Trump-backed immigration plan targets people who don't fit his vision of America
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With the introduction of The RAISE Act (Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act)legislation that would dramatically rewrite our nation’s immigration laws by eliminating the Diversity Visa Lottery, capping the number of refugees admitted into the U.S., and significantly reducing the number of family-based immigrant visas annually, Donald Trump has finally exposed his racist, xenophobic agenda for what it is: an attempt to delegitimize those of us who don’t fit within his vision of America.  

Congress should do more than dismiss it; they should fight back against this attempt to reframe our national conversation on immigration and exclusion on the basis of race and religion.

Taken together with the Muslim ban executive order and alongside signals of the erosion of Temporary Protected Status for several nations including Haiti, South Sudan, and Sudan, it is clear that Trump’s blueprint for American greatness is not just monolingual, but monochromatic as well.


The RAISE Act may seem innocuous but it is malignant. It uses coded language describing a “merit based” immigration policy, ignoring a history showing that some of our nation’s brightest innovators have come to this nation as refugees or on family visas. In fact, the RAISE Act creates a rigorous obstacle course for admittance to this country, weeding out anyone deemed undesirable.

This would have the effect of slashing family visas by more than half and make it virtually impossible for anyone who isn’t already wealthy and highly educated to come to this country. It would also crush family reunification efforts from U.S. citizens and permanent residents. Moreover, it would cruelly punish U.S. citizen family members of recently arrived immigrants, effectively preventing them from having access to the safety net programs they may need to thrive.

This legislation has already been panned on a bipartisan basis within the halls of Congress, but that doesn’t mean the proposal is meaningless.

In fact, progressives shouldn’t worry about whether such legislation will be enacted, or whether executive measures will stand up to court scrutiny. Rather, we should all be outraged that communities of color — long used to fighting back against xenophobes and white nativists — must now fight against spokespeople spewing this hatred from behind a podium bearing the seal of the country we call our own.

There are real-life consequences to treating entire communities as if there are inherently suspect. The Council on American Islamic Relations reports a 44 percent increase in hate crimes in the last year. The Southern Poverty Law Center catalogued more than 1,000 hate incidents in the first month of the Trump presidency alone.

Skeptics  and even well-meaning allies  may say that these legislative and administrative efforts are part of a real policy disagreement rather than an attempt to stop the inevitable demographic shift that terrifies Trump’s base.

The truth is that leaked memos, tweets, and emails make clear that this is not the case: On the question about Haitian TPS, for example, the Associated Press exposed requests for peculiar pieces of information regarding TPS holders’ use of public benefits or crimes in advance of a May announcement on the issue.  

Despite being mired in litigation, President TrumpDonald John TrumpTeachers union launches 0K ad buy calling for education funding in relief bill FDA head pledges 'we will not cut corners' on coronavirus vaccine Let our values drive COVID-19 liability protection MORE couldn’t keep himself from tweeting that the Muslim ban (spun as something else by then-DHS Secretary Kelly) is, in fact, a ban. In his announcement of support for the RAISE Act, Trump decried immigrant use of public safety net programs, despite evidence that low income immigrant families use such services at a lower rate than others.

Additionally, Trump suggested that the RAISE Act would benefit African-American and immigrant workers, scapegoating immigrants as the cause of worker displacement and wage depression as opposed to interrogating the impact of automation and outsourcing on the U.S. labor force.

Fortunately, members of Congress need only to look past Pennsylvania Avenue and toward their constituents to see that most of us reject Trump’s exclusionary vision of America. While the federal government continues to vilify immigrant communities, states and localities on both sides of the aisle are creating new ways to ensure that their communities can thrive.

The truth is that we cannot pass these tactics off as dog whistle racism if we can all hear them. And Beltway pundits who treat these executive actions and bills with interest limited to their feasibility in the real world are missing the point. The Trump administration is sending a chilling message to communities of color. We need our Congressional leaders to speak out and remind all of us — regardless of where we were born, how we pray, or what we earn — that this rhetoric has no place in our national narrative.

Nana Afua Y. Brantuo, Policy Manager at the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI). 

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.