Quantcast
Connect with us

Immigration, legislation, investigation: 3 scholars respond to Trump’s State of the Union

Published

on

Editor’s note: In his second State of the Union address, President Donald Trump ranged from generous to combative, eloquent to blunt. He unexpectedly complimented the wave of recently elected Democratic women in the House, and they responded by applauding for themselves. And he spent a lot of time on a his favorite topic: immigration and the border wall. We asked three scholars to choose what they saw as key quotes and add context to the president’s speech.

ADVERTISEMENT

Refugees now and refugees in history

Lisa García Bedolla, University of California, Berkeley

“The lawless state of our Southern Border is a threat to the safety, security and financial well-being of all Americans.”

The president framed the status of our southern border as “a moral issue.”

The problem is that his claim of morality flies in the face of history.

It is ironic that, later in the speech, President Trump recognized Holocaust survivors Judah Samet and Joshua Kaufman. Ironic because the international principle of accepting refugees in need arose from the events of World War II.

ADVERTISEMENT

In June 1939, the German ocean liner St. Louis and its 937 passengers, almost all of whom were Jewish refugees, were turned away from the port of Miami.

The ship was forced to return to Europe and more than a quarter of the passengers died in the Holocaust. This was just one of the many stories of Jewish refugees being denied a haven in safe countries and subsequently dying at the hands of the Nazis.

Trump tried to turn this history on its head, arguing that Central American women and children walking thousands of miles to claim political asylum in the United States are a threat to American security and well-being.

ADVERTISEMENT

He conflated their desperate circumstances to the atrocious crimes committed by human traffickers, drug dealers and those that prey on the innocent attempting to find a better life.

These tropes are not new; they have become standard – and repeatedly debunked – rhetorical fare from Trump.

ADVERTISEMENT

Investigating doesn’t rule out legislating

Robert Speel, Pennsylvania State University

“If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation.”

The implication of President Trump’s quote is that Congress will be unable to pass laws while investigations continue of alleged malfeasance related to him, his administration and his 2016 campaign.

ADVERTISEMENT

However, investigations of recent presidents in U.S. history indicate that is not the case.

In 1973, in the midst of the Watergate investigations of President Richard Nixon, Congress approved and then overrode a presidential veto of the War Powers Act, a law that attempted to redefine presidential military and foreign policy powers in the modern age.
During the same period, Congress also passed the Endangered Species Act, signed by President Nixon. Scientists participated in the writing of this landmark environmental legislation, which protected animal and plant species and ecosystems from unregulated development.

Richard Nixon signs a bill July 12, 1974, in the White House, giving Congress tighter control of the budget process.
AP Photo

July 1974 was a crucial month for the federal government. The U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee voted to impeach President Nixon and the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the president had to turn over Oval Office tape recordings subpoenaed as part of the Watergate investigation.

Something else happened that momentous month: Major legislation was passed by Congress.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 changed the federal budget process to give Congress more control and prevent the president from refusing to spend funds approved by Congress.

And the Legal Services Corporation Act of 1974 was passed to provide legal aid for lower income Americans.

In 1998, Congress and Independent Counsel Ken Starr were investigating allegations of perjury and obstruction of justice by President Bill Clinton.

That year, Congress approved the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act to prevent online marketing to children and collection of information from children. The law today continues to have a significant impact in limiting social media use by children.

ADVERTISEMENT

Congress also approved that year, and President Clinton signed, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which expanded U.S. copyright laws into the digital world and complied with new international treaties on the issue.

So, while congressional investigations of a president, and “war” between the two branches may not make the legislative process particularly smooth, it is still possible for significant and long-lasting laws to pass.

No sign of a deal on immigration

Matthew Wright, American University School of Public Affairs

“Simply put, walls work and walls save lives. So let’s work together, compromise, and reach a deal that will truly make America safe.”

Trump wants a “physical barrier” on the U.S.-Mexico border.

ADVERTISEMENT

Border Patrol agent Vincent Pirro walks near where the border wall ends that separates Tijuana, Mexico, left, from San Diego, right.
AP Photo/Gregory Bull

According to recent polling by Morning Consult/Politico, this is something registered voters are divided about in principle.

