Donald Trump placed immigration policy at the forefront of his political agenda. When he first announced his bid for president in 2015, he stated, “I will build a great, great wall on our Southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.” While the Trump administration brought needed attention to previously neglected problems in American immigration and customs enforcement, it also engaged in clearly unethical policy decisions including family separation and the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP); therefore I would grade his immigration policy a C-.
The reason Trump’s rhetoric regarding a wall and immigration did so well politically is that he addressed legitimate problems in our immigration systems, namely the lack of law enforcement. According to the Pew Research center, approximately 11 million undocumented or illegal immigrants existed in the US in the years leading up to Trump’s presidency. While the US should welcome immigrants to this country— the degree to which is up for debate— both Republicans and Democrats generally agree that no person should exist within the US illegally. This failure of immigration enforcement is a legitimate threat to our national security and national sovereignty and needs to be addressed. Therefore, Trump’s policy push for border security was important and Trump wins points for this reason.
However, Trump’s biggest failings in his immigration policy, family separation and MPP, lost him points in their unethical design. The family separation policy, branded as the “zero-tolerance” policy, received backlash from both Democrats and Republicans. In June 2018, Arizona Senator Jeff Flake stated, “Contrary to what DHS has indicated as proper procedure, we are currently seeing cases where immigrant families seeking asylum are separated after lawfully presenting themselves at a U.S. port of entry.” Planned as a deterrent from illegal immigration, family separation unfairly punished immigrants for following the law and this is simply bad policy. Secondly, the Migrant Protection Protocols, commonly referred to as the “Remain in Mexico” policy, forces immigrants to wait in Mexico while the US government processes their immigration requests. Human Rights Watch found that, “Asylum seekers face new or increased barriers to obtaining and communicating with legal counsel; increased closure of MPP court hearings to the public; and threats of kidnapping, extortion, and other violence while in Mexico.” This policy puts immigrants in an unnecessarily difficult position and should be seen as a moral failing of the Trump presidency.
As the son of a first-generation Italian immigrant and having a brother adopted from China and brought to the US through family immigration, this is a personal issue. My mother waited in line, applied for her Green Card, took the citizenship test, and we celebrate annually the day she became a U.S. citizen. Donald Trump brings justice to these immigrants who should be rewarded for following the legal process. However, he unreasonably changed the legal process to make families risk separation and unnecessary endangerment to reach the land of opportunity. Because of all these factors, I give Donald Trump a C- in his immigration policy.