THE TRUMP administration likes to justify its multi-front crusade against immigration and immigrants as a revival of the rule of law, or a recalibration of the rules to favor disadvantaged American workers. In fact, it is largely a resurrection of xenophobia that coincides with a spike, nearly 50 years in the making, in the number of foreign-born residents living in the United States.
“For decades,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a speech in October, “the American people have been begging and pleading . . . for an immigration system that’s lawful and serves the national interest. Now we have a president who supports that.”
Mr. Sessions’s claims are specious. An embrace of legality is not the driving force behind the president’s decision to slash the admission of refugees to levels unseen in nearly 40 years. It is not what compelled Mr. Trump to endorse Republican legislation that would cut the annual allotment of green cards by a half-million, mainly by barring relatives of existing legal permanent residents of the United States. It is not why the Pentagon has considered ending a recruitment program that put skilled foreigners on a fast track for citizenship if they served in this country’s armed forces. And it is not why the administration favors ending the so-called diversity visa lottery program, under which immigrants are admitted from nations underrepresented in other programs.
The president’s policies are neither an embrace of legality nor in the national interest.