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Going after legal immigrants? Trump administration takes a mean turn.

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AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Originally published by STL Today

There’s a kernel of truth in the Trump administration’s new proposal to curb legal immigration — strange as it is that a president who based his campaign on halting illegal border-crossers now wants to block the very people he used to praise, those who aren’t breaking any laws, and have waited in line, properly filled out all the paperwork, and seek to enter the correct way.

As White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller explained last week, a flaw in the current immigration system allows legal permanent residents, or green card holders, to invite close family members to join them in this country. When those family members also get green cards, they’re allowed to invite more family members. The immigrant numbers can expand geometrically, adding pressures to education, health care and labor networks.

That will merit scrutiny if Congress ever summons the courage to address true immigration reform. But it’s not even close to ranking among the biggest issues facing the U.S. immigration system, which is why Miller’s explanation raised so many eyebrows.

“Every year, we issue a million green cards to foreign nationals …, but we do so without regard to whether that applicant has demonstrated the skill that can add to the U.S. economy, whether they can pay their own way or be reliant on welfare, or whether they’ll displace or take a job from an American worker,” Miller told reporters.

He blamed the policy for depressing blue-collar wages and “massive displacement of African-American and Hispanic workers.”

Wage stagnation remains a pernicious problem. But immigration isn’t the culprit; increasing automation and persistently low retail demand are. Republican state legislatures have steadily weakened organized labor and fought efforts around the country, including St. Louis, to force employers to pay higher minimum wages.

The Trump administration last week celebrated the latest figures showing that joblessness reached a 16-year low of 4.3 percent. But when the chronically unemployed and part-timers seeking full-time work are added, total unemployment remains stubbornly high at 8.6 percent.

Employers feel little pressure regarding pay, mainly because there’s still an abundant supply of underemployed workers available to fill lower-wage jobs.

Try as Miller might to blame immigrants, he’s off base. Restricting legal immigration won’t fix an economy that’s undergone massive structural change.

Meanwhile, the Republican attorney general of Texas is threatening to sue the Trump administration if it doesn’t revoke the protections afforded to undocumented immigrant youths under President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

These combined actions signify an unnecessarily mean twist to the Republican immigration debate. They divert public attention from the main problems driving illegal immigration. Instead of addressing them piecemeal, the time is ripe for a full-throated, comprehensive immigration reform package that addresses them all, head-on.

Read more: http://www.stltoday.com/opinion/editorial/editorial-going-after-legal-immigrants-trump-administration-takes-a-mean/article_c8d61abe-d16d-5f80-a762-d15e90dddc88.html

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