Commentary: Trump immigration deal harkens back to 1882 and 1924


Editor’s note: The opinions below are the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect those of this publication.

By Barbara Franz

On Jan. 25, 2018, the White House made public the one-page framework for a legislative deal to provide permanent immigration status to DACA recipients.

President Trump’s proposal, in addition to the four-page memo released on Jan. 9 that included the Department of Homeland Security’s priorities for a new immigration bill, is reminiscent of the Immigration Act of 1924.

That law, in conjunction with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, limited immigration to certain quotas by country of origin and remained in place until 1965.

Political cartoon: Uncle Sam kicks out the Chinaman image published in 19th century.
Political cartoon: Uncle Sam kicks out the Chinaman image published in 19th century.

The Trump administration has proposed drastic cuts in legal immigration, as part of its price tag to legalize the Dreamers who were eligible for a deportation-relief program killed by President Trump himself.

The White House is pressing to cut family-sponsored immigration by as much as 40 percent and to eliminate the diversity visa lottery. The diversity visa program makes available 50,000 green cards annually.

The intention behind the so-called green card lottery is to diversify the U.S. population by selecting applicants from countries that are underrepresented in the country. Globally, the program is very popular; for example in 2017 alone about 20 million people applied for the lottery worldwide. Trump wants to eliminate this program.

Effects of this immigration reform would be similar to those of the 1924 Act. The national origin quotas within the 1924 legislation used the number of expatriates from a particular country who resided in the United States in 1890, and limited to 2 percent of that number the new immigrants from that country admitted annually.

Due to this quota formula, immigration from Italy fell from an average of 216,000 per year in the period from 1905 to 1914, to just over 6,000 in 1924, according to Ben Larricia in La Gazzetta Italiana.

Barbara Franz
Barbara Franz

In addition to restricting immigration by Italians, the law reduced immigration by other Southern- and Eastern Europeans, including Slavs and Jews, and severely limited the immigration of Africans.

The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which was not repealed until 1943, eliminated immigration of all Chinese workers. Initially, American labor recruiters filled the void with immigrants from Japan and other South Asian countries.

Asian immigrants filled jobs important to “Making America Great,” working in steel, meat-packing, and mining and made up to 15 percent of the US population and 24 percent of the labor force in 1910.

Trump’s plan similarly would result in restricting immigration. The plan’s proposed cuts align with those put forth by the Trump-endorsed RAISE Act—whose authors estimated the bill eventually would lead to a 50-percent reduction in legal immigration.

The cuts also are in line with those proposed in the Securing America’s Future Act drafted by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA).

Under that plan, Americans would lose the right to petition for their parents, adult- or married children, or siblings, to join them, allowing them only to reunite with spouses and minor children.

And legal permanent residents, who have had more limited ability to reunify with relatives, would no longer be able to petition for their adult children. According to Julia Gelatt and Sarah Pierce of the Migration Policy Institute, the diversity visa lottery and these family-sponsored categories proposed for elimination made up one-third of all new green-card recipients in fiscal year 2016.

It is notable that the Trump administration is willing to increase the size of the group of immigrants who will be put on a decade-long path to legalization beyond just the current 800,000 DACA recipients.

President Trump delivers 2018 State of the Union. Photo: Shealah Craighead / The White House
President Trump delivers 2018 State of the Union. Photo: Shealah Craighead / The White House

However, the proposed 1.8 million legalized residents still make up only 16 percent of our total unauthorized immigrant population (estimated at 11.3 million). In other words the administration appears to be willing to legalize the Dreamers but not their parents, who would be left behind to be terrorized through a vastly expanded national deportation apparatus.

Daniel Costa of the Economic Policy Institute is right when he claims that many of President Trump’s demands are “bad ideas,” rooted in racism and xenophobia.

Some commentators, such as Costa, argue for a separation of legislation for DACA recipients from legislation for the other cohorts of undocumented migrants because the Dreamers need a quick humanitarian solution that ensures their ability to remain in the country, and continue to study and work.

In exchange for legalizing less than one-sixth of the unauthorized population, the administration asks to enact sweeping enhancements to border security and interior enforcement.

The administration’s framework provides little detail on the intended changes for border security, though it does specify a $25 billion trust fund for “the border wall system,” ports of entry/exit, and northern border improvements.

