Thursday, January 25, 2018

The GOP Immigration Offer

Liberty and the Fire Boat (M.A. Reilly)

Donald Trump and the GOP want to eliminate family-based migration and instead have potential immigrants prove their worth in order to be admitted. Family-based migration allows family members living in the United States legally to bring other family members to this country. Trump wants to do away with that process and instead enter immigrants based on merit.

The merit-based system would select immigrants based on education, skills, work experience, language proficiency and age.  The concern is substantial given the belief that these factors which would be weighted and allocated specific points fail to consider the unknown trajectory of any person’s actual life and the process decries basic American values. Further the plan crafted by Stephen Miller, a nativist, privileges wealth and completion of high level science/technology/engineering/mathematics (STEM) education as if these two factors represented the ideal immigrant.

And isn’t that the problem? There is no ideal immigrant. There is simply immigrants. 

When I came to America I had just turned two. I came from an Irish orphanage in Dublin. There was no way at that time to determine how profitable I might be for my new country once grown. In fact, if conservative sociologists were to be believed, my IQ by virtue of having lived in an orphanage should have been 8 points lower than the average at four years of age. The United States took a chance on me and my two older brothers as it has done for others. Fortunately, I was allowed into the United States and three years later went to court and became a naturalized citizen at the age of 5. My son too was adopted and he arrived in the States at 5 months old and became a naturalized citizen 13 months later. On that August morning, the judge celebrated our son’s naturalization and I still have a photo from that day of Rob, Devon, my dad and me standing with the judge. We were all bright smiles. 

Under Trump’s merit system the majority of Americans who are citizens would likely not be admitted. To be admitted, the potential citizen would need to earn 30 points. The proposed point system favors a particular type of person (wealthy and/or STEM educated) and that is what is most unethical and anti-American about the plan. 

So how do you amass the highest points in each category? First, think young. You need to be young, preferably between 26 and 31, highly educated in a STEM subject—Ph.D preferred, wealthier than the median income of the state you plan to live in by 300 percent. If you lived in New Jersey as I do that would mean that you would need to prove an income greater than $260,000.  If you wanted to live in Mississippi, you would need to demonstrate an income of $120,000. The only place you could live with an income under $120,000 is Puerto Rico. But be warned: if the island is crippled by a hurricane, don’t expect the Unites States government to help. You are on your own. Last, it would be advantageous to have earned already a Nobel prize (you’d be awarded 25 points) or its equivalent.  

So do you think you would qualify? I’m guessing you don’t!  By the way if you are 50 or older you would earn 0 points in the age group. When I examined the criteria, I thought a lot about what was being valued. Given the absence of compassion among Trump and his advisors and a xenophobic attitude about other, the proposal is not too surprising. These folks want to establish the United States in their own image.

Merit is troublesome as whatever is deemed preferable is of course potentially problematic when seen in another light. What would a country of 26-31 year old wealthy people act like?  What about a country of people with advanced degrees in STEM subjects? What about a country where its new citizens largely bought their way in by investing at least $1.8 million in an America based project that the applicants list as their primary jobs, similar to the the Jared Kushner-Chinese investment scheme that was attempted earlier in the year. That alone would net you 12 of the 30 points you need.  Why is someone who has large amounts of cash better than the hard working immigrant that built this country?  My mother’s mom came to America and raised 6 children. My father-in-law’s family worked hard as new immigrants living on the lower East side. They built a profitable company and raised kind children. For Trump and Miller wealth, STEM education, and capacity of speak English are all privileged. No tired huddle mass here. The Statue of Liberty would bow her head and weep at such deplorable gimmicks.  Frankly, we should too. 

When I think about the proposed ‘immigration’ bill Trump just forwarded that pits the DACA kids against the GOPs Wall and nativist immigration policy, I am reminded of the wisdom in Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall,” where the speaker aptly states:

Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.

The problem though with the GOP and Trump is they never shy away from giving offence.



  1. So sad to think of families that will be hurt because they can't be reunited under this plan. And so sad to think we are trying to strip other countries of their entire educated class. America First!! Make it Great Again!! We haven't had attitudes like that leading this country for almost 100 years.

    Saddest of all is looking at the people demanding these credentials and realizing none of them would ever make the grade.

    1. I so often stop and wonder if this is how people in Germany who resisted the Nazis felt.


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