And it’s something they certainly do not want extracted as ransom for a functioning government. “Where walls go up, illegal crossings go way down,” Trump said.

Leave aside questions of where most illegal immigrants come from, how they arrive in the U.S., and the economic and social consequences of their presence. Forget about asking whether the president’s proposed solution would actually work.

Consider, instead, the politics of the deal President Trump wants to make.

ADVERTISEMENT

Most importantly, he has offered Democrats nothing in return.

When Congress last seriously considered a bipartisan deal on immigration in January 2018, the Democrats’ price was permanent legal status for “Dreamers,” or children who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

Trump refused that deal, which had just under US$2 billion in wall funding attached. He refused again when Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, followed up with an offer of even more wall funding.

This January, Trump offered temporary legal status for Dreamers as a means of getting his wall funding and ending what was at that point a 29-day government shutdown. The Democrats rejected it as insufficient.

ADVERTISEMENT

That deal now seems to be off the table. So besides the president’s word that his latest measure will freeze the Salvadorian street gang MS-13 in its tracks, it is not at all clear what the other side of this “deal” might look like for the Democrats.

The prospect of a deal that includes wall funding are even worse for Trump now than they were after he ended the last shutdown. Democrats remain both a legislative veto and an oversight threat, and they now know that if push comes to shove, Trump will fold. He has even called congressional negotiations a “waste of time.”

Aside from the usual rote appeals to bipartisanship, nothing tonight even hinted in this direction.

So if Trump wants to “get it built,” he will likely declare a national emergency as time runs out. This option is fraught with legal and political challenges, but he has entrenched himself so thoroughly that he may not see any choice.The Conversation

ADVERTISEMENT

Matthew Wright, Assistant professor of government, American University School of Public Affairs; Lisa Garcia Bedolla, Chancellor’s Professor of Education and Political Science, University of California, Berkeley, and Robert Speel, Associate Professor of Political Science, Erie campus, Pennsylvania State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Trump spent 45 minutes talking with cast of right-wing play dramatizing ‘Deep State’ conspiracy theories: report

Published

on

The coronavirus emergency has given President Donald Trump one of the most daunting tests of his administration, with less than a year to go before he stands for re-election.

And yet in the midst of all the chaos, one thing the president found time to do on Thursday was meet with the cast of a bizarre right-wing play dramatizing the supposed "deep state" plot at the FBI to frame Trump in the Russia investigation.

According to The Daily Beast, Trump spent 45 minutes talking with the people behind "FBI Lovebirds: Undercovers," which focuses on the affair between FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. The leading roles of Strzok and Page were played by Dean Cain, the former Superman actor, and Kristy Swanson, who played the starring role in the 1992 Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie.

Continue Reading

Facebook

‘This is a nightmare’: Trump accused of weaponizing DOJ with new task force focused on stripping US citizenship

Published

on

"Of all the dystopian sh*t—a department of denaturalization at DOJ might take the biscuit."

Rights advocates expressed outrage and severe concerns after the U.S. Department of Justice announced Wednesday it is creating an official task force devoted to "denaturalization"—the process by which the government strips citizenship from foreign-born Americans, or naturalized citizens.

"Of all the dystopian shit—a department of denaturalization at DOJ might take the biscuit," tweeted activist Joel Braunold. "Means immigrant Americans (such as myself) will always have a threat to displace us if we step out of line."

Continue Reading
 

Breaking Banner

All US Navy ships in the Pacific near countries with coronavirus ordered to self-quarantine for 14 days

Published

on

CNN National Security reporter Ryan Browne tweeted Thursday that the U.S. Navy has ordered all of its vessels in the Pacific that have been near countries with COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, "to remain at sea for at least 14 days before pulling into another port in order to monitor sailors for any symptoms of the virus."

Health experts have said that the two-week period should give enough time for infected people to become aware that they are sick.

The highly-contagious disease has spread very quickly in South Korea and California after public exposure. The first person verified with "community-spread" transmission was identified just outside of Sacramento, California.

Continue Reading
 
 
close-image