President Coolidge signs the Immigration Act of 1924 on the White House South Lawn along with appropriation bills for the Veterans Bureau. John J. Pershing is on the President's right. Photo via
President Coolidge signs the Immigration Act of 1924 on the White House South Lawn along with appropriation bills for the Veterans Bureau. John J. Pershing is on the President’s right. Photo via

This number, seemingly pulled from thin air, is an inflated increase from the $18 billion the White House called for less than one year ago. Plans for the wall are hazy and Trump’s one-page proposal provides no reasoning for the $7 billion increase, nor exactly how that enormous amount of money actually would be used.

The framework also vaguely refers to reforming the hiring of “critically needed personnel.” This is likely a reference to the hiring difficulties encountered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

While the hiring process includes a lengthy polygraph exam that two-thirds of applicants fail, the hiring process for a new agent currently takes about nine months, according to Gelatt and Pierce.

They also note the curious observation that the CBP apparently hires 523 agents per year, but it loses an average of 904 agents annually. Thus, it might be more efficient to provide the agents, once hired, with a comprehensive pay and benefits package, rather than reforming hiring practices.

The White House wants to end “catch and release.” The term has no clear definition, but as used by the President, appears to refer to those policies and practices that allow unaccompanied minors, some families, and some asylum seekers to be released into the community during their asylum or removal proceedings.

The administration’s proposal could involve detaining these groups while they wait for their day in court and therewith contributing to growth of the prison industry.

The other option would be to refuse entry to large numbers of people. In 2017, some 41,435 unaccompanied children and 75,622 family units were apprehended at the Southwest border, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

To keep more than 100,000 people in the desert and other precarious areas along the southern border would turn the region into an area overrun with desperate migrants, similar to that in Morocco outside the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla.

There, hundreds of desperate African refugees and migrants are frequently apprehended attempting to climb over electrified fences to reach European soil. Trump’s policy would certainly bring human wretchedness and suffering much closer to America’s suburbs and gated communities.

In addition, the administration proposes prompt removals, “regardless of country of origin.” This language apparently suggests elimination of the special treatment currently given to those children arriving from non-contiguous countries.

Such a policy might result in the turning back at the border of young unaccompanied minors unless quick screening determines they are either at risk for human trafficking or have a justified fear they will be killed if they return home.

Activists in Morristown on Aug. 14, 2017, for a week of activities opposing President Trump's immigration agenda. Photo courtesy of Anne Songcayauon/ NJ Working Families Alliance
Activists in Morristown on Aug. 14, 2017, for a week of activities opposing President Trump’s immigration agenda. Photo courtesy of Anne Songcayauon/ NJ Working Families Alliance

Of course, numerous of Mexican children already experience “prompt removals” at present.

The administration’s plan would strip all apprehended people of their right to a deportation hearing before a judge. Once apprehended, an undocumented immigrant or a visa over-stayer would be processed immediately for removal from the country, no matter her circumstances or eligibility for other forms of relief. This provision would flat-out deny due process.

Labeled as the deal that will fix DACA, this administration proposal does fix DACA — but it also attempts to rewrite most of the rest of the immigration code.

Greisa Martinez Rosas, advocacy director with the national immigrant youth network United We Dream explains: “Let’s call this proposal for what it is: A white-supremacist ransom note!”

This is the secret to understanding this plan. It’s less about addressing the actual problems that exist within the immigration system than it is an attempt to engineer a less-brown demographic future.

Unfortunately for Trump and his base, the demographic shifts under way in the country may be slowed, but cannot be stopped! According to the Center for American Progress, every month some 66,000 Latinos in the United States turn 18, and Asians are the fastest growing segment of the US population.

Barbara Franz, Ph.D., is a political science professor at Rider University, and a Morristown resident.


