The real people behind Trump’s ‘shithole’ comment

When word leaked out of President Donald Trump’s reference to “shithole countries” in a meeting with lawmakers this week, it immediately swamped news coverage of immigration, giving a racially tinged spin to an issue that was already loaded politically. It also crowded out discussion of a real decision he made earlier this week that affects real people.

Earlier this week, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it was revoking a special immigration status for some 200,000 Salvadorans that have worked and lived in the United States since 2001 after an earthquake struck El Salvador. This is only the latest group of immigrants to lose temporary protected status, which allows people to temporarily live and work in the U.S. after a catastrophe strikes their home country; DHS previously ended TPS status for 60,000 Haitians and 5,300 Nicaraguans, giving them deadlines to return home this year or early next year.

Continue reading “The real people behind Trump’s ‘shithole’ comment”

Why I changed my mind on ‘sanctuary’ cities

Attorney General Jeff Sessions opened a new front in the Trump administration’s immigration campaign this week when he threatened to revoke DOJ grants from cities and states which do not cooperate with immigration officials. Sessions’ action appears to be a real escalation in the Trump administration’s effort to force state and local governments to end so-called “sanctuary” policies.

Is this a good idea? It’s a tricky issue, as I know from experience. I served as a senior federal law enforcement official in both the Bush and Obama Administrations – most recently as Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Border, Immigration & Trade Policy – and have never been particularly sympathetic to the “sanctuary” movement. In my previous role, I shared former DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson’s view that it is “unacceptable” and “counterproductive to public safety” for local law enforcement to refuse to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Continue reading “Why I changed my mind on ‘sanctuary’ cities”

Why Trump taking Australia’s refugees isn’t a ‘dumb deal’

In his contentious call with Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull recently, President Donald Trump criticized former President Barack Obama’s agreement to accept up to 1,250 refugees from Australia, calling it a “dumb deal” in a tweet and creating a surprise rift between the two allies just days into his presidency.

On the face of it, this dispute is consistent with Trump’s opposition to admitting refugees from places like Syria or Iraq that are torn by war and Islamic extremism. But the full story of just who these refugees are, and why Obama agreed to take them, suggests that Trump’s making a tactical mistake—one that could even hurt the U.S. down the line, all for the sake of political theater.

The story of the refugees at issue is a tortured one, even by the standards of international politics. Most came from Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. They Continue reading “Why Trump taking Australia’s refugees isn’t a ‘dumb deal’”

Trump’s border wall attacks the wrong immigration crisis

Today, President Donald Trump will reportedly issue an executive order to begin construction of a wall along the U.S-Mexico border. The long-awaited move follows through on one of Trump’s most visible campaign promises.

It’s also a big mistake. Not only would a wall be outrageously expensive — estimates range as high as $14 billion (and no, Mexico won’t pay for it) — but a wall is misguided because it addresses the exact wrong problem. The biggest immigration crisis facing the country has nothing to do with Mexicans illegally crossing the border. Instead, it’s that hundreds of thousands of Central Americans are fleeing brutal violence and extreme poverty in their home countries and seeking asylum in the United States — but our immigration system is overwhelmed and completely unprepared to handle the flood.

I know this issue firsthand. Over the past two decades, I have served in senior homeland security Continue reading “Trump’s border wall attacks the wrong immigration crisis”