Under President Donald Trump’s immigration bill, today’s Miami wouldn’t exist. A vibrant metropolis heralded as a showcase for what refugees and immigrants from all over the Americas can achieve isn’t good enough for his idyllic USA (with an exclamation point).
In fact, the president’s idea of reform closes the door to people like his Cuban-American supporters, the ones who voted for Trump and proudly tout that they arrived penniless, not speaking much English, and through hard work and sacrifice, achieved the American Dream.
Likewise for Trump’s other Latino and Haitian supporters, fewer in numbers but just as adamant in their endorsement of a president whose white-supremacist, anti-immigrant agenda continues to be a slap in the face to multi-hued America and an affront to the founding values of this nation.
But what else can we expect from an administration that is separating American children from their parents, deporting young people who’ve lived in this country most of their lives, and launching a voter suppression initiative that clearly targets minorities?
The Raise Act would cut legal immigration by half over the next 10 years, close the door to people who don’t speak English upon arrival, and prioritize skills over family reunification, abandoning that sacrosanct and humanitarian tenet of U.S. immigration policy.
Might as well nix the Statue of Liberty, too, and return it to France.
Rather than “raise” anything, Trump’s point-based plan seeks to reshape the racial and ethnic make-up of a demographically diverse country — and write a whole new narrative about who we are and what we stand for.
To recast his own words, he aims to Make American White Again — and monolingual. We’ve traveled the road from pounding a not-so-veiled supremacist campaign message to drafting and enacting supremacist policy in only eight months.
And who else could the president place at the forefront of pushing this kind of immigration policy but White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, whose dislike of Latinos dates to his California school years and has been well documented?
Miller had a ball on Wednesday defending the Raise Act before reporters, his body language exuding pompous fight and false indignation.
We all need to get over the “your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” message, he suggested. According to Miller, the Statue of Liberty has little to do with immigrants. It’s only a “symbol of American liberty lighting the world,” he said, and “The New Colossus” poem written by Emma Lazarus is not part of the original installation.
So there you have it: the rewrite of identity, the talking-point to justify the unjustifiable from the same people who brought you the rants against Mexican immigrants and the vow to raise a border wall — not along white, English and French-speaking Canada, but shutting out brown and Spanish-speaking Mexicans.
Which brings us to the English-only part of the bill. I had no idea that my beloved English language needed urgent, extinct-status preservation. The requirement is only indicative of motive. Trump and his cohorts are catering to Americans who carry a chip on their shoulder for being monolingual. They feel threatened by others’ abilities. They lack curiosity about the vastness and diversity of the real world and find it a necessary coping skill to cling to a nativist narrative like toddlers to a security blanket.
Miller is the poster child for such an American. It’s only fitting that a president who prefers shopping for trophy wives in Eastern Europe has put immigration policy in the hands of this petulant man-child. A visit to a good shrink can address those resentments and discomforts with better prospects of success.
Americans don’t live in a cocoon safely tucked between majestic mountains and oceans with white foam. In a global economy and hyper-connected world, where the international is local, multilingual people are an economic asset to this country, not to mention to its security.
One of the myths xenophobes like to propagate is that immigrants aren’t willing to learn English. But the only reason they don’t do so fast enough to please the natives is the same one that keeps Americans from learning another language as is expected in other developed countries: Long work hours and obligations.
Far from restoring our competitive edge in the 21st century, as Trump sells this measure, it puts in question America’s place in the world. Internally, it fosters divisions, creating a new class of citizen who feels disenfranchised and unwanted.
One thing is certain: This bill seals Trump’s status as the anti-immigrant president.