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  1. The illegals have decided for decades that they will not adhere to laws of immigration in this country. They are not owed DACA, thats a bs program that rewards illegal actions and makes a mockery of the country and our legal system. The chain migration is also an exploited program. The illegals that decide not to learn english, drive without licenses, drunk, provide flase documents and illegal aliases to the police are obstructing justice and laughing as they do it you morons. They beat each other up and apply for uvisas while they drink beer and laugh. Thats not respect nor appreciation for citizenship its just plain gross. Thats not to say there arent many very good people lookong for citizenship, there are, and they will need to follow the laws the the thousands whom have already and follow the process. If you hate your country so much at least respect this one bc many wars were fought to establish it and no true american wants the behavior they flee brought here. Keep it there. As for the liberal warped views, focus on americans and low income inner cities if you are feeling so charitable there are many people and deserving american kids in the projects that also have needs. See, the fact is AMERICANS are entitled to american tax dollars and programs and we have mAny in need. The fact people have the audacity to think you come here with attitude , breaking laws and popping your mouths off making noise in protest to things you have no rights to is a royal joke and very indicative of the culture you come from in plain english. If theres a desire to embrace the us, learn what the us laws are and english as well. Dont expect to have people speak Spanish the same as nobody goes to spanish speaking countries demanding english. get over it and really look at why some countries thrive and others dont and whats at the root of the culture. Here in the United States, Patriotism was the root of every movement forward and eatabliahed our country. this liberal garbage is erosive, illogical and delusional and people wonder why everybody is over it. You guys protest and consume the media for each other bc nobody who actually sees reality from a conservative, fiscal or patriotic virw is listening to people who illegally break law after law, lie to law enforcement, scam the system and take american dollars. That people, is a real issue you dont like to discuss because it meAns you must EARN, respect, work and have ethics. Here in the us we typically cant tantrum our way to our desires and allowing it has caused a monster of issues. If feeling so charitable, look to our shelters, foster kids who are just DREAMING for a life, the projects, inner cities, you know.. start there. People who deserve priority. Thats the right way. Not rewarding illegal Actions. Is that viewpoint allowed or no? just the entitled noisemakers view?

  2. When you have no intelligent argument to make, just attack everyone you don’t agree with. Great job Karl! You are a fine representative of your party.

  3. I know Trump could care less about this. After all, most of his wives, Mar a Lago employees and business partners are immigrants. But his policies are a dog whistle to Neanderthals like JT, Jeff and Matt. He knows he can play the low IQ white male like a violin and obscure his failings and his abuse of his office by advocating anti-immigration, anti-environment, anti-feminist and pro-gun positions. That way, maybe the dummies won’t notice his connections to the Kremlin, his dismantling of our social safety net or his lining of his pockets with billionaire – favorable tax laws. Unfortunately, I’m afraid that if one is old enough to work a keyboard and doesn’t realize the essential role that immigration plays in this Country’s health, safety and welfare, then there is no arguing with you. Just for a second, however imagine if Silicon Valley, our hospitals or even our farms depended on border-line illiterates like yourselves to work the levers of commerce. The mid term elections should put an end to this nonsense. Not a bit too soon. Hold on, Dreamers. Help is on the way.

  4. There you go again with your leftist populism. At least this time you have somewhat limited your use of colorful adjectives when describing those with whom you disagree.

    Most Dems were against illegal immigration and in favor of immigration reform before they adopted the far left ideology of their party. See Schumer comments in 2013, Senator Obama comments in 2005 and Clinton SOTU in 1995. Many Dems also voted in favor of the Secure Fence Act of 2006, including Senators Obama, Kerry, Biden, Clinton and Schumer. In 2009, Morristown’s Democratic mayor attempted to deputize the police force as immigration agents. So the Dems have a long and storied history of being against illegal immigration.

    Recently, a majority of Dems voted twice to shut down the government in order to put the welfare of illegal aliens above all American citizens. This strategy clearly blew up in their face and now they are backed into a corner. Trump has offered a face-saving lifeline by offering citizenship to twice the number of DACA’s than Obama attempted to protect with his unconstitutional executive order. The offer is now on the table, so let’s see how much the Dems really care about DACA. If they think they are going to get a “clean” DACA bill without giving up something in return, they are living in a fantasy world. After all, they have clearly demonstrated that DACA should take precedence above all else, so they must be willing to offer any comprise to resolve this most pressing issue.

  5. Fear Mongers! Stop your focus on idolatry and focus on reality.
    I truly support immigration as long as the immigrants adhere to the U.S. immigration laws. I challenge you to disprove the President’s proposed path for the immigration policies and for the so-called “dreamers.” Think of it this way. 10 people entered your house and will not leave and you have to now feed them, provide for their clothes, educate them and provide for their healthcare. And, you now have to continually borrow money to “maintain them.” You discover they all entered through a specific window. What would you do to stop them? Probably nail shut the window to stop people from entering your home. That will stop the losses and the need to provide for the uninvited “guests.” Then what would you do? Think about this situation from this perspective

  6. This is wonderfully comprehensive and extremely informative for those who want to know the real truth about immigration. It boggles my mind how backwards this country is going under the “leadership” of this “President”.