group, “All around the country, Americans of every political stripe will rally behind an initiative to make sure that they, their children, their parents, their husbands, wives, sons, uncles, nephews, cousins can be the first to get a job when it opens up, to get her old job back when they rehire or to keep their job if they already have one.”

Stephen Miller is not wrong. But, he doesn’t have to be right either.

See, many are fortunate to be able to work from home. Many are on the front lines of health care, food production and retail, risking their own health as they lead us through the response.

And, yet, many, many more are at home, out of work, terrified of the rent payment, much less the grocery bill.

This group wants to get back to work. They want to stem the bleeding from their bank accounts. And they know that while Covid-19 doesn’t harm their kids, Covid-19 is on the verge of destroying their children’s futures.

Which takes me back to the 2016 election.

In “There Goes the Neighborhood” (a fabulous shelter-in-place read, if I do say so myself), an August 2016 working paper by Jonathan Rothwell, a senior economist with Gallup, was cited as evidence that physical proximity to immigrants was not the factor that drove anti-immigrant sentiment.

Rothwell went on, “Or, it may be that material well-being and health are undermined by a cultural or psychological failure to adjust and adapt to a changing world. With intergenerational mobility, it may be that parents see their children failing to reach milestones predictive of success and blame the political status quo.”

As we eventually move into the recovery phase, in a fundamentally changed world, an economic status quo of double-digit unemployment is likely to settle over the nation. Jobs will be scarce. Health care services, particularly in exurban and rural regions, will be stressed.

Last week’s proclamation takes advantage of those fears.

It includes a 30-day deadline for recommendations to the president to, “stimulate the United States economy and ensure the prioritization, hiring, and employment of United States workers.” And, the proclamation can be extended — or expanded — at the 50-day mark.

Stephen Miller will be proven correct if advocates for immigrants and immigration do not realize the world is fundamentally different. If we think that immigration at 15% unemployment is the same as immigrant at 3.5% unemployment.

Stephen Miller will be proven wrong if we take a beat, develop a new set of immigration policies that will help the nation recover and, along the way, speak forcefully to the contributions of immigrants here now, working shoulder-to-shoulder with the native born through the Covid-19 response.

Because, Covid-19 affects us all. It does not care what we have or don’t have, where we come from, or how long we’ve been here. It only exploits our vulnerabilities as human beings.

To beat Covid-19, we have to work together and realize the promise of America; live up to the spirit of our founding ideals, the spirit of a more perfect union, the spirit of America.

All of us means #AllOfUS.

President and CEO of National Immigration Forum, author of “Crossing Borders” (April 2022, Rowman & Littlefield), host of the podcast, Only in America.